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Nonimmigrant visas allow foreign nationals to enter the United States for a specific purpose. You may enter the U.S. for one purpose and later change your purpose. At this point, you need to change your visa status.

There are two ways to change your visa status—you can leave the United States to do it, or you can apply from within the U.S. We strongly recommend that you travel outside of the United States to change your visa status to F-1, even though it costs more. You will need to schedule an appointment with a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad, apply for the F-1 visa and re-enter the United States.

You do not always have to return to your home country to apply. You can apply at a consulate in Canada or another country if the consulate accommodates “third country nationals,” or people who seek visas from a country outside their own.

You should review your options with an OISS advisor before traveling outside of U.S.

Changing Your Visa Status in the U.S.

You can apply for a change of visa status in the U.S. if you:

  • Are currently in A, G, B-1/B2, F2, H-1B, H-4, J-1 or J2 status and
  • Are admitted to Lehigh University

You cannot apply from in the U.S. if you:

  • Are in C, D, K, S or M status
  • Are in J-1 or J-2 status and have a two-year home residency requirement or 212(e)
  • Entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for business or tourism

Before you decide to apply for a change of visa status from within the U.S., consider that:

  • You must enroll full-time once OISS submits your change of status application.
  • You must maintain your current immigration status until U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves your application.
  • You will need to apply for a visa when you travel outside the U.S.
  • You should not travel outside the U.S. while your application is pending.
  • B-1 and B-2 dependents cannot study in the U.S. until the change of status is approved. F-2 dependents can study part-time, but cannot begin full-time study until their change of status is approved.
  • You cannot get a teaching assistantship until your application is approved.

Applying for a Change of Status

Make an appointment with an OISS advisor and bring the following documents:

  • A completed Form I-539: Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
  • A one-page statement explaining why you want to change your status to F-1
  • A check of $370 made payable to the “Department of Homeland Security”
  • Your Lehigh admission letter
  • Proof of financial support for the amount listed on your I-20
  • I-20 for change of status issued by Lehigh University
  • Completed Form I-134 if your sponsor is in the U.S.
  • Copies of your Form I-94, passport photo page, current visa page, and other immigration documents
  • Copy of your SEVIS I-901 receipt payment
  • If you are married and your spouse has a different last name, a copy of your marriage certificate