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CHANGING TO F-1 STUDENT STATUS

 

If you are currently enrolled or have been admitted to UC San Diego under a different non-immigrant status (i.e., H4, E2, L2) and are considering changing your status to F-1 student, please connect with an international student advisor by visiting our Contact Us page. Please ensure you are fully aware of any requirements and additional considerations related to a change to F-1 status: F vs. J Visa Options. 

 

There are two filing options to obtain F-1 student status: 

  • Option #1: Depart the U.S. and apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate located in your home country or any country outside of the U.S., or
  • Option #2: Apply for a change of status to F-1 student status while remaining in the U.S. 
    NOTE: Generally, J-1 and J-2 Exchange Visitors who are subject to the two-year home country residence requirement and have not been granted a waiver of the requirement are prohibited from changing status within the U.S., except to A and G status. It may be necessary to return home and apply for the new visa type there.

Make sure you do not submit duplicate Change of Status applications using different filing options. You must select one of the options above, upon initiating your change of status application. 

Note: ISEcannot offer specific filing advice. The information below is meant to provide basic filing information for international students. Consulting an immigration attorney on the change of status process is highly recommended. 

 


Option #1: Applying for F-1 Visa Outside the U.S.

STEP 1: Submit Your Request for a Change of Status I-20

To apply for an F-1 visa outside of the U.S., you must first obtain an F-1 Form I-20 from UC San Diego: 
  • Ensure you've met with an international student advisor by visiting our Contact Us page
  • Request a Change of Status I-20 from ISPO:
    • Log in to iportal.ucsd.edu .
    • Go to "Services" tab.
    • Select "Change of Status I-20 Request".
    • Complete your request.
    • Choose your "Document Delivery Preference".
    • Upload a PDF copy of your bank statement(s) or financial support letter(s) to show funding for the first 12 months of your studies.
    • Upload a PDF copy of your passport bio page.
    • Upload a PDF copy of your most recent I-94.
      • Retrieve an electronic I-94 here: Get Most Recent I-94.
      • If you have a paper I-94, submit both front and back pages.
  • "Submit" your request.

STEP 2: Receive Your New I-20 & Pay I-901 Fee

  • Your new I-20 will be issued within 10 business days.
  • You can check the status of your request anytime by logging in to iPortal and clicking on "My Requests" tab.
  • A notification email will be sent to you when your document is ready.
  • Print and sign the first page of your I-20 when you receive it.
  • Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee. You will be asked for certain information on your Form I-20 such as your SEVIS ID Number (This will be a 9-digit number starting with the letter 'N' located at the top of your Form I-20). Refer to your Form I-20 to complete the payment. 

STEP 3: Travel & Apply for F-1 Visa Outside the U.S.

  • Book a Visa Appointment: Once you have received your change of status I-20, schedule an appointment with a U.S. embassy or consulate outside of the U.S. Learn more about Applying for an F-1 Visa Abroad.
  • If necessary, depart the U.S.: If you are currently in the U.S., carefully plan your travels. If a visa is granted, you may not re-enter the U.S. in F-1 Status to enroll as a full-time student at UC San Diego  until 30 days prior to the program start date listed on your Form I-20. If you are applying for a visa and are granted an F-1 visa more than 30 days prior to your program start date listed on your Form I-20, make additional plans or accommodations to remain abroad until you are eligible to enter.
  • Attend your Interview: Interview with consular officer at U.S. embassy or consulate outside of the U.S. You may be asked to provide proof that you are a bona fide non-immigrant, with strong ties to your home country and no intention of immigrating to the U.S.
  • Prepare for Arrival to the U.S.: Your F-1 visa allows you permission to seek entry to the U.S. as an F-1 student. Entry as at the discretion of CBP. Once you are admitted to the U.S. in F-1 Status, you must report your arrival to ISPO.

STEP 4: Submit Check-In for I-20 Activation

Within 10 days of arrival, inform us that you have successfully entered the U.S. in F-1 Status by taking the following steps:

  1. Generate your Form I-94 from the CBP website
  2. Log into iPortal and submit the 'Check-In for I-20/DS-2019 Activation' Form
    NOTE: When asking for your 'Form Issue Reason', indicate 'Change of Status' instead of 'Initial Attendance'. 

STEP 5: Understand How to Maintain Your F-1 Status & Impacts on Residency Status

F-1 Federal Rules & Regulations 

As an F-1 Student, you will be subject to federal rules and regulations. It is important that you maintain your F-1 status by following these rules. To learn about your status, you are required to complete the iTriton Online Training by the end of your first quarter in F-1 status. Follow directions on the iTriton Online Training Page to receive access. If you have visa related inquiries, you can always connect with an advisor. 

Tuition & Residency Status

Upon arrival to the U.S. in F-1 Status, ISEO will report your new status to the Residence Deputy at UC San Diego who determines your residency status for tuition purposes. Students who change status to F-1 may experience a change in residency status and tuition fees. For more information, please visit the Residence Deputy's Website

 


Option #2: Submitting USCIS Form I-539 and Remaining in the U.S.

STEP 1: Eligibility, Timeline, and Considerations for a Change Status with USCIS

Eligibility

Individuals requesting a change of status while remaining in the U.S. must satisfy ALL of the following criteria:

  • Your current I-94 status will be valid at the time of filing.
  • You have maintained your current I-94 status for a minimum of 90 days.
  • You have been admitted into a degree program at UC San Diego and are in good academic standing.
  • Your primary purpose for changing status in the U.S. must be to become a full-time student at UC San Diego.
  • For prior J visa holders only: If you have ever been in J Exchange Visitor status, and are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, you are eligible to apply for a change of status in the U.S. only if you have fulfilled the requirement or have obtained a waiver and can provide a copy of the waiver.

Timeline & Processing Time

To change your status to F-1 student status while remaining in the U.S., you must submit an application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For the entire duration of the pending application with USCIS, you MUST remain in the U.S. USCIS processing time can vary (and may take 12 or more months) so you'll need to plan accordingly. ISPO recommends that you start this process 12-18 months before your current status expires.


Enrollment While Change of Status is Pending

If your current non-immigrant status does not allow study (e.g., B-2, F-2), you must wait for your change of status application be approved before starting a full-time program at UC San Diego. Students changing from B-2 or F-2 status to J-1 MUST receive approval before the first day of the admitted quarter. Failure to receive F-1 approval may delay your admission or prevent your enrollment at UC San Diego. 


Employment While Change of Status is Pending

Benefits of the F-1 Visa do not begin until you have been approved for a change of status and have enrolled in classes at UC San Diego. If your current non-immigrant status does not allow you to work lawfully in the U.S., you MUST wait until your change of status application has been approved and you've received the proper F-1 employment authorization to begin employment. To avoid problems with your immigration status, check to ensure you are eligible and have the proper employment authorization, BEFORE starting any type of work.


Pending Adjustment of Status (Greencard Application Pending) 

As long as you meet all eligibility requirements for a Change of Status with USCIS, you may be eligible to file for a Change of Status with USCIS despite a pending greencard application. It is important to contact an immigration attorney and understand how your pending greencard application may impact your change of status application. 


Completion of UC San Diego Degree Program BEFORE Change of Status Approval 

Due to long USCIS processing times, it is possible you may complete your program of study at UC San Diego before your change of status application with USCIS is approved. It's important to discuss this timeline with an international student advisor by visiting our Contact Us page. 


Approval for F-1 Non-immigrant Status BUT NOT an F-1 Visa for Travel/Re-Entry

Changing your non-immigrant status to F-1 while in the U.S. allows you to remain in the U.S. and avail the benefits of the F-1 non-immigrant status. However, it does NOT grant you an F-1 visa for travel and re-entry into the U.S. If you travel outside of the U.S. after your change of status is approved, you may not re-enter the U.S. in F-1 Status without obtaining a valid F-1 Visa. Before you travel, plan ahead! You will need to apply for an F-1 Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad (Canadian citizens are exempt), prior to re-entering the U.S.

STEP 2: Submit Your Request for a Change of Status I-20

To submit a complete Form I-539 with USCIS., you must first obtain an F-1 Form I-20 from UC San Diego: 
  • Log in to iportal.ucsd.edu .
  • Go to " Services" tab.
  • Select "Change of Status I-20 Request".
  • Complete your request.
  • Choose your "Document Delivery Preference".
  • Upload a PDF copy of your bank statement(s) or financial support letter(s) to show funding for the first 12 months of your studies.
  • Upload a PDF copy of your passport bio page.
  • Upload a PDF copy of your most recent I-94.
    • Retrieve an electronic I-94 here: Get Most Recent I-94.
    • If you have a paper I-94, submit both front and back pages.
  • "Submit" your request.

STEP 3: Receive Your New I-20 & Pay I-901 Fee

  • Your new I-20 will be issued within 10 business days.
  • You can check the status of your request anytime by logging in to iPortal and clicking on "My Requests" tab.
  • A notification email will be sent to you when your document is ready.
  • Print and sign the first page of your Form I-20 when you receive it.
  • Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee. You will be asked for certain information on your Form I-20 such as your SEVIS ID Number (This will be a 9-digit number starting with the letter 'N' located at the top of your Form I-20). Refer to your Form I-20 to complete the payment. 

STEP 4: Prepare Your Change of Status Application for USCIS

The following supporting documents will be required when submitting your Form I-539 USCIS Application: 

  1. Personal Statement (typed) explaining why you want to change your status. Include information about why you entered the U.S. in your current status, why and how your intentions changed once in the U.S., and any other relevant information. Since F-1 is a nonimmigrant status, it is advisable that you include information relating to your plans to return home after completing your studies, including any ties to your home country.
  2. Copy of your signed change of status I-20 
  3. Proof of admission to UC San Diego or, if current UC San Diego student, copy of your unofficial transcript or academic history from TritonLink.
  4. Receipt of payment of SEVIS I-901 fee.  After receiving I-20 from ISPO, ensure you pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee. You will be asked for certain information on your Form I-20 such as your SEVIS ID Number (This will be a 9-digit number starting with the letter 'N' located at the top of your Form I-20). Refer to your Form I-20 to complete the payment and save the PDF receipt.
  5. Copy of I-94 or I-797 approval notice showing current status. For electronic versions of the I-94, go to the CBP website .
  6. Copy of passport bio page(s) that includes picture and expiration date. Ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months in the future. If you are pending a passport renewal, include your current passport and proof of pending renewal from your home country's embassy or consulate.
  7. Copy of visa page in passport (not applicable if Canadian citizen). A valid visa is NOT required.
  8. Proof of Financial Support
    • USCIS requires that financial documents show sufficient funds to cover expenses listed on the Form I-20 for the first year of study. 
    • All documents must be in English. If document is not in USD, also include conversion to U.S. dollars from home currency (available at www.xe.com).
    • Students may combine multiple sources of financial support to demonstrate financial capability. See the budget estimates for both undergraduate and graduate students (as well as dependents) on our Funding Requirements page.
    • Financial documents must be current and no older than 90 days. 
    • If bank statements are not in student’s name, provide a letter from the sponsor specifying that he/she will be providing all financial support to the student.
  9. Copy of primary visa holder’s immigration documents. If you are a dependent visa holder (your spouse or parent is the primary visa holder), include their immigration documents:
    • Valid passport bio page and visa page
    • Form I-94 or or I-797 approval notice
    • Proof of Maintenance of Status: Employment letter, letter from business accountant, etc.
  10. Ties to Your Home Country (OPTIONAL, AT YOUR DISCRETION). Under federal law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas or statuses, such as student visas, are viewed as having intentions to immigrate to the U.S. until they can demonstrate otherwise. It is important to show that you have strong ties to your home country, or reasons for returning to your home country or foreign country of residence after completing your program of study. Proof of ties will vary per applicant. Examples of ties include:
    • Offer of employment or current job abroad
    • Financial prospects that you own or will inherit, such as a family business, investments, etc.
    • Property or Land in your name 
    • Direct family members (such as spouse, children, or parents) which you support 
    • For further details about this topic, you can visit the State Department’s Foreign Affairs
      Manual [9 FAM 402.5-5(E)], which explains the basics of what consular officers or USCIS Adjudicators may consider

STEP 5: Submit your Online Form I-539 to USCIS

You may be eligible to file ONLINE if:

  • You are the only applicant, without co-applicants (dependents); and
  • You will not require legal or accredited representation at any point in your request (someone filing on your behalf).

If you are not eligible to file online, you must use Form I-539 Paper Form and mail a complete application, with appropriate fees, and required documents to USCIS. 

Once you've prepared your required documents and have determined your eligibility to use the online I-539 application, begin your online Form I-539 USCIS Application: 

  1. Create a USCIS Account: Visit the USCIS website for the Form I-539 and select the 'File Online' button. Make sure you remember your username and password.
  2. Complete Form I-539 form: Start the online application. Review USCIS Website and I-539 Instructions for form filing tips.
  3. Upload all Required Documents: Include all required documents, including your Change of Status Form I-20.
  4. Pay Required Fees: You will be required to pay USCIS Processing Fees in order to submit your application.
  5. I-797 Receipt Notice: Upon successful submission of your application, you will receive a PDF Receipt, known as the Form I-797 Notice of Action. This notice will have a Receipt Number which you can use to track the status of your application. 

Additional Resources for Filing:

STEP 6: Await USCIS Decision & Monitor USCIS Account for Updates

I-797 Receipt Notice & Checking Status of Request 

Upon successful submission of your application, you will receive a PDF Receipt, known as the Form I-797 Notice of Action. This notice will contain a Receipt Number which you can use to track the status of your application on the USCIS Case Status Page. You may receive additional correspondence from USCIS. Log into your USCIS Account, check your email, and the USCIS Case Status Page, for any additional action USCIS may require you take. 


Biometric Services Appointment (if Required)

USCIS may require that you appear for an interview or provide biometrics (fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature) at any time to verify your identity, obtain additional information, and conduct
background and security checks, including a check of criminal history records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), before making a decision on your application or petition. After USCIS receives your application and ensures it is complete, USCIS will inform you in writing (via regular mail) if you need to attend a biometric services appointment.

If an appointment is necessary, the notice will provide you the location of your local or designated USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) and the date and time of your appointment. If you are required to provide biometrics, at your appointment you must sign an oath reaffirming that:

  1. You provided or authorized all information in the application;
  2. You reviewed and understood all of the information contained in, and submitted with, your application; and
  3.  All of this information was complete, true, and correct at the time of filing.
    If you fail to attend your biometric services appointment, USCIS may deny your application.

We recommend that you review your copy of your completed application before you go to your biometric services appointment at a USCIS ASC. At your appointment, USCIS will permit you to complete the application process only if you are able to confirm, under penalty of perjury, that all of the information in your application is complete, true, and correct. If you are not able to make that attestation in good faith at that time, USCIS will require you to return for another appointment.


Request for Evidence (RFE)

While your application is pending, USCIS may issue you a Request for Evidence (RFE). It means that the USCIS officer reviewing your application needs more information before they can make a decision. They will indicate within the RFE document what additional document is needed, a deadline to submit the requested information, and how to submit it to USCIS. If you receive a request for evidence, immediately  connect with an ISPO Advisor. 

STEP 7: Receive USCIS Decision

Change of Status Approval

When your change of status is approved, you will be issued an I-797 Approval Notice with an attached Form I-94. You are required to report your approval within 10 days of receiving the notice. To report your approval and receive an Updated Form I-20 reflecting religiosity to enroll in F-1 Status, submit an Updated I-20 Request in iPortal.

Once approved, move on to STEP 8 (below) for additional information regarding maintaining your new F-1 Status, residency status for tuition, and travel. 


Change of Status Denial 

If you receive a denial notification, immediately connect with an ISPO Advisor to understand your options moving forward. 

STEP 8: Understand How to Maintain Your F-1 Status & Impacts on Residency Status

F-1 Federal Rules & Regulations 

As an F-1 Student, you will be subject to federal rules and regulations. It is important that you maintain your F-1 status by following these rules. To learn about your status, you are required to complete the iTriton Online Training by the end of your first quarter in F-1 status. Follow directions on the iTriton Online Training Page to receive access. If you have visa related inquiries, you can always connect with an ISPO Advisor. 


Tuition & Residency Status

Upon arrival to the U.S. in F-1 Status, ISPO will report your new status to the Residence Deputy at UC San Diego who determines your residency status for tuition purposes. Students who change status to F-1 may experience a change in residency status and tuition fees. For more information, please visit the Residence Deputy's Website. 


Traveling Outside the U.S. after Change of Status Approval:

Changing your non-immigrant status to F-1 while in the U.S. allows you to remain in the U.S. and avail the benefits of the F-1 non-immigrant status. However, it does NOT grant you an F-1 visa for reentry into the U.S. If you travel outside of the U.S. after your change of status is approved, you may not re-enter the U.S. in F-1 Status without a valid F-1 Visa. Before you travel, plan ahead! You will need to apply for an F-1 Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad (Canadian citizens are exempt), prior to re-entering the U.S.