Services for International Students and Scholars

Change of Status I-20 Application Process

Change of Status Instructions

If you are currently in the United States 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 nonimmigrant 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 U.S. Embassy with all required materials, and reenter the U.S. in the new status. This option is often referred to as Consular Processing.

Option 2: You may apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change your status without leaving the U.S. by completing form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status). This process can take between 3 and 6 months and it is recommend that you do not travel while your application is in process.

Please note, if your Change of Status application is approved by USCIS, 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 U.S. in order to reenter the U.S. in your new status.

Special Considerations when changing to F-1 status

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.

Non-immigrant visa holders in the following categories are not permitted to change to F-1 status from within the U.S. 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 (OGS).

Applying to change your status to F-1 within the U.S.

To request the change of status within the U.S., you must submit Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) to USCIS. To learn more about the application process, please visit: uscis.gov/i-539.   When completing this form, answer all questions that pertain to your case and mail this form, along with the suggested documents below, to USCIS by U.S. mail.

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

  • Personal statement, addressed to USCIS, from you, describing why you would like to change your status
  • Copy of Form I-20 reflecting the change of status notation for your program of study
  • Copy of I-901 SEVIS fee receipt (which can be paid at com)
  • Check or money order made out to the S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Copy of your letter of admission or original certificate of enrollment at Northeastern University
  • Electronic version of I-94 card (gov/i94)
  • Copy of the biographical page of your current passport
  • Copy of most the recent visa and full immigration documents for the principal visa holder (if you are holding a dependent visa, such as H4, L2, E2, F2, etc.). You may also need to provide a copy of documentation meeting or waiving the 212(e) requirement, if applicable, or copies of 3 recent paystubs 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.

After you have submitted your Change of Status application and you have obtained a verification of successful receipt from USCIS

Send an email with your receipt number to the OGS advisor who signed your I-20/DS-2019. You may check the status of your application online at egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/index.jsp by entering your receipt number.

If USCIS needs any additional information from you, you will receive a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) notice. Please contact the OGS so that we may help you respond to the RFE 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 OGS Check-In e-form which you will receive by email during the first week of classes so that your SEVIS record can be properly registered. If your application is not approved before the start date of your program, please contact the OGS to discuss your options.

If you move while your application is pending: Please note that if you change your mailing address, the postal service will not forward mail sent to you by USCIS. Any changes to your address while your application is pending must be updated on myNEU as well as USCIS online at egov.uscis.gov/coa/displayCOAForm.do.

Travelling with a Pending Change of Status

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

Change of Status and Eligibility for CPT and OPT

In order to be eligible for both CPT (Curricular Practical Training) and OPT (Optional Practical Training) you must have completed one academic year. One academic year is defined as two semester 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 OGS to schedule an appointment with an advisor. Please note that OGS is not able to verify the term that you will be eligible for CPT or OPT until your change of status has been approved and you have successfully moved into F-1 status.

When requesting an I-20 for your Northeastern program of study, please show all sources of your financial support and ensure that the sum equals or exceeds the estimated expenses for yourself and any dependents.

All financial documentation must be in English (or certified English translations must be included) and must be issued within 9 months of your program start date.

Financial sources must be readily available liquid assets, such as:

  • Checking or savings accounts
  • Money market accounts
  • Certificates/term deposits/fixed deposits (with maturity dates no later than the program start date)
  • Educational loans (a loan application is not sufficient)
  • Benevolent account
  • Current account
  • Post Office accounts
  • University scholarships
  • Financial guarantee letters (for SACM or SABIC international students)

The following are examples of sources that are NOT acceptable:

  • Investment portfolios

(Examples: stocks, bonds, mutual funds)

  • Retirement plans
  • Public Provident funds
  • Available lines of credit
  • Wire transfers
  • Deeds to real estate
  • Leases with rental income
  • Salary agreements or paystubs
  • Material items (examples: livestock, land, jewelry, fur)
  • Income tax forms

I heard I can change my status either inside the U.S. or by travelling abroad. Which option is best for me?

Both options have their own benefits and drawbacks, so it depends on your personal situation.

The Change of Status process within the U.S. will take several months to complete with the recommended guidance for you to stay in the U.S. while your application is pending with USCIS.  This option is usually taken by students who wish to maximize their current visa status opportunities.

If you decide to change your status via travelling abroad, you will need to apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the United States. If you have a specific timeline for studying in mind, this path might be better for you.

You should schedule an appointment with an OGS Advisor to determine if you are eligible to do this request.

How do I request a Change of Status I-20 within the U.S.?

You can request your I-20 by completing the I-20 Request E-Form for your specific program. Please communicate with the admissions office of your respective college at Northeastern for details about when it is time for you to start the I-20 request.

How long does it take for USCIS to make a decision about my Change of Status in the U.S. request?

USCIS processing time can vary greatly, but please expect that it will take around 6 months, on average. You can check the status of your application online after you receive your receipt number through their Case Status Online Portal or by calling the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

What is the G-1145 for?

The G-1145 Form is a form that will notify USCIS to send you updates or notifications about your case through e-mail or text message. You can access the Instruction Page through this link here.

If I am on a G or A visa, do I need to have the I-566 approved in order to apply for a Change of Status I-20 within the U.S.?

That is correct. If you are on either of these two visa types, you must have the I-566 approved.

When is the deadline to apply for the Change of Status I-20 within the U.S. I-20?

Please check with the Admissions office of your respective college for their deadline to submit the I-20 request.

I received a Request for Further Evidence (RFE) from USCIS. What should I do?

This request was sent to confirm additional information about your application. Please contact OGS at 617-373-2310 and schedule an appointment with one of our advisors to assist with responding to USCIS.

I heard that if my application is not approved by the start of my admitted term, I can study on my current visa. Is that true? How do I report this to Northeastern University?

This is a possibility if your current visa status allows you to engage in part-time or full-time studies. You can confirm this information through this fact sheet from Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

https://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/Nonimmigrant%20Class%20Who%20Can%20Study.pdf

If I do begin my studies on my current visa status while waiting for my F-1 status to be approved, how do I report this to Northeastern University?

In order for OGS to be properly updated, we will require that you will need to complete a Data form, which will ask you for proof of your current visa status. You can access the Data Form here:

https://myogs.northeastern.edu/istart/controllers/client/ClientEngine.cfm?serviceid=EFormDataForm0ServiceProvider&menuFlag=true

My application was pending with USCIS for more than 6 months. What should I do?

It is possible that USCIS will take more than 6 months to review your application. If this happens, please confirm with USCIS by checking the status of your application online through their Case Status Online Portal or via calling National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

What should I do once my Change of Status request gets approved?

Once your Change of Status Request is approved, you should e-mail the OGS advisor that assisted you with your I-20 request and send them a copy of the official I-797 Approval Notice through e-mail.

If my Change of Status in the U.S. gets approved, can I apply for F-1 visa in the U.S.?

If your Change of Status application is approved by USCIS, 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 U.S. in order to re-enter the U.S. in your new status.

If my Change of Status in the U.S. does not get approved by the beginning of the term that I as admitted in, what shall I do?

If your application with USCIS is still pending two weeks after the start of your program, you will need to defer your I-20 to the next available term. Please contact with the OGS advisor who assisted you with your Change of Status process to request this.