You can typically switch your US immigration status in two ways:

  1. Travel Abroad and re-enter
  2. Apply to USCIS (Form I-539)

Whether you choose to travel or apply to USCIS, the Immigration and Nationality Act requires you to demonstrate:

  • that you intend to leave the U.S. after completing your program of study


  • that you do not plan to stay in the United States indefinitely

Individuals in certain immigration categories will need to supply additional documentation with the change of status application AND/OR meet certain eligibility criteria. Please visit the Criteria Specific section for more information.


  • Although permitted to begin classes in most cases, students who have not yet obtained F-1 status, via travel or an approval notice from USCIS, are not eligible for F-1 student benefits, such as on-campus or off-campus employment.
  •  On April 6, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted guidance reaffirming that nonimmigrants seeking to change their status to F-1, M-1, or J-1 must maintain their nonimmigrant status (current visa) up to 30 days before their new status start date by filing additional Form(s) I-539 to extend their current nonimmigrant status while their change of status request is pending. Failure to do so may result in denial of your application for F-1 status.
  • Applications for change from B-1 or B-2 to F-1 made by persons who have either already applied to U.S. schools from abroad or who apply for a change of status shortly after entry into the U.S. are routinely denied. Due to the likelihood for denial and a change in USCIS processing requirements, Harrisburg University does not offer the option to apply for a change of status from B-1/B-2 or F-2 to F-1 with USCIS. All B-1/B-2 and F-2 visa holders will need to take a new Initial I-20 from Harrisburg University out of the U.S. for an F-1 visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy.