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Federal Regulations Governing Change of Non-Immigrant Status
To change from another non-immigrant status to F-1 student status, you must travel outside the US or file a petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Change to F1 Status through Travel
You may acquire F-1 status by entering the US with an F-1 entry visa. You depart the US with your I-20 form, schedule a visa interview at a US consular post abroad, and re-enter with your F-1 student visa.
Individual situations vary. We do not recommend or discourage this process. To discuss your particular situation, we encourage you to meet with a qualified immigration attorney.
Change of Status (COS) in the US
We advise you to consult with an immigration attorney for assistance in filing a change of status application in the United States. OIPS advisors do not provide advice or assistance with change of status petitions. Change of status within the US can take months—sometimes over a year—for processing. During the time your application is pending, you must maintain legal status in the United States. Otherwise, you may receive a denial. Because of recent changes to the understanding of “unlawful presence,” a denial could mean that you would be prevented from remaining in the US and re-entering for a period of three years or longer.
International advisors in OIPS are not qualified attorneys and cannot advise or assist on complex cases with very important results. In declining to assist in processing change of status cases, we follow the advice of our professional association and University attorneys.
Receiving the I-20 for Change to F1 Status
OIPS will issue an I-20 to admitted students who qualify. However, the form is completed based on how you plan to change your status. For those who plan to remain in the US, please retain a qualified immigration attorney prior to requesting your I-20 form.
Choosing a Qualified Immigration Attorney
When you hire a lawyer, you want to be sure he or she is qualified to handle your case. We encourage you to choose someone who specializes in immigration law. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (www.aila.org) has a link on the home page to help you locate a qualified immigration attorney.
George Mason University does not recommend or endorse any specific attorney or law firm. Every case is unique and we cannot predict how an attorney will handle a case or what the outcome will be.
Although we do not advertise or recommend attorneys, those used by the University are a matter of public record. These attorneys are assigned to George Mason University by the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia:
Requesting an I-20 to Change to F-1 Status
You can find detailed instructions on how to request an I-20 to Change to F-1 Status in the OIPS Self-Service Center.
Step 1: Go to the OIPS Self-Service Center
Step 2: Enter "Change to F-1" in the search box right above the column
Enrollment & Deferral Rules
School and Student Requirements based on Federal Government Policies
USCIS requires the school DSO to change your F1 program start date to the next available start date if your Change of Status is not approved by the original program start date listed on your Change of Status I-20. See the Nonimmigrants changing to F-1 or M-1 Status section at this link: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/dso-requirements.
OIPS must defer your SEVIS program start date to the next available term if:
- The program start date listed on your I-20 has passed and your Change of Status to F-1 has not yet been approved; OR
- Your Change of Status to F-1 has been approved, the approval date was past the last day to add classes for the current semester, you were not able to get enrolled full-time for the semester, and the next available term is less than 5 after your approval date.
Important Note: If the next available term is more than 5 months after your approval date, you must transfer to another school since you cannot be out of classes for more than 5 months after beginning F1 status. See information on the Five month rule at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/2015/01/what-is-the-five-month-rule.
Requirements for Students with a Pending Change of Status to F1 Application with USCIS
If you have submitted a COS to F1 application to USCIS, you MUST submit your I-797 Receipt Notice from USCIS within 60 days from the date the I20 was issued. OIPS will cancel the SEVIS record of any student who has not submitted the I-797 receipt notice by the deadline. Send the notice to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Requirements for Students with an Approved Change of Status to F1 Application with USCIS
DAY refers to calendar days, including weekends
LAST DAY TO ADD is usually on DAY 7 or DAY 8 of the current term.
* Academic Calendar: https://registrar.gmu.edu/calendars/fall_2020/
** Transfer Procedures: https://oips.gmu.edu/transfer-procedures/
Scenario 1: Your I-797 COS Approval Date is on or before the LAST DAY TO ADD of the current semester.
The first day of the Fall 2020 semester is August 24, 2020. Your I-797 Approval Date is August 30, 2020.
You must enroll full-time for the Fall 2020 semester.
Scenario 2: Your I-797 Approval Date is after the LAST DAY TO ADD and you can force add classes.
The first day of the Fall 2020 semester is August 24, 2020. Your I-797 Approval Date is September 2, 2020. The last day to add classes is August 31, 2020.
You must speak to your academic department about how to register for classes. Since your approval date is after the last day to add, you will need to submit a force add form signed by your academic department. If you cannot force add a class, see Scenario 3 below
Scenario 3: Your I-797 Approval Date is after the LAST DAY TO ADD, you CANNOT force add classes, and the next available semester is LESS than 5 months after your approval date.
The first day of the Fall 2020 semester is August 24, 2020. Your I-797 Approval Date is September 2, 2020. The last day to add classes us August 31, 2020.
Your academic department told you that you cannot force add classes.
Since the next available term is less than five months after your approval date, you must defer your enrollment to the next term.
Scenario 4: Your I-797 Approval Date is After the LAST DAY TO ADD, you CANNOT force add classes, and the next available semester is MORE than 5 months after your approval date.
The first day of the Spring 2021 semester is January 19, 2021. Your I-797 Approval Date is February 15, 2021. The last day to add classes is January 26, 2021. The next available term starts on August 23, 2021.
Your academic department told you that you cannot force add classes.
Since the next available term is more than five months after your approval date, you must transfer to another school. This scenario usually occurs when students are approved for COS to F1 in the middle of the spring semester.
Please click on the link below to view the Change Of Status Checklist.