Change of Status to F-1 in the US

If you are already in the United States in another nonimmigrant status, you may be allowed to apply for a change of status to F-1 while remaining in the US. Please note that not all nonimmigrants in the US will be eligible to apply for a change of status to F-1. Refer to the USCIS Changing to a Nonimmigrant F Student Status page for more detailed information on eligibility and the change of status process.

Prospective students who are already in the US and wish to apply for a change of status to F-1 need must first consult with the Center for Global Health (CGH) at MUSC. The change of status process can be lengthy and complex. We typically do not recommend pursuing a change of status in most circumstances.

In general, the change of status process follows these steps:

  • Student is accepted into an MUSC degree program
  • Student completes the F-1 sponsorship application process with CGH
  • CGH issues Form I-20
  • Student receives Form I-20 and pays the SEVIS I-901 fee
  • Student completes and submits USCIS Form I-539
  • USCIS approves change of status application and sends approval notice

If you are pursuing a change of status to F-1, you are responsible for completing USCIS Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. You must carefully read all of the instructions provided by USCIS for submitting this application. If your form contains errors or your application is submitted incorrectly, USCIS will reject the application. You must also pay the USCIS fee associated with this application.

USCIS processing times for I-539 applications are highly variable. Sometimes these applications take 9 to 12 months for USCIS to process. If you file for a change of status to F-1, you must maintain your current nonimmigrant status while the I-539 application is pending. This may require you to file a separate application to extend your current nonimmigrant status.

Some nonimmigrants may be able to begin their studies while their applications for change of status are pending with USCIS. However, those nonimmigrants currently in B-1, B-2, F-2 or M-2 status cannot begin their studies prior to USCIS approval of the change of status application.