How This Process Differs From Applying Abroad
- There is no in-person interview and no direct contact with the visa officer. The application is submitted through mail to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).
- If approved, no visa stamp/sticker is placed in your passport. Instead you will get an approval letter, which cannot be used to return to the U.S. from abroad. If you leave the U.S. after approval, you will still need to apply for the F-1 visa stamp to re-enter the U.S.
- The decision takes 6-12 months or longer. You may not be permitted to start studying prior to approval, depending on your current visa status.
- To apply for a visa while remaining in the United States, an applicant must:
- Be in a legal U.S. visa status
- Remain in the U.S. while the change of status application is pending
- Maintain valid visa status until the requested change to student visa status is approved - a gap between statuses is very likely to result in visa denial
- Not be on a J visa with the "Two Year Home Residency" requirement. If you have this 212(e) requirement, you may apply for the F-1 visa status at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad with a letter of no objection.
Gather Required Documentation
The list of the application materials and steps below is also available in a printer-friendly format: Changing Visa Status in the U.S. (PDF, 190KB)
1. The first step is to be admitted to Madison College. It is important to apply for admission several months before the desired semester of study to allow sufficient time to change visa status.
2. After you have been admitted, you will receive an I-20 form, which must be mailed to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the following items:
- Application fee payable to the Department of Homeland Security
- I-539 form (available from USCIS under “forms”)
- A letter (signed and dated) explaining your reasons for changing status
- A photocopy of the I-20 issued by Madison Area Technical College. Keep the original I-20 for your own records.
- Original I-94 card, if you were issued a paper I-94 card upon arrival to the U.S. or during a change of visa status. If you do not have a paper I-94 card, follow the directions for printing I-94 card. (pdf, 81KB)
- Photocopies of your identity, expiry, and U.S. visa stamp pages from your passport
- Photocopies of your current visa status documents, such as an approval notice and previously issued visa documents, including I-20s or DS-2019s
- Evidence of financial support for your continued stay
- A copy of receipt showing SEVIS I-901 fee payment
- If you have studied in the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 visa status previously, you must include transcripts from the U.S. educational institutions attended.
If changing to or from a dependent visa status, such as H-4 or F-2, you must also include:
- Photocopies of the primary visa holder's identity, expiry, and U.S. visa stamp pages from their passport
- Photocopies of the primary visa holder's current visa status documents, such as an approval notice and previously issued visa documents, including I-20s or DS-2019s
- Proof of your familial relationship, such as:
- A certified copy of your marriage license (for a spouse)
- Birth certificate (for a child)
Mail all items, with return receipt requested, to one of the following addresses:
Recommended: U.S. Postal Services:
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266
Express Mail or Courier Service:
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
Save your “return receipt” as proof of when you mailed your application to USCIS. Within 2-3 weeks USCIS will send you an official receipt notice with a case status number. Please share this with International Student Services.
- If your current visa status does not allow study, you should not begin studying until your F-1 status is approved.
- You are not eligible to receive any benefits of the F-1 status (such as on-campus work permission) until the F-1 status is approved.
- If your F-1 status is not approved by the I-20 start date, please discuss deferring your admission with International Student Services.
- If you leave the U.S. while your application is pending, the USCIS will deny your application. If you depart the U.S. after the “date certain” expiration date given to some visa types (such as B-2, B-1, H-1B, H-4, etc.), this departure could seriously affect your eligibility for future visa approval, due to overstaying your previously granted period of stay.
- USCIS will mail you an I-797 Notice of Approval with a revised I-94 card on the bottom. Share this approval notice with International Student Services, so we can update our records.
- If you were previously on a dependent visa, have your spouse/parent update their visa record to remove you as their dependent.