Change of Status to F-1

To be eligible for a change of status to F-1, you must have maintained and currently be in a valid immigration status, be admitted to a degree program at UB and have received an I-20. F-1 is a non-immigrant visa category.

Change of Status Overview

A change of status is a change in one’s primary purpose for being in the U.S.  There are two ways to change one’s immigration status to F-1.  

  • One way is to travel home or outside the U.S., apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate and re-enter the U.S. in the new status.  
    • An "Initial" I-20 is issued when changing status via travel.
    • ISS recommends that you travel back to your home country to apply for the F-1 visa.
    • If you are granted an F-1 visa then you will use the F-1 visa stamp and I-20 to re-enter the U.S.
    • After entry to the U.S. using an F-1 visa, your electronic I-94 will be updated to reflect F-1 status.
  • The other way is to submit a change-of-status application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) while remaining in the U.S.
    •  A "Change of Status" I-20 is issued when changing status inside the U.S.

We will outline both options below; however, due to extremely long processing times with the USCIS and increased scrutiny of change of status applications, ISS generally recommends changing status via travel. 

Change of Status via Travel - Eligibility Requirements

  • You must have maintained and currently be in a valid immigration status.
  • You must be admitted to a degree program at UB. If you are currently enrolled at UB, you must intend to maintain full-time enrollment at UB in the future.
  • You must receive an I-20 from UB.  "Initial" I-20's are issued when you intend to depart the U.S. and apply for a F-1 visa.

Obtaining an I-20

If you are applying for admission to UB and requesting to change your change of status via travel prior to the start of your first semester, then the Office of International Admissions will issue your I-20. As a part of the admissions process, you will receive instructions explaining which documents you need to provide in order to receive an I-20.

If you are already admitted to UB and are currently enrolled as a student, ISS will need the following to issue an "initial" I-20:

  • Copies of your current valid immigration documents (Passport, Visa Stamp/I-797 Approval Notice, I-94, etc.)
  • Financial documents indicating you have sufficient funds for your studies.  For more information on acceptable financial documents, visit here. An ISS advisor can provide you with an estimate of expenses.
  • Your current US address, telephone number, emergency contact and home country address. Please update this information in the HUB Student Center following the instructions found here.
    • Your address in your home country is required because F-1 is a non-immigrant visa category, which means that you must intend to return to your home country after your studies. 

Change of Status via Travel Process

  1. Obtain an “Initial” I-20.  While you are applying to UB or working with an International Student Advisor in ISS, please indicate that you plan to change your status by traveling.  
  2. Pay the SEVIS Fee.  Visit here for information.  You must bring the SEVIS fee payment receipt with you to the U.S. Consulate when you apply for an F-1 visa.
  3. Prepare your F-1 visa application materials.  Visit here for more information. Note: Canadian Citizens are not required to apply for an F-1 visa stamp.
  4. After receiving your F-1 visa stamp, re-enter the U.S. using the I-20 and F-1 visa stamp. 
  5. Submit copies of your F-1 Visa and I-94 to ISS upon your arrival. This is extremely important because without confirmation that you were successful in changing your status, ISS cannot activate your SEVIS record.
  6. As an F-1 student, you must understand how to maintain your status. You will be required to watch an F-1 Immigration Session either during Orientation or online. We will send you additional information on how to complete this requirement after your I-20 is issued.

Resources - Travel and Re-entry

We recommend that you review the following resources:

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Study and Change of Status

If your current immigration status allows study, then you may attend classes while your change of status application with the USCIS is pending.  However, you may not begin an assistantship or engage in employment under F-1 status until after your application is approved by the USCIS or you re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status, if changing status via travel.

If your current status does not allow study (i.e. B-1/B-2 visa holders), then you may not study until your change of status is approved or you re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status.

If you are an F-2 visa holder, you may study part-time (fewer than 12 credits) if your academic program permits part-time study. You may begin full-time study only after your change of status to F-1 is approved by the USCIS or after you re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status, if changing status via travel.