Change of Immigration Status - General Information
Please consult with an immigration attorney if you have specific questions about an application to change your immigration status, and the possible impact on your current immigration status or ability to travel outside the U.S. The Office of Visa and Immigration Services at Dartmouth College cannot give you legal advice on this type of application.
Non-U.S. citizens who are present in the U.S. in one immigration status are sometimes allowed to apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change their immigration status, without having to leave the U.S. to get a new visa. If you are in the U.S. in another visa status, and wish to apply for a change of immigration status to F-1 student, you must file an application with the USCIS.
If approved by USCIS, this change of status will grant you F-1 student status in the U.S., but will not give you a new F-1 visa. If you leave the U.S. after receiving the change of status approval, you will have to apply for a new F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate before returning to the U.S. to begin or to continue your program of study.
Who CANNOT Successfully Apply for a Change of Immigration Status?
Some people may not apply for a change of status, or their change of status may be denied if they do apply:
- If you have been in the U.S. previously or currently in J-1 status, and you are subject to the two-year home residency rule (Regulation 212(e)), you may not apply for a change of status.
- If you entered the U.S. on the visa waiver program, you may not apply for a change of status.
- If your current status is ending more than 30 days before your new academic program begins (as listed on the I-20 form) your change of status application will be denied.
- If you have just entered the U.S. in B-2 tourist status, it is likely that your change of status application will be denied, unless you entered as a “B-2 Prospective Student Visa”.
How to Apply for a Change of Immigration Status
In order to apply for a change of status, you will need to:
- Be admitted to a Dartmouth degree program
- Receive from the Office of Visa and Immigration Services at Dartmouth College a new I-20 form for you, issued for the purpose of “change of status”. (Contact your admitting Department or School to see if they have initiated the request for an I-20 form with OVIS).
- Complete and sign an I-539 form and include it in your application. This form is available online - please click here.
In general, for the change of status application, a person should submit the following to USCIS at the appropriate address – (see instructions linked off the webpage above) - with the I-539 application form:
- The new original I-20 form after it is signed by you
- The completed and signed I-539 form
- A filing fee check made out to the Department of Homeland Security in the amount of $300.00
- Copies of your passport ID page, I-94 card (if you entered the U.S. by land), and all relevant document copies proving your current valid immigration status
- You may also need to submit your current original I-94 card; see the I-539 form instructions for details pertaining to your specific immigration status
- Copies of financial support documentation (financial aid letter, admission letter with stipend amount listed, personal bank statements, etc…)
- Proof of admission to Dartmouth College
The entire packet, with the check and the I-539 form on top, should be mailed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (see I-539 instructions for which address to use). Paperclip the filing-fee check to the top page of the I-539 application. Make sure the I-539 application form is the first page of the packet.
You must let the OVIS immigration advisor know as soon as you receive the change of status receipt notice from the immigration service, about two to three weeks after you file the application. We will need a copy of the receipt notice for your file. The approval notice may take up to three to five months to receive.
- You must be able to maintain the validity of your current visa status until you are within 30 days of your academic program start date as listed on the I-20 form, or your change of status application will be denied.
- If you currently hold B-2 tourist status, you may not legally begin to study in your academic program until you receive the change of status approval notice.
- It can be difficult to determine how long a change of status application will take. Generally, you should allow two to five months.
Please send a copy of the Approval Notice to the Office of Visa and Immigration Services at Dartmouth College as soon as you receive it.