How do you get F-1 student visa status if you're already in the U.S.?

Occasionally a prospective student will enter the Unites States as a tourist, or in some other visa status, and then decide to attend college. Perhaps the student was accepted to several universities and wants to visit each in order to determine which one is the best fit.

When a visitor enters the United States on any visa other than an F-1 student visa, such as B-1 (visitor for business), B-2 (visitor/tourist), F-2 (dependent spouse or child), they are not allowed to study. Enrolling at a college or university before being approved will results in being denied F-1 status.

The Two Choices for Change of Status

In such cases the prospective student has several choices to be approved for F-1 status.

The first choice is to return to the home country and apply for an F-1 visa at the local US embassy or consulate. The student may then return to the United States and study fulltime.

The second choice is to apply for a change of visa status while remaining in the United States.

A receipt for the SEVIS I-901 fee. The fee can be paid online here.

Students should be mail all the assembled documents to the regional USICS service center for their university. Additional documents may be needed.  Students should contact their DSO at their university to determine exactly which documents will be needed.