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Changing to F-1 Status

Individuals who have been admitted to SUNY New Paltz and who currently have a non-immigrant status other than F-1 student may apply to change their status to F-1 as long as they intend to register as a full time student in an academic or language program.


The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is likely to grant a change of status only if an applicant's permission to stay in the US is valid and the applicant is "in status." Individuals not in lawful immigration status, or whose circumstances suggest that they may have misrepresented their intentions on entering the US, may anticipate denial of their applications. Many such individuals will want to leave the US temporarily, obtain a student visa at a consular office, and reenter the country in student status. Those who anticipate difficulty in reentering the US may want to discuss their circumstances with an attorney experienced in immigration law.

Procedure for filing for change of status:

  1. Qualifying for a Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) from SUNY New Paltz
    Students who have been admitted to an academic or language program should receive information about applying for an I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 Student Status. If you have not received this form, contact International Student Programs. In order to qualify, you must be admitted to the university and provide financial documentation showing funds for you and any accompanying dependents who apply for F-2 status. The funds should be sufficient for one year and show a plan for funding subsequent years.
  2. Completing the form I-539
    Complete and sign the form. You should fully explain your financial situation and the reason for the change of status request. This reason will depend on the status you are changing from:
    • F-2 Dependent status: As of April 29, 2015, changes in the United States immigration law permits F-2 dependents to study at an SEVP-certified school part time. Any F-2 who wants to study full time must apply for a change of status to F-1 and register full time.
    • Other dependent visa statuses: H-4, L-2, O-3 etc. A change of status may be required when the dependent child reaches the age of 21 or if the spouse or child wishes to benefit from a change to F-1 for the purpose of employment or practical training eligibility. At this point, regulations allow these dependents to register full time, part time or not at all.
    • J-1 or J-2 - Remember that if you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement, you are not eligible for a change of status in the United States. You will have to leave the country to apply for an F-1 vsa and re-enter with the proper status.
    • H-1 Worker - You should give your dates of employment under H-1 and the date of registration at SUNY New Paltz. Include a copy of the I-797 approving the H-1. You must apply for this change of status as soon as you terminate your H-1 employment.
    • A or G Diplomatic - You are required to file form I-566 before applying for a change of status. You can download the form I-566 at the following Web site: 
    • B-1 or B-2 Visitor - When you entered the US you told a visa officer your reason for coming to the US You should have an explanation for changing your original intent or your request may be denied. Supporting documentation may also be helpful. If you are in B-2 Prospective Student Status additional documentation is not necessary.

      PLEASE NOTE: The USCIS has published an interim rule, effective immediately, that prohibits a B nonimmigrant (both B-1 visitors for business and B-2 visitors for pleasure) from "enrolling in a course of study or taking other actions inconsistent with B nonimmigrant status" unless and until the immigration service has approved the B nonimmigrant's change to "an appropriate student nonimmigrant status." The rule applies only to B nonimmigrants who obtain B status on or after April 12, 2002. It does not apply to B nonimmigrants currently in the United States who were admitted before that date, unless they applied to have their B status extended on or after April 12, 2002.
  3. Applying for the change of status:
    Please hand in the following documents to the Center for International Programs:
  4. Mailing the complete application to the immigration service.
    Once your application is ready for mailing, we will contact you. You can either pick it up in person, or we can send it to you. You need to mail the following documents to the USCIS at the address below:
    • Completed form I-539
    • Completed form G-1145 (optional)
    • Copies of current immigration status documents, visa stamp, and passport ID pages
    • Copy of your I-94 and photocopies of the I-94 of any dependents that are changing with you.
    • Copy of your new SEVIS I-20. Sign the I-20 on the bottom of page one before copying/mailing.
    • Copies of financial support documents.
    • A letter of explanation (why you want to change status to F-1).
    • The required $290 fee. A check or money order made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  NOTE:  Spell out U.S. Department of Homeland Security; do not use "USDHS" or "DHS".  The USCIS does not accept cash.
    • The I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt. For how to pay online, see: 

Do not send your passport to the USCIS!

Mail your application to: USCIS Dallas Lockbox:

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries: USCIS, PO Box 660166, Dallas, TX 75266 (use certified mail and ask for a return receipt)

For Express mail and courier deliveries: USCIS, Attn: I-539, 2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business Suite 400, Lewisville, TX 75067

Special considerations:

If you are in lawful status when you apply for a change of nonimmigrant status, you remain in lawful status until you receive your reply from the USCIS. However, you do not have the privileges of student status (working on campus, applying for practical training, etc.) until the change is approved.

  • Note that you must fulfill the USCIS requirement of being in valid student status for one academic year before you may apply for practical training. B-1/B-2 is not a valid student status.
  • If you entered the United States on the Visa Waiver program with WT or WB, you are not eligible to extend or change your status. You must qualify for a new I-20, leave the country, apply for an F-1 entry visa, and return in F-1 status.
  • If you have any questions, please consult International Student Programs


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