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Getting in F-1 Status

NOTE: This information is meant for students who are already in the US in a different immigration status and who are wishing to obtain F-1 status.

There are two ways to obtain F-1 status:

  1. Apply in the US for a change of status
  2. Leave the US and apply for an F-1 visa at a US Embassy/Consulate in your home country

Option 1

Important Note:

Change of status applications are sent to the California Service Center (if using an Indiana address on the application forms), and the adjudication—approval or denial—of the application can take up to four months.  Therefore, it is critical that you plan in advance of when you will begin your studies.  Timing is especially critical if you will have funding from your department that will require you to work on campus in your first semester.  Current processing times can be found by going to the USCIS website.

To process a Change of Status (I-539) application in the US, the following documentation is required:

To request the I-20 from OIS:

  • Contact OISS at oiss@iusb.edu or by phone at 574-520-4419 to let us know you would like to request an I-20.
  • You will need to provide OISS with:

    • Updated financial documentation, less than 12 months old
    • A copy of your passport identity page (including date of birth, name, photo, and expiration date)
    • A copy of passport identity pages for any dependents on your record
    • A copy of the front and back of your I-94 card
    • A copy of the front and back of I-94 cards for any dependents on your record
    • A copy of I-901 (SEVIS Fee) receipt
    • A copy of your admission letter

To complete the Change of Status application

  • Form I-539 (can be downloaded from USCIS website)
  • Check or money order for $290, made out to “DHS”
  • New I-20
  • Copy of admission letter—from the Office of International Student Services
  • Copy of financial documents showing that funds are available to cover the expenses as listed on the I-20 (Click here for more information on estimated expenses)
  • Copy of the front and back of your I-94 card
  • Copy of your passport’s identification page (including date of birth, name, photo, and expiration date)
  • Copy of documentation that proves that you have been maintaining your other visa status (examples will be provide by an OISS advisor)

Additionally, an I-901 (SEVIS fee) must be paid prior to submitting change of status application and after obtaining an I-20 from the OISS.  The fee is $200 (effective October 27, 2008).  A receipt of this payment must be included with application materials.

The OISS can provide assistance with the Change of Status application.  To work with us, you can

  • Call the OISS at 574-520-4419
  • Email us at oiss@iusb.edu
  • Make phone or in-person appointment with an advisor by calling 574-520-4419 or visiting Administration Building 146X
    • Please note that appointments need to be scheduled at least one day in advance

You can also retain legal counsel to help with this application and its submission.  If you choose this option, you will be required to provide the OISS with a copy of your receipt notice and the final adjudication documents as soon as you receive them.

Upon successful adjudication (approval) of your application, your F-1 status would begin on the date indicated by the USCIS on your Approval Notice.

Option 2

You would need to apply for an F-1 visa at the appropriate US consulate or Embassy in your home country.

For a listing of Embassies and consulates, please see this website.

When you apply for an F-1 visa, which is a non-immigrant visa, you will have to prove that you have non-immigrant intent, which means that you will need to prove that you do not intend to remain in the US after your studies.  To do that, you will need to show strong ties to your home country.

For more tips on applying for a visa, including proving non-immigrant intent, see NAFSA’s Resource Library.

Evidence of the SEVIS fee payment is required at the time of the visa appointment, as well as other fees (visa fees, reciprocity fees—if applicable).  You would need to obtain an I-20 from the Office of International Services.  For that, you would need to:

  • Contact the OISS to let us know you want to request and I-20.  Submit a request along with:

    • Updated financial documentation, less than 12 months old
    • A copy of your passport identity page (including date of birth, name, photo, and expiration date)
    • A copy of the passport identity page for all dependents on your record (including date of birth, name, photo, and expiration date)
    • Copy of the front and back of your I-94 card
    • Copy of the front and back of I-94 cards for your dependents on your record
    • Admission letter from the

Upon successful re-entry into the US using your F-1 visa, your I-20 and after being granted an I-94 card marked “F-1, D/S” (F-1, Duration of Status), your F-1 status would begin.

Special Note

Under some circumstances (such as when J-1 Exchange Visitors are subject to the Two-Year Home Residency requirement), an I-539 Change of Status application may not be submitted to the USCIS because of restrictions imposed by a previous visa status.  In these cases, travel would be required for the change of status.  An advisor from the OISS can help determine your eligibility for an I-539 Change of Status application.