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Changing Status to F-1

If you are currently in the U.S. and decide to change from another immigration status to F-1, the steps you must take are detailed below.  If you are not currently in another immigration status and are entering the U.S. to begin an academic program for the first time, changing status does not apply to you.

In order to obtain F-1 status, you must have been admitted to a full-time course of study at William & Mary and have sufficient financial resources to meet your program's tuition, fees, and living expenses. You must also have received a Form I-20 from the Office of International Students, Scholars & Programs (ISSP).

Methods of Changing Status

There are two methods by which you can change your status to F-1 or J-1: Travel and Re-entry or Form I-539. The second method, Form I-539, does not require you to leave the U.S. but generally takes longer. Please carefully read the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

Applying for a Change of Status

Step 1: Complete the ISSP Status Change Information Form.

  • If you are not on the W&M campus, download and connect to the W&M Virtual Private Network (VPN) first before logging into iStart
  • Log into iStart with your W&M ID and password (click on blue login button)
  • Expand the International Office menu on the left
  • Click on Current Student Change of Immigration Status Request. Complete required forms and submit.

Step 2: Once forms in iStart are submitted, collect the required paperwork and call ISSP to schedule an appointment with an international student advisor. At the appointment, the advisor will review your submission, provide the I-20 and discuss next steps.


  • Once you change status, you must follow the rules of the new status, including being enrolled full-time (for students) and working only with authorization.
  • If you are currently in B or F-2 status, you must wait until your change of status is approved before attending classes. Statuses such as J-2, H-4, A-1, etc. allow study in those statuses and thus you may begin/continue study while awaiting your change of status.
  • In all change of status cases, no F-1 benefits are available, including any kind of employment (e.g., graduate or teaching assistantships), until your change of status is approved.
  • Once you change to F-1 status, you are no longer eligible for in-state tuition rates. Contact the Registrar's Office for details.
  • If you travel abroad while a change of status application (I-539) is pending, USCIS considers the application abandoned and will reject it. You will need to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for a new visa to re-enter. You will then have to wait 30 days before the start date of the I-20 or DS-2019 to re-enter the U.S., even with that new visa.
Contact ISSP

You should contact ISSP in the following circumstances:

  • If you need to leave the U.S. after you submit your application to USCIS for a change of status
  • If USCIS contacts you with a request for more information (RFE, "request for evidence") concerning your application for a change of status
  • If USCIS does not respond to your application within 3 months
  • If your I-94 or other immigration documents have expired
  • If you are in H-1B status but are no longer working for your H-1B sponsor
  • If you are in L-1 status but no longer working for your L-1 sponsor
  • If an application for permanent residency (green card) has been filed on your behalf.
  • If you believe you are out of status for any reason