This post serves as a guide to the process of changing your status from Tourist Visa (B-1/B-2) to the Student Visa (F-1). We will clarify the following:

• What is Change of Status?

• Can I apply for Change of Status?

• What is the difference between applying for the “Change of Status” while in the USA versus applying for the F-1 Student Visa from your country?

• How long can I stay in the United States as a student?

• Is it possible to extend the period of stay?

• The Application Process: What documents and requirements are needed to apply for the Change of Status?
PART 1- Obtaining the I-20 from the school
PART 2- Sending the package to the USCIS

• How long does the Status Change process take?

• What do I do after approval?

• Restrictions

What is a Change of Status?

The ‘Change of Status’ is the process offered by the United States Government to those already in the United States, that wish to change their visa status.
There are many types of US Visas, but in the post, we are focusing on the change of status from B-1 (tourist visa) to F-1 (student visa).
This allows tourists to remain in the USA while their ‘change of status’ process is pending, without having to return to the country of origin to obtain a visa.

Can I apply for Status Change?

If you are legally in the USA with a valid Tourist or Business (B-1/B-2) visa, you should be eligible to apply for the Student Status Change. Best practices indicate applying well before your I-94 end date. We recommend 45 days before or more.

What is the difference between applying for the F-1 Student Visa from your country versus applying for the “Change of Status” in the USA?

If you are in the US, there are two ways of gaining a new nonimmigrant status:

Option 1: Travel home, then apply from your country:
Obtain the I-20 from South Beach Languages, then leave the U.S.
Apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate in your country, then re-enter the U.S. with the F1 visa.
Advantages: This is faster than changing status in the U.S.
If approved, you will obtain the F1 visa and the status
Disadvantages: Expense of travel

Option 2: Apply for the ‘Change of Status’ in the U.S.
Obtain the I-20 from South Beach Languages, then submit an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status. This option allows you to change your nonimmigrant status while remaining in the U.S. With this option you may gain the new status but you will not receive a new visa. Visas are only issued outside the U.S.
Advantages: Ability to stay in the U.S. during processing
Disadvantages: Processing can be very slow (multiple months), which delays your ability to begin to study. If you wish to travel Internationally at a later date, you will need to go to the US Embassy/consulate in your country for an F1 visa to enter the US.

How long can I stay in the United States as a student?

This period will depend on your program of study.  Initially, the student can apply for 3 months to 1 year, with the possibility of extending the course according to their academic needs. During the period in which you are studying, you can legally stay in the USA.

Is it possible to extend the period of stay?

You may extend the term of stay in some cases. For example, some students transfer to a University or Graduate program upon completion of their English course. Others may request an extension of their I-20, based on an academic need for more classes.

Application Process: What documents and requirements are needed to apply the Change of Status?

The Change of Status visa process can be a bureaucratic process, so it is best to follow the checklist of documents needed:

Part 1: Obtaining the I-20 from South Beach Languages:

To receive the I-20, the student must submit:
A) Copy of Passport (valid for at least 6 months)
B) Copy of current Visa
C) Copy of I-94
D) South Beach Languages Application Form
E) Bank statements from the previous 3 months showing ‘proof of funds’.
Bank statements must include the dates, balance amounts, and the person’s name.
If the proof of financial resources comes from a third party, you must also send the sponsor’s Identification and the “Sponsor Affidavit”. If your sponsor is a US citizen, you must also complete the I-134 form.
F) Pay the fees required by the school to start the process.
$150 Registration Fee + (at minimum) the amount of the first month of tuition. South Beach Languages offers a special, if you pre-pay 5 months, then the 6th month is free.

Upon receipt of all documentation and payments, the school will create the I-20 form.

Part 2: Sending the package to the USCIS

After receiving the I-20 from the school, the applicant will be responsible for the second part of the process, which includes filling out the I-539 forms, paying the fees and sending the package by mail.

The package should include:

A) Original I-20 form (from above)
B) Form I-539
The I-539 form is the formal request for a Status Change.
As of March 2019, the I-539A should also be completed for each dependent with an additional $85 biometric fee.
NOTE: In addition, due to process delays, USCIS requests each applicant to submit a second I-539 (and I-539A for each dependent) forms, one to make the change of visa and the other to do the visa extension.
C) Copy of Passport
D) Copy of current Visa
E) Copy of I-94
F) Bank statements from the previous 3 months showing ‘proof of funds’.
Bank statements must include the dates, balance amounts, and the person’s name.
If the proof of financial resources comes from a third party, you must also send the sponsor’s Identification and the “Sponsor Affidavit”. If your sponsor is a US citizen, you must also complete the I-134 form.
The amount should be equivalent to $1200 per month of study. For example, if your I-20 is for 6 months of study, you should show $7200 (6 months * $1200).
E) $455 “Money Order”, which is the $370 processing fee for the ‘change of status’ process + $85 for biometrics. (Note, since it will be necessary to send two I-539 forms, one for the change of status and the other for the extension of the current visa, there will be a second payment of $ 370)
F) Proof of payment from the “SEVIS Fee” (I-901) This fee should be made by credit card online at https://fmjfee.com
G) Change of Status Request Letter.
When sending the documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you must also send a letter explaining why you are requesting a ‘Change Status’.

Translation of documents
All documents sent to the USCIS must be in English, including the bank statements and ‘request letter’.

Sending documents
Once you have all the documents, you should put them in an envelope and send them to the USCIS, using one of the two addresses below:
• Using the U.S. Post Office: USCIS Dallas Lockbox Facility Mailing Address USCIS, P.O. Box 660166, Dallas, TX 75266
• Using Express Mail or Courier Deliveries, USCIS, ATTN: I-539 2501 S. State Highway 121 Business, Suite 400, Lewisville, TX 75067

After sending, wait for the answer. USCIS will notify you of their decision by letter, Form I-797. Wait times will vary.

How long does the ‘Change of Status’ process take?
After receiving the necessary documents, the school can normally prepare the I-20 form in a few days. Then the student is responsible for sending the package.

After sending the package, approval process timing from the USCIS varies.

As noted, the long wait time makes it important to extend your B-1 / B-2 visa.
Your stay with a tourist in the United States will depend on the date printed on your I-94, the time is given by the immigration agent on arrival in the United States. Since the maximum period of stay is normally six months, the extension request is likely to become necessary since you will no longer be allowed to stay in the United States “out of status”, while awaiting the Change of Status process. For this reason, you must fill out a second form I-539 and $370 payment to request the extension of your stay in the United States as a tourist, pending the response of your change of status.

While waiting, it is important that you update your address with the USCIS in case of a change of address. If your wait time extends beyond your I-539 extension date, please contact the school (or your lawyer) for advisement on additional I-539 forms and payments.

What do I do after approval?
Once you receive your approval, contact the school. Please plan to begin your studies immediately after approval.

Restrictions
There are some restrictions that you should be aware of, during the time while waiting for the answer to your ‘Change of Status’:
• You can not leave the United States
• You will not be able to start your study program until approval
• You will not be able to work (during wait time or after approval)
(Also note that students that break this process by departing the country or changing to another type of status are not eligible for a tuition refund)

Disclaimer: The above information and amounts are subject to change based on school & US regulations.