If you want to change your status while in the United States, you (or in some cases your employer) must file a request with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the appropriate form before your authorized stay expires.
In general, you may apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were lawfully admitted to the United States in an eligible nonimmigrant status, your nonimmigrant status remains valid, you have not violated the conditions of your status and you have not committed any crimes that would make you ineligible. Until you receive approval from USCIS, do not assume the status has been approved and do not change your activity in the United States.
USCIS recommends that you apply as soon as you determine that you need to change to a different nonimmigrant classification. If USCIS denies your application, be prepared to leave the United States when your current status expires.
- Changing to a Nonimmigrant Student Status
You may wish to change your nonimmigrant status if you are already in the United States on a valid nonimmigrant visa for a purpose other than attending school and want to study at a U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school. You are not eligible for a change of status in the United States if you entered as a visitor through the visa waiver program.
If you meet the criteria above and want to change your status while you remain in the United States, you must submit an application with USCIS to change your nonimmigrant status by following these steps:
- Special Instructions for Changing to a Nonimmigrant Student Status from B-1/B-2 status
If you are changing status from B-1/B-2 to F or M student, refrain from enrolling in or beginning your studies until USCIS has approved your change of status. Enrolling in a course of study while in B-1/B-2 status, or any status that does not permit you to enroll in a program of study, will result in a status violation. If USCIS has not adjudicated your change of status at least 15 days before the program start date on your Form I-20, contact the DSO at your new school. You may need to wait to attend (have deferred attendance).
- Instructions for Applicants for Change of Status to F-1 Nonimmigrant Student
If your nonimmigrant status is unexpired at the time of filing the application to change status to F-1 nonimmigrant, and you otherwise remain eligible for a change of status, you are not required to obtain status all the way up to the date that is 30 days before your program start date (“bridge the gap”). Even if USCIS processing times cause a delay in your program start date and your DSO must defer your start date until the next academic term or semester, you are not required to file any additional applications to maintain your status. If approved, your change of status to F-1 will be effective as of the date of adjudication.
You must wait until the change of status to F-1 application is approved and you are within 30 days of the new program start date to engage in F status-specific activities, such as on-campus employment and practical training.
- Instructions for Applicants for a Change of Status to M-1 Nonimmigrant Student
If your current nonimmigrant status will expire more than 30 days before your M-1 program start date and you wish to remain in the United States until your start date, you must find a way to obtain status all the way up to the date that is 30 days before your program start date (“bridge the gap”).
USCIS may only approve your Form I-539 change of status request if you obtain status up to 30 days before your program’s initial start date.
This means you may need to file an additional Form I-539, with a separate fee, to request an extension of your current nonimmigrant status or change of status if:
- Your current status will expire more than 30 days before the initial M-1 program start date. If you do not file an application to extend or change to another status before your current status expires, USCIS will deny your Form I-539 request to change to M-1 status. Please continue to check the USCIS processing times while your Form I-539 change of status request is pending to determine if you need to file a request to extend or change your nonimmigrant status.
- Your M-1 program start date is deferred to the following academic term or semester because USCIS did not make a decision on your Form I-539 change of status application before your originally intended M-1 program start date, and your nonimmigrant status expires more than 30 days before that program start date. You will need to obtain status all the way up to the date which is 30 days before your new program start date. If you had already filed a Form I-539 to bridge the original gap, you may need to file another Form I-539 to bridge the new gap.
Because extending or changing nonimmigrant status to bridge the gap, and changing to M-1 status are two distinct benefits, you must pay a separate filing fee for each request, per the User Fee Statute, found at 31 U.S.C. 9701. For more information about this process, please visit USCIS Changing to a Nonimmigrant F or M Student Status.
- Changing to H-1B Status
If you are an F-1 student interested in changing to H-1B status, your prospective employer must sponsor you and file that petition. See pages on H-1B Status and cap gap for details.
Special Note for M-1 Students
If you are an M-1 student, you may not change to F status while you are in the United States. If you would like to attend school as an F-1 student, you will need to leave the United States, apply to an SEVP-certified school and receive a new Form I-20. You will also need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, if applicable. In addition, if you are an M-1 student, you may not change to H status (temporary worker) if the education or training you received as a vocational student in the United States provided the qualifications for the temporary worker position you seek.
- Alternative Option
If you are currently in the United States for a purpose other than attending school and would like to become a student, you may also decide to leave the United States, apply for a visa, if applicable, and re-enter as an F-1 or M-1 student. You will need to do the following:
- Apply to and receive acceptance from an SEVP-certified school.
- Receive a new initial Form I-20 from your designated school official (DSO).
- Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee.
- Apply at a U.S. consulate or embassy for an F-1 or M-1 visa to travel to the United States.
- If you are from a country where no visa is required, such as Canada, you may proceed directly to a U.S. port of entry or a U.S. pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station and apply for admission to the United States as an F-1 or M-1 student.
- Once admitted by an immigration officer in F-1 or M-1 status, you may begin your studies.
For more information about consular processing, please visit the Department of State Student Visa page.