Salisbury University students on campus

Changing Non-Immigrant Status in the United States

With certain exceptions, an alien already in the United States in nonimmigrant status can apply for a change to F-1 status. These exceptions are:

  • M-1 students C, D, and K nonimmigrants
  • J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education/training
  • J nonimmigrants subject to the 212(e) 2-year foreign residence requirement
  • Aliens admitted as visitors under 8 C.F.R. § 212.1(e)
  • WT and WB visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program

The USCIS determination of eligibility for change of status to F-1 consists of two levels of inquiry:

  1. Eligibility for F-1 status itself
  2. Eligibility for change of status in general


  • Check or money order for $290, made payable to the Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Citizenship and immigration Service. If someone else writes the check, make sure your name is somewhere on the check.
  • Properly Filled I-539 form, Application to Change/Extend Immigration Status
  • Original I-20 (the entire form)
  • Proof of payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee (
  • Original form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
  • Photocopy of current immigration status documents, visa stamp, and passport ID pages
  • Photocopy of financial support documents (same financial support information used to obtain the I-20 from the school)
  • If applicable, dependent family member(s) documentation (If dependent family members currently in the U.S. plan to change their status as well, their information should be included in Form I-539, and documentation showing the validity of their current immigration status, including their Forms I-94, should be included
  • Letter from the student. Although optional, a strong letter can help convince USCIS of the student's temporary intent as well as persuade USCIS that the student did not have a pre-conceived intention to study in the U.S.

An applicant for change of nonimmigrant status to F-1 may start attending school even before the application has been submitted or approved, except for the following, who must wait until their change of status application is approved by USCIS:

  • Nonimmigrants changing to F-1 from B-1 or B-2 status; and
  • Nonimmigrants changing to F-1 from F-2 dependent status (except in the case of F-2 minors studying at the primary or secondary level)