1 The University of California Change of Status to F-1 or J-1 (for Students)
2 About This Guide The purpose of this guide is to provide general information about changing to F-1, or J-1, student nonimmigrant status. This guide does not include information about changing from nonimmigrant to immigrant status ( green card ). Please refer to the USCIS web site to learn about this process.
3 Advisory Changing status is a complex process. The timing is critical and must be done with care to avoid falling out of status during the transition. Specific Concerns: If you are currently in H-1 status and have been admitted to a study program, do not terminate your employment until you have submitted the change of status application and you have received the receipt notice from USCIS. If you are currently in F-2 or B-1/B-2 status, you cannot attend school until your change of status to F-1 is approved. Applications to USCIS may be denied if there is more than 30 days between the end of the current status and start date of the F-1 status If your current status will expire within the next 6 months, it is not advisable to apply for Change of Status via USCIS and change via travel would be the preferred option
4 Table of Contents 1. Who Should Change Status 2. Eligibility 3. Visa Stamp vs. Visa status 4. Change of Status Options: Travel vs. Application 5. Change of Status by Travel 6. Change of Status by Application 7. Mailing the Application 8. The Notice of Action 9. The Approval Notice
5 Who Should Change F-2s who will study at Berkeley full-time Individuals whose purpose for stay in the U.S. has changed Individuals with F-2 or B1/B2 admitted to a full-time program of study Dependent children (such as F-2, J-2, H-4, E-2, L-2) approaching the age of 21 or whose parents will change status or depart the U.S. Dependent spouse whose principal spouse will change status or depart the US Individuals who want student status and related employment eligibility
6 Eligibility You may be able to change status via USCIS if: You are maintaining your current status. You are eligible for the new status. Your current status does not prohibit change of status in the U.S. You generally cannot change status via USCIS if: Your period of authorized stay has already expired or will expire within the next 6 months. You have otherwise violated the conditions of your current status. You hold B, C, D, or K status, or entered the U.S. under the ESTA Visa Waiver Program (WB). You are subject to the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement. Other Restrictions Individuals in J status who are subject to the Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement can change only to A or G status. A vocational student in M status cannot change to F status.
7 Visa Stamp vs. Visa Status There is often confusion about the difference between a person s visa stamp versus visa status. It is important to understand how a change of status request affects both of these. The following few slides are included to provide some clarification of these concepts.
8 Visa Stamp vs. Visa Status The Visa Stamp The visa stamp is the name of the actual document placed inside a person s passport to permit entry into another country for a specific purpose. All international visitors (except Canadians) are required to have a valid visa stamp in their passport when entering the U.S. Sample Visa
9 Visa Stamp vs. Visa Status Visa Status Visa status is the designation given to a foreign citizen (not a US permanent resident) admitted to the U.S. which allows him or her to be present in the U.S. for a specific length of time. A U.S. Inspections Officer at the port-of-entry decides what your status will be based on the type of visa stamp in your passport and the purpose of your visit. The status is then noted on a paper I-94 card or the passport admission stamp (tied to the electronic I-94 record.) A paper I-94 card is also issued by USCIS when a change of status from within the US is approved, and it found at the bottom of the I-797 Approval Notice. F-1 visa status noted on I-94 at U.S. port of entry. SAMPLE FORM I-94 D/S means that the I-94 is valid for the duration of [your] stay in the U.S. as long as you continue to follow the F-1 regulations and maintain a valid I-20. SAMPLE PASSPORT ADMISSION STAMP
10 Visa Stamp vs. Visa Status Comparison of Visa Stamp vs. Visa Status Visa Stamp Obtained at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Stamp or sticker in passport Visa Status Granted at the U.S. port of entry by an U.S. Immigration Inspections Officer (or through a change of status application through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service USCIS). Written on the I-94 Arrival / Departure record by an Immigrations Inspector, or on the change of status Approval Notice by the USCIS. Cannot be renewed in the U.S. Possible to have more than one type of visa stamp in your passport. Can expire while you are in the U.S. with no penalty as long as status is extended Can change status in the U.S. if the purpose of your visit changes. Can only have one visa status at a time even if there are multiple visa stamps in the passport. Cannot expire while you are in the U.S. or you will become out of status (illegal).
11 Change of Status Options There are two ways to change status: 1. Travel outside the U.S. and re-enter in the new status. 2. Apply for a change of status through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
12 Travel vs. Application Cost Processing Time CHANGE BY TRAVEL Plane ticket to home country Visa application fee at U.S. Consulate (varies) SEVIS Fee (varies) Since traveling requires visiting a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. to obtain the new visa stamp, the length of time is dependent on how long that process will take. Due to delays, long processing times and security checks, we recommend talking with Berkeley International Office before choosing this option. Visa processing without security checks can be from 7-21 days. Security checks can take an additional 3 months. CHANGE BY APPLICATION Check or Money Order should be made payable to: U.S. Department of Homeland Security. $370 for applications submitted ON OR AFTER DECEMBER 23, SEVIS Fee (varies) The amount of time needed for processing a change of status at USCIS can vary. Recent Berkeley International Office experience is approximately 4-6 months or more. This processing period can change at any time and is not guaranteed. Check USCIS Processing Times for the Service Center at which you submit your I-539 request. NOTE: This process does not give you a new visa stamp. The next time you travel outside the U.S. you will need to visit a U.S. consulate or embassy to request a new visa stamp that reflects your changed status. Other Concerns NOTE: The DS-2019 or I-20 start date should be up to thirty days prior to the date of your re-entry into the U.S. If your re-entry date is delayed, notify your department and Berkeley International Office. It is very difficult to obtain a visa stamp in Canada or Mexico if you are not a national of that country. If denied a visa, you must return to your home country to apply for a visa there. Berkeley International Office does not recommend applying for a visa stamp in either Canada or Mexico unless you are a legal resident of these countries. While the application is processing, the change of status petitioner cannot leave the U.S. or the application will be considered abandoned. If your current US immigration status expires while the change of status is pending, this may cause serious problems with the COS request. Due to time restraints, change of status in the US may not be the best option for certain students needing to begin full-time study or employment in less than 4 months. If your current US immigration status will expire within 6 months of filing for your Change of Status, COS by USCIS may not be possible or may have a very high risk of denial. Study or Employment in B-1/B-2 Status: Visitors in B-1/B-2 status and cannot study or begin employment until the status change to F-1 or J-1 is approved by USCIS. Study or Employment in F-2 Status: F-2 dependents cannot begin employment until the status change to F-1 or J-1 is approved by USCIS. Effective May 29, 2015: F-2 spouses and children may enroll in UC Berkeley academic programs for less than a full course of study. F-2 spouses and children cannot enroll full-time in a UC Berkeley program until change of status to F-1 or J-1 is approved by USCIS. Employment Issues: F-1 or J-1 employment cannot be authorized until the change of status to F-1 or J-1 has been approved by USCIS. Until the F-1 or J-1 change of status has been approved, refer to the employment authorization rules regarding your current visa status. Be aware that if your current visa status expires and your F-1 or J-1 change of status is still pending, no employment authorization is possible. Prior J-1 Status Holders: Individuals subject to the J-1 Two Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement are not eligible for change of status within the US unless they have proof that they have been waived of the requirement.
13 Visa Stamp vs. Visa Status How a Change of Status by Application to the USCIS Affects Your Visa Changing your nonimmigrant visa status by application to the USCIS does not change your visa stamp. Since the visa stamp is used only for entering the U.S., you do NOT need to renew it as long as you remain in the U.S. (even if it expires or you change status). If you change your status while in the U.S. and then decide to travel out of the U.S., you must obtain a new visa stamp to match your new status to re-enter. Applying for a visa stamp after a change of status by application to the USCIS may be risky in some situations
14 Change of Status by Travel Steps Required 1.Seek advice from a trained professional such as an immigration attorney or international student adviser 2.Gather appropriate documents for re-entry, including an I-20 for F-1 status. 3.Pay the SEVIS fee and get the receipt 4.Make a visa application appointment at a U.S. consular office outside the U.S. 5.Reserve transportation and living accommodations abroad (you may need to stay a few months if subjected to a security clearance) 6.Travel 7.Submit visa application and wait for approval or denial Time Required At least one week to get an appointment. Berkeley International Office BIO Drop-In Advising hours Monday-Tuesday & Thursday-Friday 10am- 12pm & 1:00-4:00pm (no advising on Wednesdays) Approximately 2-3 weeks. Getting an I-20 from BIO takes working days (if your request is complete). Immediate if you have access to a computer, internet and printer Can take several weeks to several months, depending on the country and time of year. Can be done immediately online if you are ready to commit to a date and a price. One to three days minimum, depending on your destination. Can take one day to several months depending on the country and whether or not you are subjected to a security clearance. See Visa Wait Times for an average wait time for the consulate you are visiting. 8.Return to U.S. One to three days minimum, depending on your destination.
15 Change of Status by Travel See the BIO Applying for a Visa website for full information on applying for an F or J visa.
16 Change of Status By Application to USCIS Steps Required: Time Required 1. Prepare the appropriate documents. Approximately one to two weeks 2. Obtain the I-20, or DS Pay the SEVIS Fee and get the receipt. 4. Complete Immigration Form I Mail the application to the USCIS. Getting an I-20, or DS-2019, from BIO can take up to days (if your request is complete). Immediate if you have access to a computer and internet. One hour (if you don t have any questions that require seeing an adviser but reviewing the complete application with an advisor is highly recommended) ½ hour to obtain certified or Express mail 6. Receive the I-797C Notice of Action (receipt) from the USCIS. 2-4 weeks 7. Receive the I-797 Approval Notice from the USCIS. 2-4 months after mailing application 8. Report your change of status approval to BIO. One to two weeks (if you re organized) Detailed instructions for each step are provided in the following pages.
17 USCIS Change of Status Step 1: Prepare the appropriate documents Cover Letter that lists all attached documents and a brief explanation of: Why you are requesting a change of status Why you intend to return to your home country in the future Application Fee paid by Check/Money Order or Credit Card Payment for $370. Check/Money Order should be made payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" with SEVIS number in the memo line. For Credit Card payments submit form G-1450, authorized payment amount $370. Optional: G-1145 form will provide you with confirmation of receipt and your case number. Form I-539 Copy of Form I-20, or DS-2019 obtained from the school where you have been admitted. SEVIS Fee Receipt (photocopy do not send original) Copy of the front and back of your paper Form I-94 or a copy of the passport admission stamp and a print out of the electronic I-94 record. Copies of passport biographical, visa and status information. If you are currently in dependent status, include copies of your spouse or parent s passport biographical page, visa, I-94, as well as any other documents that provide proof of the current status. Provide proof of the dependent relationship such as a marriage certificate or birth certificate. Proof of financial support. Use a current scholarship award letter, bank letter or balance statements from the last four months. Additional Documents. There may be additional documents required depending on the status from which you are changing. If the spouse or parent is in an employment-based visa category, provide proof of current employment or pay stub. ~Detailed instructions about the items above are given in following slides~
18 Step 2: Obtain the Form I-20, or DS-2019 To complete the application for a change of status to F-1, you will need an I-20 that shows Change of Status Pending on page 1, in the Form Issue Reason section of the I-20. If you have been admitted to UC Berkeley, complete the Nonimmigrant Information Form (NIF) to apply for your I-20. After you have submitted the Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) to the university, you will have access to the NIF. For more information, see The NIF. If you are a current student at UC Berkeley, meet with a BIO advisor regarding your Change of Status request and NIF access.
19 Step 3: Pay the SEVIS Fee The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a U.S. government system that manages data and application processes for international students and scholars studying in the United States. When beginning a new F-1 program of study in the U.S., you are required to pay a one-time SEVIS fee before you can apply for an change of status to F-1. F-2 dependent family members are not required to pay the fee. This fee is not a University fee and provides no funds or services to the University. Online (Internet) Payment Online payment can be made at Payment can be made by credit card. 1.Complete the online form (I-901) as instructed. You will need your new I-20 to complete this form. 2.Enter your name exactly as it appears on your I Print the online receipt after completing the payment form. Payment Receipts Make and keep extra copies of your SEVIS fee payment receipt. You should keep your original receipt for your entire period of study in the U.S. Include a copy of the receipt with your change of status application. You will also need the receipt when you apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate and when entering the U.S. during any future travel. F-2 dependent family members should present a copy of the receipt when applying for F-2 visas and when traveling into the U.S.
20 Step 4: Complete Form I-539 Download the most current version of the I-539 Application Form from the USCIS. (You do not need to download the I-539 instructions since they are provided in this guide).
21 Step 4: Complete Form I-539 The I-539 is the application form used for a change of status. In the next few slides, helpful tips for completing this form are presented.
22 Step 4: Complete Form I-539 Part 1. Information About You An A-Number is given to people who have applied for immigrant status or permanent residency (green card). Leave this blank. If any Use this line only if you want your change of status approval sent to a friend or family member s address instead of your own. Found on your passport admission stamp Found at: The address must be in California. If you do not have an address in CA, speak to an advisor at BIO. CA Found on your passport admission stamp
23 Step 4: Complete Form I-539 Parts 2 and 3. Application Type and Processing Information List end date on I-20 or DS-2019 Start date on I-20 or DS F-1 or J-1
24 Step 4: Complete Form I-539 Part 4. Additional Information Address in home country Part 4 continues on next page.
25 Step 4: Complete Form I-539 Part 4, continued Answer the questions honestly on pages 2&3. For questions, 18-20, responses can be made on page 6. Speak to a BIO advisor if you are concerned.
26 Step 4: Complete Form I-539 Part 5. Applicant s Statement and Signature on page 3 & 4 Don t forget to sign and date this section. Completed on page 4
27 Step 4: Complete Form I-539 I-539 Supplement This page is for dependent family members who will become F-2, or J-2, when your change of status to F-1, or J-1, is approved. You must include this page with your form I-539. If you will have no F-2/J-2 family members, you do not need to include this section in your application.
28 Step 5: Mail the application to the USCIS Mail your application to one of the following addresses. If you send it by regular mail, we recommend using either private express courier mail (FedEx, UPS, etc) OR U.S. Postal Service Priority Express. Be sure that any mailing type you choose has tracking, delivery confirmation, and guaranteed delivery. Via USPS (Priority Express, or Certified Mail with return receipt): USCIS P.O. Box Dallas, TX Via courier mail FedEx,UPS,DHL etc.: USCIS ATTN: I S. State Highway 121 Business Suite 400 Lewisville, TX
29 Step 6: Receive the Notice of Action The USCIS Notice of Action will be sent to you approximately days after receiving your application. The Notice of Action contains your receipt number (also obtained by filing a G-1145 with your I-539 application), which you can use to track the progress of your case on the USCIS web site, under Case Status Online. The Notice of Action is a very important document. If you do not receive it after waiting two months, contact Berkeley International Office.
30 Requests for Evidence (RFE) If the USCIS considers your application incomplete, a Request for Evidence (RFE) notice will be sent to you. It is important to follow the instructions on the RFE carefully and by the noted deadline. If a RFE is not filed correctly, it may be grounds for denial of your change of status. If you receive an RFE, notify the Berkeley International Office Advisor who signed your I-20, or DS-2019, with the date and reason for the RFE. This will help us answer any questions you or the USCIS may have later. Do not respond to the RFE until you have consulted with your BIO advisor. If you listed a friend s address on the application, be certain that your friend is checking the mail and forwarding it to you in a timely manner.
31 Step 7: Receive the Approval Notice If your application is approved, you will receive an I- 797 Approval Notice in the mail approximately 3-4 months after submitting your application. USCIS processing times table A new Form I-94 is attached to the bottom of the Approval Notice. The I-797 Approval Notice and I-94 are important documents. Make copies and keep them in a safe place.
32 Step 8. Report your change of status To report your Change of Status approval to the Berkeley International Office : Complete your Arrival Confirmation and to notify the SEVIS Coordinator of your approval Once BIO activates your I-20, or DS-2019, record, you may begin working on campus and studying full time. You will receive a new I-20/DS-2019 when your record has been fully activated.
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