International Student Services

B1/B2 to F-1 Change of Nonimmigrant Status

Contact International Student Services (ISS) as soon as you know you must obtain F-1 status in order to discuss your options. This change of status can be especially challenging, and it may be best to travel, apply for an F-1 visa abroad, and reenter the U.S. in F-1 status.


  1. Obtain an I-20 from UW.
    If you have recently been admitted to the UW, request your I-20 from the Admissions office.
  2. Review your options for obtaining F-1 status. Decide which option to use: “Travel and Reentry” or “Change Status in the U.S.”
  3. Prepare the required documents and follow next steps for obtaining F-1 status (details below).

Option 1: Travel and Reentry

Review the ISS Visas page. Plan your travel and F-1 visa appointment accordingly. You can enter the U.S. with your I-20 and F-1 visa no earlier than 30 days before the I-20 start date.

Option 2: Change of Status in the U.S.

Submit your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Mail a paper application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility.
(The online USCIS ELIS application option is no longer available)

Mail the following documents to the USCIS Lockbox.

  • Form I-539
  • USCIS filing fee: check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
  • Original I-94 card or photocopy of admission stamp and paper printout of  I-94 record
  • Photocopy of the visa page and identification page in your passport
  • Photocopy of the signed I-20 issued in your name by the UW
  • Detailed evidence of financial support
  • Photocopy of proof of payment of SEVIS fee
  • Detailed letter requesting and explaining the need to change status
    If your B-1/B-2 visa is endorsed “prospective student,” you should have little difficulty changing to student status. If your visa does not have a “prospective student” notation, include answers to the following questions in your letter:
    What did you tell the consular officer was the purpose of your visit to the U.S.?
    Upon entry to the U.S., what did you tell the immigration officer was the purpose of your visit?
    How and when did you arrive at your decision to study in the U.S.?
    How and when did you first contact the University, and when were you informed you had been admitted?
    If prior to your entry into the U.S. your intention was to attend school, why didn’t you apply for an F-1 student visa rather than the B-2 visitor visa?
    Have you been in the U.S. before? When and for what purpose?
    Any relatives in the U.S.? If so, what types of visas are they here on?


The regulations prohibit beginning a full course of study until the change of status to F-1 is approved.

F-1 status cannot begin earlier than 30 days before the start date on your I-20. You must be able to maintain your current B-1/B-2 status until your F-1 status is approved. If your tourist status will expire prior to the approval (which is difficult to predict), your application will most likely be denied. Even though you are allowed to stay in the U.S. while the application is pending, if your application is likely to be denied, it will be better for you to travel, obtain an F-1 visa abroad, and reenter the U.S. in F-1 status.

Your foreign, non-U.S. address must be listed in the permanent address field in the UW student database. If this field currently shows a U.S. address, please submit your foreign address to with your name and student ID number and we will update the student database in accordance with the F-1 regulations.