Change of status instructions

If you are currently in the U.S. in a non-immigrant status (B-1/B-2, F-1, F-2, H-1b or H-4) and would like to change to a different non-immigrant status (F-1, F-2, J-1 or J-2) there are two options:

  • Option 1: You may travel outside of the U.S., apply for a visa at a USA Embassy with all required materials, and re-enter the U.S. in the new status. This option is often referred to as Consular Processing.
  • Option 2: You may apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to change your status without leaving the USA by completing Form I-539 Application to extend/change your non-immigrant status. This process can take between 3 and 6 months and it is recommended you do not travel while your application is in process.

NOTE: If your change of status application is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you will be in your new status, but you will not have a corresponding visa reflecting the new status. As a result, you will need to apply for a new visa stamp the next time you travel outside of the USA in order to re-enter the U.S. in your new status.

Change to F-1 Student Status

Special considerations

In order to be eligible to change your status to F-1, your current status must be valid until 30 days before the start of your academic program and you must continue to maintain your current status until your change of status is approved. Applicants in B-1/B-2 status cannot enroll in classes until the change of their status to F-1 is approved.

Nonimmigrant visa holders in the following categories are not permitted to change to F-1 status from within the USA and must change status through Consular Processing:

  • M-1 students
  • C, D, and K nonimmigrants
  • WT and WB visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program
  • J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training
  • J nonimmigrants subject to the 212(e) 2-year foreign residence requirement

When in F-1 status, you must be enrolled full-time (12 credits for undergraduate students and 8 credits for graduate students) in on-ground courses each term and you cannot work without prior authorization from the Office of Global Services.

Applying to change status within the U.S.

To request the change of status within the U.S., you must submit Form I-539 (Application to extend/change your non-immigrant status) to the USA Citizenship and Immigration Services. When completing this form, answer all questions that pertain to your case and mail this form, along with the suggested documents below, to the Citizenship and Immigration Services by USA mail.

Suggested documents to enclose along with your completed I-539 application:

  • Personal statement, addressed to Citizenship and Immigration Services, from you, describing why you would like to change your status
  • Copy of the I-20 form reflecting the change of status notation for your program of study
  • Copy of I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee receipt (which can be paid through the Citizenship and Immigration Services)
  • Check or money order made out to the US.. Department of Homeland Security
  • Copy of your letter of admission or original certificate of enrollment at Northeastern University
  • Electronic version of I-94 card
  • Copy of the biographical page of your current passport
  • Copy of the most recent visa and full immigration documents for the principal visa holder (if you are holding a dependent visa, such as H-4, L-2, E-2, F-2, etc.). You may also need to provide a copy of the documentation meeting or waiving the 212(e) requirement, if applicable, or copies of 3 recent pay-stubs for the principal visa holder, if applicable. (Please discuss these specifications with the immigration lawyer of your spouse)
  • Financial documentation demonstrating how you will cover your living expenses and tuition and fees indicated on your new I-20. (If the name of the account holder on your financial documents is different from your own, include a financial affidavit of support)
  • G-1145 E-Notification request (optional)

Helpful tips:

  • If you are applying for F-2 or J-2 status, you will need to upload your I-20/DS-2019, your marriage certificate or birth certificate (with English translation, if applicable), and copies of the principal visa holder’s documents
  • If you are currently in A or G status, you must first have Form I-566 approved by the Department of State

Change to F-1 Student Status within the U.S.

What happens next

After you have submitted your change of status application and you have obtained a verification of successful receipt from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, send an email with your receipt number to the Office of Global Services advisor who signed your I-20/DS-2019. You may check the status of your application online here by entering your receipt number.

If the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services needs any additional information from you, you will receive a Request for Further Evidence notice. Please contact the Office of Global Services so we may help you respond to the Request for Further Evidence in a timely manner. You will receive a paper receipt and then a decision notice (Form I-797A, Notice of Action) by mail. Please email a copy of your approval notice to the Office of Global Services. You will need to complete the Office of Global Services check-in e-form which you will receive by email during the first week of classes so that your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System record can be properly registered. If your application is not approved before the start date of your program, please contact the Office of Global Services Office to discuss your options.

NOTE: If you move while your application is pending causing your mailing address to change, the postal service will not forward mail sent to you by the Citizenship and Immigration Services. Any changes to your address while your application is pending must be updated on myNortheastern as well as online at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

Traveling with a pending change of status

We don’t recommend traveling outside of the U.S. while your application with Citizenship and Immigration Services is still pending. If you can’t avoid traveling, please consult with the Office of Global Services beforehand as you may need to reach out to the Citizenship and Immigration Services to withdraw your application prior to traveling and submit a new I-20 request with the Office of Global Services.

CPT and OPT

In order to be eligible for both Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT), you must have completed one academic year. One academic year is defined as two semesters or three quarters that meet minimum F-1 full-time enrollment requirements. It is possible for you to use your time in another status towards meeting the one academic year. If you are interested in this, please call the Office of Global Services to schedule an appointment with an advisor. NOTE: The Office of Global Services is not able to verify the term that you will be eligible for Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training until your change of status has been approved and you have successfully moved into F-1 status.

Related Articles:

I-20 Form Instructions

With so many different ways to fill out the I-20 form, figuring out how to complete yours can be confusing. Use the instructions below that correspond to your program to fill out the form.

Pre-arrival for J-1 Students

Your DS-2019 form is the document you need to apply for a visa to enter the USA. We will walk you through the DS-2019 application process and answer some of the most frequently asked questions.