Before You Arrive

In this section prospective international students will find information about requesting or refusing an I-20 or DS-2019, insurance and financial requirements, and other essential pre-arrival information.

Our goal is to assist and advise incoming international students on U.S. immigration related issues and regulations.  We also help direct students to finding answers to many questions about the transition to Penn State as a newly admitted student.

F-1 Change of Status

There are two ways to change your F-1 status: Leave the United States with a new I-20 marked, "initial attendance" or remain in the United States and apply for a change of status. Be aware that F-1 students are required to carry medical insurance.

Travel to Obtain a Different Visa Status

Traveling to obtain a new visa and then returning to the U.S. is the quickest method in getting a new immigration status. The steps are as follows:

  1. Obtain an innitial I-20. If you are admitted into a program of study or are a current student and provide the financial guarantee required for your program, you are eligible to obtain an I-20.
  • Newly Admitted Students will work with Pre-Arrival Advising to obtain form I-20.
  • Current students must obtain an updated Financial Guarantee and go to the Change of Status eForm to request your new I-20. Your request will be assigned to an International Student Adviser who will issue the new I-20 and help you with the application process.
  1. Pay the I-901 (SEVIS) fee. We recommend paying the fee on-line.
  2. Complete the visa application (DS-160) and print the DS-160 receipt.
  3. Pay the Visa Application Fee (also known as the MRV fee).
  4. Schedule the visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy outside of the U.S..
  5. Go to the visa appointment with the following:
  • DS-160 bar code receipt
  • The MRV (visa application fee) receipt
  • The SEVIS fee receipt
  • Visa application receipt
  • Original I-20 or DS-2019
  • Passport
  • Financial guarantee
  • Photos, and any other information the consulate website indicates.
  1. Keep all of your documents with you when traveling.

You can learn about applying for the visa at the Education USA website.

NOTE: International F-1 students must follow the F-1 rules. Please be aware of what they are. 

Non-Travel Option for Change of Status from within the U.S.

This option takes a longer time. USCIS will generally not approve a change of status more than 30 days before the beginning of the program of study. Also, if you leave the U.S. while this application is pending, USCIS will consider it an abandoned application and deny it. In addition, your current status must be valid at the time of the adjudication. Therefore, if you have a status that ends before USCIS can approve a change of status, you must apply for a bridge application. The bridge application may be an extension of your current status if this is possible or an application for visitor status (B-2) while the other application is pending. Therefore, the timing of a change of status application can be tricky. Because DISSA will not be notified of the change of status approval, you must inform DISSA of the approval or denial; if the I-20 date expires before adjudication by USCIS, DISSA must defer the start date because the I-20 will auto-cancel in 60 days, making the I-20 invalid. Also, if you leave the U.S. while this application is pending, USCIS will consider it an abandoned application and deny it.

Given the difficulty a change of status may pose in some situations, you should consult an attorney who specializes in immigration.  DISSA can provide you with a list of immigration attorneys.

Application Process for Non-travel Option

  1. Remain in the United States while applying for the visa, unless your current status prohibits a change. You cannot change your status within the United States, if you:
  • are currently in C, D, K, or M status
  • entered the U.S. under the Visa-Waiver Pilot Program (WT or WB)
  • are currently in J-1 or J-2 status and you are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement
  • are currently in B-1 or B-2 (visitor) status and it appears that you entered the U.S. for the purpose of study
  1. Obtain the I-20. If you are admitted into a program of study or are currently a student and provide the financial guarantee required for your program, you will be eligible to obtain an I-20. 
  • Newly Admitted Students will work with Pre-Arrival Advising to obtain form I-20.
  • Current Students must obtain an updated Financial Guarantee and go to the Change of Status e-form to request your new I-20. Your request will be assigned to an International Student Adviser who will issue the new I-20 and help you with the application process.
  1. Read information about Possible Requested Documents and prepare the following documents to submit with your application:
  • G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
  • Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
  • Check made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. The current fee is $370.00. [Note: Effective Feb. 14, 2018, the filing fee can be paid by credit card using form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.]
  • Copy of the I-20 or DS-2019 signed by you.
  • Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee and save the Receipt indicating payment of the SEVIS fee
  • Copies of financial support documents used to obtain the I-20 or DS-2019
  • Letter explaining the reason to change status
  • Copies of all current immigration documents (e.g. DS-2019, I-20, I-797, paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94, valid passport, visa stamp, if applicable).
  • Copies of dependent family member documentation if they too are requesting a change of status. Documents include the new I-20 or DS-2019 and all current immigration documents
  • If your status is as a dependent (spouse or child), include copies of documents showing that the principal is in status.

The above documents should be submitted to the Service Center with jurisdiction over the address on the I-539. In Pennsylvania, the package is mailed to:

If using the U.S. Postal Service:

USCIS
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266

If using U.S.P.S. Express Mail or another Mail Courier:

USCIS
ATTN: I-539
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067