Before applying, note that: Although the International Student Office can give general guidance on the I-539 process, we are not able to give legal advice. If your application is complex, the International Student Office recommends consulting an immigration attorney.
- The I-539 and attachments are sent to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS)
- If you are currently in the U.S. you may be eligible to apply
- You should not depart the U.S. after submitting your I-539. Exiting the U.S. with a pending chagne of status application will result in denial due to abandonment of the petition.
- USCIS reviews applications based on your ability to document and justify a change of intent after arrival to the U.S.
- Applications are approved at the discretion of the USCIS adjudicator.
- Your current non-immigrant status must be valid
- At the time the application is received at USCIS
- AND will continue to be valid until the date the new status is requested to begin
- If USCIS determines that the change would be approved more than 30 days before the program start date, the application could be denied.
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 F-1 visa is approved 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.
- If your visa has expired, or is not currently valid, you must leave the US with an Initial I20 to go for an F1 visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy.
To apply for a change of status to F-1 within the U.S.:
Extra Details for Certain Nonimmigrant Categories
Individuals in certain nonimmigrant categories will need to supply additional documentation with the change of status application and/or meet certain eligibility criteria. Please consult the International Student Office with any questions about documentary or eligibility requirements.
In addition to the items in the section applicants should include:
- Changing from H-1B or H-4
- Copies of all previously issued I-797 Approval or Receipt Notices showing H-1B status
- Evidence that the individual has maintained valid H-1B status (e.g. a letter from the H-1B employer confirming current employment and 2-3 most recent pay stubs).
- For H-4: copies of the primary's H-1B immigration documents: Passport, I-94 card (front and back if issued paper I-94) or copy of electronic I-94 record, Forms I-797 Approval/Receipt Notices, and 2-3 recent pay stubs.
- The I-539 and attachments should be received at USCIS at least 30 days prior to the end of the employment relationship and H-1B validity period. Once the change of status to F-1 student is effective, one must cease work for the H-1B employer if s/he has not already.
- When changing from H status, it is permissible to begin study while the I-539 is pending.
- Changing from J-1 or J-2
- Copies of all previously issued Forms DS-2019
- For J-2: Copies of the primary's J-1 immigration documents: Forms DS-2019, passport information page, visa stamp page and I-94 card (front and back if issued paper I-94) or U.S. entry/admission stamp in passport (if issued electronic I-94)
- It is permissible to begin study while the change of status application is pending
- Both J-1 and J-2 visa holders who are subject to INA Section 212(e), also known as the two-year home residency requirement, may not apply to change status within the United States unless they have received a waiver from USCIS, a waiver recommendation from the U.S. Department of State (DOS), or have fulfilled the requirement.
- Changing from A or G Status
- Complete Form I-566 and submit it to the U.S. Department of State in Washington DC through the diplomatic mission or international organization.
- After Form I-566 is signed and returned by the Department of State, the applicant must submit the form with all of the items listed on page one.
- It is permissible to begin study while the change of status application is pending.
- Changing from F-2 or B-1/B-2
- 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.
- The F-1 status must be approved before commencement of study is permitted.