If you are currently under another type of visa and would like to convert to an F-1 visa you will have to submit a change of status through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.  

Depending on the type of visa you may or may not qualify to do so. The most common Change of status is; B1/B2, F2, J1, H4, and A2. You can find out more through Study in the States and through USCIS Study in the States.  

 Visas under B1/B2 and J1 can be admitted through NEIU but you cannot start until the F-1 change of status is approved through USCIS. 


Q: Can I start school before I change my status? 

A: The answer is yes, EXCEPT for F-2 and B-1/B-2. 

  1. Applicants who are applying for a change of status from F-2 or B-1/B-2 to F-1 must receive the approval notice granted F-1 status before beginning your degree study. These individuals should apply for a change of status as soon as you are admitted to NEIU to allow enough time for the application to be approved (12-month processing time for approval or denial notice). 

  1. If you have applied and have not received a notice, you will need to defer your admission, and notify OIP and admission so that a new admission letter and I-20 is given. This allows you to submit that to USCIS. 

Q: If I decide to file an application with the USCIS to change my status, when should I apply? 

A: It depends on what visa status you are currently in and when your current status is going to expire. As soon as you decide to change status, you should contact OIP for an appointment so we can help you analyze your situation and give you advice about the process. 

Q: What happens to my status while I am waiting to receive an answer from USCIS? 

A: Your status will be considered pending. Please make sure you are maintaining your present nonimmigrant status when your application is approved. This can include extending your I-94. 

Q: What documents are required for the change of status application? 

A: Please see the Change of Status Filing List (within the change of status form above) for a complete list of documents to be submitted with the application. 

Q: How do I file my application? 

A: Follow the Change of Status information, complete all required documentations for the application, and make an appointment with Office of International Programs to assist you and answer any outstanding questions you have. You will send the application to the USCIS Service Center. 

Q: How can I obtain F-1 student status? 

A: You must be admitted to Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), or are currently attending NEIU in a different visa status. Submit financials ability as an F-1 status.  

There are two ways you can become an F-1 student: 

  1. Applying for F-1 visa in your home country: 

    i.  Obtain an I-20 from Northeastern Illinois University and exit the U.S. Apply to the to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate to apply for F-1 visa. Obtain an F-1 visa and re-enter the U.S. 30 days before the program start date indicated on the I-20. This method is much faster and typically has a higher rate of success. 

  2.  Applying for Change of Status in the U.S.

    i.   Apply for a change of status in the U.S. through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This involves sending an application and supplemental documentation for a change of status to USCIS. The application generally takes 12 months or more to be processed for a notice of approval or denial. This application process is detailed in this packet. 

Q: Is it better to apply directly for the F-1 student visa at home or apply for a change to F-1 status here? 

A: Every case is different. If you are planning on traveling frequently, you may want to apply for a visa when you are outside of the U.S. If you do not plan on leaving the U.S. soon or if you are subject to deadlines for requesting the change of status (F-2, B-1/B-2) and will not be traveling, you should apply for a change of status as soon as possible. In some countries, the visa issuance process is extremely difficult. In those countries, the American Embassy may view a change to F-1 status in the U.S. as an attempt to avoid that process and will want to know why you did not apply for the F-1 visa there instead. This does not mean the visa will automatically be denied, but you should prepare to show documentation or answer questions as to why you did not originally apply for the visa at the U.S. embassy. If you are not sure which is best for you, make an appointment with the Office of International Programs for more information. 

Q: What if my authorized stay in the U.S. has expired? 

A: If your authorization stay in the U.S. has expired, you are not eligible to file for a change of status. You must be in one legal status to be approved to change to another status. 

Effective August 9th, 2018 USCIS has implemented a new change on its policy on the accrual of unlawful presence. Unlawful presence is when the period of time you are in the U.S. without being admitted, or paroled, or your status was revoked, or expired, or in USCIS terms, “when you are not in a period of stay authored by the secretary.Read more on the Unlawful Presence and Bars to Admissibility

Q: Should I hire a lawyer to help me? 

A: You do not have to hire a lawyer to file for a change to F-1 status. The staff at the Office of International Programs can assist you in the application process. Of course, if you prefer to hire your own lawyer, we will work with you to provide the necessary documentation. If you have a complicated issue you are able to seek out an immigration lawyer.