Changing Immigration Status to F-1 

If you are currently in the U.S. and would like to change to the F-1 status, you may choose from one of the options below: 


1) Apply for the F-1 visa at the U.S Embassy Abroad. You will need to obtain an Initial I-20, make a visa appointment and re-enter the U.S. with F-1 status. Please follow the steps outlined in the Application Steps for Students Outside the U.S. article. (A Change of Status I-20 cannot be used at a U.S. embassy) 


2) Submit Form I- 539 to USCIS within the U.S. This is also referred to as filing for Change of Status (An Initial I-20 cannot be used for the USCIS application)

Students must be able to maintain their current status or have legal status to remain in the U.S. during this time. It is recommended to work with an immigration attorney to help you with the application process and to ensure you maintain legal status in the U.S. throughout this time. 

Students can review the Form I-539 instructions, requirements and filing fee and on the USCIS website - Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status | USCIS

Processing Time

The regular USCIS processing time for Form I-539 is estimated between 15 and 20 months. Premium processing of Form I-539 is available for an additional fee of approximately $1,750 and will be processed within 30 days. You may check current processing times at Processing Times ( 


While your I-539 is Pending:


If you depart the U.S. while your application is pending with USCIS, your application will be considered abandoned and the change of status will not be approved. If you are approved for change of status to F1, please be advised that you will not receive an F-1 visa stamped in your passport for travel. If you later decide to travel outside of the U.S., you will need to apply for the F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy abroad.  



If your current visa status allows you to study full-time in the U.S., you may enroll in classes at HU under that status while your change of status application is pending. However, you are not allowed employment such as CPT or OPT work authorization until your F-1 status becomes effective. B1/B2 and F2 visa holders are examples of visa statuses that may NOT study while their Change of Status application is pending.


Keep Your I-20 Valid

While your change of status application is pending, the program start date on your I-20 must remain in the future. If your application is still pending by the program start date listed on your I-20, you must request a deferred I-20. Login to the Terra Dotta System and navigate to the Request Center to find the Change of Status I-20 request.

If logging into Terra Dotta for the first time, you must access the system via the Welcome to Terra Dotta email sent to your HU student email

If the program start date on your I-20 has passed and your change of status application is still pending, you may receive a Request for Evidence or denial notice from USCIS. 


Request for Evidence Notices (RFE) from USCIS

When you receive any official notice from USCIS about your change of status, please submit a copy to Harrisburg University. We do not receive notices from USCIS directly and rely on you to keep ISO updated about your status. If you receive a Request for Evidence from USCIS, please notify our office as soon as possible so that we can assist you to gather documents related to this request.  


If Approved for F-1 Status:

If you receive an I-797 Approval Notice from USCIS, please notify our office within 24 hours. It is critical that our office is immediately aware of the approval date to F1 status. Students are required to begin studying at the next available semester following the approval date on the USCIS Approval NoticeIf students do not attend the next available semester, they may need to depart the U.S. and apply for the F1 visa abroad.  


To officially notify our office of your approval to F1 status, please login to the Terra Dotta System and navigate to the Request Center to find the F1 Approval Notification Request. You will be required to upload a copy of your approval notice.  

We recommend that students access Terra Dotta through a desktop/laptop device, as mobile compatibility is limited. 


Application Steps

  1. Apply for Acceptance to Harrisburg University as an F-1 Student
  2. Pay the Tuition Deposit HERE
  3. Receive your login credentials - Please note that due to system integration, it can take up to 24 hours for your new HU credentials to be recognized by the Terra Dotta system
  4. Submit an Initial I-20 request: login to the Terra Dotta System and navigate to the Request Center to find the Initial I-20 request
    IMPORTANT -select  “CHANGE OF STATUS” as the issue reason in the questionnaire 
  5. Your Change of Status I-20 will be sent to your HU email within 3-5 business days. (Please note, this is not an active I-20 and your F-1 status is not effective until you receive the approval notice from USCIS.)
  6. Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee 
  7. Submit your I-539 Application to USCIS with supporting documents. Please visit Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status | USCIS for instructions. 
  8. Notify the ISO of any USCIS Notices. If approved for F1 status, please submit the I-797A Approval Notice from USCIS to our office. Login to the Terra Dotta System and navigate to the Request Center to find the F1 Approval Notification Request. 

For any questions regarding Change of Status please reach out to the ISO through the support portal.