International Center

Changing to F-1 and J-1

Issuance of an I-20/DS-2019 does not give you F-1/J-1 status in the United States. There are two ways to obtain the new status:

  • Option 1: Applying for change of status to F-1/J-1 from within the U.S.
  • Option 2: Applying for an F-1/J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy/consulate abroad

Eligibility to Change Status Within the United States

  • Valid non-immigrant status
  • Admittance to Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Illinois Tech-issued I-20/DS-2019
  • Not be in C, D, K, or M status
  • Not be a visitor with WT or WB status (Visa Waiver Program)
  • Not be a J-1 or J-2 non-immigrant with a two-year home residency requirement
  • Have not overstayed or violated status

Important Points

  • You must continue to maintain your current status until at least 30 days before the start date of your I-20/DS-2019, and you need to have a receipt notice issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that your application has been received.
  • Some immigration statuses do not permit study including B-1/B-2 statuses. Individuals in these statuses are not permitted to enroll in or attend courses until their change of status has been approved.
  • Individuals in F-2 status may study part-time until their change of status application to F-1 status is approved.
  • Students may not work on-campus until F-1/J-1 status has been approved. This includes teaching and research assistant positions.
  • J-1 students must submit and be approved for on-campus employment if they will be employed at Illinois Tech. 
  • Students will not be eligible for off-campus employment authorization until their F-1/J-1 status has been approved and enrollment requirements are met.
  • If assistance is needed when applying for change of status, please refer to this list of immigration attorneys.

Option 1—Apply Within the U.S.

  • Obtain an I-20/DS-2019 from Illinois Tech by submitting a request to the International Center.
  • Pay the SEVIS fee to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and get a copy of the receipt of payment. You will need your I-20/DS-2019 and SEVIS ID number to pay the fee. More information about how to pay the fee is available online. You must submit the receipt of payment with your change of status application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Prepare the application materials:
    • I-20/DS-2019 issued by Illinois Tech; be sure to sign the first page, at the bottom
    • SEVIS fee payment receipt
    • Completed I-539 form; please see the USCIS website for the latest version of this form and instructions
    • Beginning on March 11th, 2019, all applicants for a change of status must also pay an $85 biometrics fee
    • Completed G-1145 form; download at USCIS website by clicking on “Immigration Forms” on the top menu
    • Check for $370 payable to Department of Homeland Security; make sure to verify current fees on USCIS website
    • Letter of acceptance from Illinois Tech
    • Original financial documents indicating the availability of funds to pay tuition and living expenses; see Financial Document Guidelines (Note: J-1 applications must have funding for the entire duration of the DS-2019)
    • Cover letter explaining the circumstances leading to the need for a change of status
    • Photocopy of passport (biographic pages, visa stamp, and passport expiration date)
    • Original I-94 card or electronic printout
    • If you currently hold dependent status (e.g. F-2, J-2, H-4), you should also include photocopies of the principle visa holder’s valid status (e.g. I-94, visa, passport identity page, DS-2019/I-20, I-797, etc.)
  • Mail the application to the USCIS; see mailing instructions below

Instructions for All Students

  1. Mail your application to the address listed on the Form I-539 Direct Filing Addresses. Make sure to keep a copy of all pages submitted.
  2. You will receive a receipt from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in two to four weeks. Processing times vary; please refer to USCIS website for a list of its processing times. You may track your petition on the the USCIS website.
  3. If your application is approved, immediately bring your change of status approval notice to the International Center. We will make copies of your approval documents, and we will update your university record. Congratulations! You are now an F-1/J-1 international student.
  4. Carefully review the International Center’s webpage. In particular, read the maintaining status section. Maintaining status is your responsibility.
  5. You will be added to the International Center Google group email list through your Illinois Tech email address. You are responsible for reading these updates.
  6. Email is the primary form of communication for the university. Emails will be sent to your university email address. Failure to check your university email may result in the loss of your immigration status.
  7. If your application is denied, you will receive notification from the USCIS. If your underlying status is still valid, you may remain in the U.S. in that status. If your underlying status has expired, you must prepare to depart the U.S. Meet with an adviser at the International Center to discuss your options.

Option 2—Change of Status by Travel

  • Obtain an I-20/DS-2019 from Illinois Tech by submitting a request to the International Center.
  • Pay the SEVIS fee to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and get a copy of the receipt of payment. You will need your I-20/DS-2019 and SEVIS ID number to pay the fee. More information about how to pay the fee is available online at
  • Apply for the corresponding visa stamp at a U.S. embassy/consulate. It is recommended that you apply for the visa in your home country. If applying in a country other than your own, contact the U.S. embassy/consulate where you plan to make your appointment to determine its specific procedures for submitting an application, as well as their guidelines regarding third-country applications.
  • Upon re-entry in F-1 or J-1 status, the student must immediately check-in with the International Center. To check-in, the student should bring their I-20 or DS-2019, passport with visa stamp, and I-94 print out. 
  • You will not be permitted to enter until it is within 30 days of the start date of your I-20/DS-2019.