Changing to F-1 Student Status

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Change to F-1 Student Status is only applicable to foreign nationals who have been admitted to a full-time course of study at Rutgers Newark, are presently in the United States in a legal nonimmigrant status (such as H-4, A-1, or L-2 status) and obtained a Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status.

ATTENTION: B-1/B-2 Visitors AND Visitors on Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

Individuals currently in the U.S. in B-1/B-2 visitor status are not allowed to pursue a course of study; doing so is considered a violation of immigration status. If they wish to study, they must obtain F-1 student status through one of the two ways explained below BEFORE they can enroll in school.

Foreign nationals who have applied for U.S. schools while abroad DO NOT plan to enter the U.S. in B-1/B-2 status and then file for change of status. You MUST apply for an F-1 student visa and enter the U.S. in F-1 status.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of the participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business only for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Individuals who came on VWP cannot change status to F-1 while remaining in the U.S. They must obtain a Form I-20, depart the U.S., apply for an F-1 student visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad and reenter the U.S. in F-1 status.

Two Possible Options to Obtain F-1 Student Status:

Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages; depending on individual situation, OISS may recommend one way over the other as the better option. Final decision to choose either way is made by the individual applicant.

Option 1. Departing the U.S., applying for an F-1 student visa at a U.S. consulate ideally at home country, and reentering the U.S. in F-1 status.
If time and money allow, this option is recommended over Option 2. Once an F-1 visa is obtained, the student is allowed to enter the U.S. within 30 days before program starting date on I-20. For as long as the visa is valid, the student can travel abroad without having to worry about applying for a visa.

Option 2. Remaining in the U.S. while applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status:

It takes USCIS up to 90 days and sometimes much longer to make a decision on a change of status application. B-1/B-2 visa holders are not allowed to start study while application pending.

Travel Before or After Change of Status Approval: Before Approval: leaving the U.S. while the change of status application is pending with USCIS is considered abandoning the application. The applicant must notify OISS to cancel it on SEVIS, obtain a new I-20 for initial attendance, and apply for an F1 student visa following the same student visa application instructions for new students. After approval: the USCIS approval of change to F-1 student status only allows the individual to study in the U.S., but the next time the student travels outside the U.S. other than Canada, Mexico and the adjancent islands except Cuba, the student must apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate, ideally in his/her home country, and reenter the U.S. in F-1 status in order to continue to study. (Please see instruction for travel.)

See documentation list below for filing change of status with USCIS. To apply, please email for assistance.

Documentation List for Filing Change of Status to F-1
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  • $370 (effective 12/23/2016) application fee in check/money order payable to Department of Homeland Security
  • Copy of Rutgers acceptance letter if you are newly admitted; OR if you are in a legal status that allows you to study and you are already enrolled at Rutgers, a letter from your Academic Deans’ Office verifying your major, degree program, expected ending date of program and an official transcript from the Registrar. If you are in your first semester and do not have a Rutgers transcript yet, please ask the Registrar to print out an official copy of your class registration of this semester. 
  • Copy of all pages of signed Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status issued by the Office of International Student & Scholar Services (OISS) through SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)
  • Copy of payment receipt of the $200 SEVIS fee to be paid to Department of Homeland Security after I-20 is issued
  • Financial Documentation:  immediately available funds sufficient to cover your tuition, fees and living expenses for at least 12 months. If funding is in student’s own name from a bank in U.S., bank statements of four months with each month carrying a balance of sufficient funding for the complete cost on I-20.  If the financial documents are in the name of a sponsor, the sponsor must complete an Affidavit of Support Form obtainable on the website of the Admissions Office. Other financial documents can be documentation of scholarship/assistantship awards,  approved loans, or official letter in English from financial institutions outside the U.S. supported by evidence of sufficient funding.
  • Letter from you explaining why you want to change your status to F-1 and how the study applies to your professional goals in your home country. You must express clear planning to go back to your home country after your study. For a sample letter, click here.  
  • Evidence of current lawful status:
    • Copy of current I-94 Form printed from
    • Copy of visa page
    • Copy of passport, including all the necessary pages of your biographical information and current expiration date.
    • Working visa holders currently authorized to work in the U.S should provide a letter certifying your employment and two current pay stubs. 
    • B1/B2 visa holders should provide evidence of business/tourist activities in the U.S. 
    • Dependents (F-2, H-4, L2, G4, etc.) should provide evidence that the principal visa holder is maintaining status (his/her visa, passport, I-94, other USCIS documents if any. H1 or L1 visa holders should provide employment verification letter and most recent pay stubs.)
    • A or G visa holders must complete the Form I-566 Interagency Record of Request -- A, G or NATO Dependent Employment Authorization or Change/Adjustment to/from A, G or NATO Status and obtain all required signatures.
  • Evidence of strong ties with your home country such as residence certification, job offer, business ownership, etc.
  • Typed and signed Form I-539 Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status .

IMPORTANT Mailing Instruction:  Use Express Mail or other type of mail that can track confirmation of delivery through U.S. Postal Service or a private courier to mail the documents to USCIS. To avoid “lost mail” problem, please keep the tracking information safely until you receive official receipt from USCIS within three weeks from mailing date.

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Key Contacts

Honors Living Learning Community (HLLC)226 & 227
48 New StreetNewarkNJ07102

OISS In-Person Walk-In Hours:

* No appointment necessary. *
Monday - Thursday: 10:00am – 3:00pm

Friday, Saturday, Sunday: CLOSED

Virtual one-on-one appointments available at  Rutgers Newark - OISS (