Change of Status to F-1

The following information is intended for admitted SJSU students currently in the United States.

New or Current Students

After you have been admitted to SJSU, if you want to change your nonimmigrant status to F-1, we recommend that you plan ahead. Below is a summary of available options.

If you are admitted to SJSU in your current nonimmigrant status, such as H-4, F-2, E-2, L-2, etc., it is your responsibility to know if you can study in your current status. See this ICE handout Nonimmigrants: Who Can Study

If you have not been admitted to SJSU, please wait until you have been officially accepted by the University and received your admit letter before applying for a change of status. ISSS does not provide admission counseling or advice.

Ways to obtain F-1 status.

View this Comparison Chart.

By Travel or Consular processing.  You will need to depart the U.S., apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, preferably in your home country. 

  • Fill out and submit a Change of Status I-20 Request form to ISSS.
  • Apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
  • To re-enter the U.S. apply for F-1 admission at a U.S. Port of Entry. You will need to enter within 30 days of the program start date listed on your I-20.

File Form I-539, Change of Status
application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

  • Fill out and submit a Change of Status I-20 Request form to ISSS.
  • Prepare and mail your Form I-539 COS application to USCIS along with a copy of the COS I-20 and supporting documentation.
  • See USCIS or Study in the States website for more COS to F-1 information.
  • Check USCIS Processing Time for Form I-539s here.

Processing Time

Questions to consider:

  • How soon do you want to become an F-1 student?  
  • When did you start your academic program? 
  • Are you in the first semester of your degree program or near the end of your program?  

Changing your nonimmigrant status to F-1 status will take time. Depending on the route you select, you will need to plan ahead. Expect delays either with obtaining your F-1 visa stamp, or you may experience prolonged COS processing times with USCIS. ISSS highly recommends that you start the change of status process early in your academic career, optimally with at least two semesters or more remaining in your degree program. 

Financial implications.
Are you currently eligible for in-state tuition or have an exemption/exception to payment of non-resident tuition?  All F-1 students pay the non-resident tuition rate. In addition, F-1 students are required to purchase University-sponsored health insurance.  

You will need to factor in any travel costs in and out of the U.S. and visa application fee(s) if you choose the consular processing option.  Alternatively, if you choose the USCIS option, consider the filing fee for Form I-539 Change of Status, plus biometrics, or additional fee(s).

Intent or Motivation
. Are you willing to pursue full-time studies?  F-1 students are required to be enrolled in a full course of study during the academic year. Off-campus work benefits such as Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training are not guaranteed and should not be the primary reason(s) for you to convert to F-1 student status.

Application Steps

  • Fill out and submit a Change of Status I-20 Request form to ISSS.
  • Indicate which option you will pursue to convert to F-1 status. 
  • Allow at least 15 business days for processing.  We will contact you when the I-20 is ready.

Financial documentation 

See the Declaration of Finance form for the required funding amounts and acceptable funding sources. Bank letters or statements must be dated within the past six months, must be in English, balance listed in U.S. dollars. For the USCIS COS application, we recommend you submit additional 3-4 consecutive bank statements with a monthly balance in the required amount. 

Current immigration documents

  • Copy of your passport, visa, and I-94 record of arrival
  • Copy of the principal visa holder’s passport, visa, I-94, or Form I-797A Notice of Action, if applicable

Admit Letter

If you have already started your studies at SJSU, provide a letter from your graduate advisor or an individualized academic or program plan with the expected graduation or degree completion date. This will determine your I-20 program end date. 

After you have received your I-20, check for any errors, sign, and date the document.  Prepare and gather your remaining paperwork depending on the option below:

Deadline to request an I-20.  No matter which option you choose, understand that converting to F-1 student status takes time. There are many steps for you to complete. Commit to one option. Plan ahead. Expect travel or visa application-related delays or longer processing times at USCIS. ISSS cannot guarantee you an F-1 visa or a change of status to F-1 approval within your preferred timeline. You must maintain your current nonimmigrant status to be eligible to remain in the U.S. Have a contingency plan in the event that your change of status or your F-1 visa is not approved. 

Requested F-1 Start Date
Fall Semester No later than July 15
Spring Semester No later than December 15


If you are interested in learning about the employment options available to F-1 students, select On-Campus, Curricular Practical Training, or Optional Practical Training under the Current Students tab on the ISSS website. Keep in mind that you must be in valid F-1 status to benefit from the employment options for students. For off-campus employment (CPT, OPT) there is the additional requirement of completing one academic year of full-time studies. Please refrain from inquiring about CPT or OPT work authorization or be in the process of applying for jobs if you do not have the proper F-1 status yet. 

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San José State University

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Student Union - CPGE
San Jose, CA 95192-0135

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