The United States issues non-immigrant F1 visas to college students who plan to leave the country once they complete their studies. Those entering the country as dependents of F1 visa holders receive F2 visas. If an F2 visa holder decides to enter college, she may apply to change her visa status from F2 to F1. She may not enroll in college classes before changing her visa status. She must complete an application to change from an F2 visa to an F1 visa, and she must send that application along with supporting documents to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Check that you have a current F2 visa and passport. Your I-94 card, which lists your arrival and departure dates, also lists an expiration date for your stay. If you have expired documents, you will not be able to change your status without leaving the country, in most circumstances.
Apply to an academic course of study at a college or university certified by the United States Student and Exchange Visitor Program. Once accepted, the school enters your information into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System and issues you an I-20 form.
Use the SEVIS ID number located on the top right side of your I-20 form to fill out your SEVIS I-901 form and pay the required fee. As of December 2010, the fee is $200. You may fill out the I-901 form and pay your fee online.
Write a letter explaining why you wish to change your visa status from F2 to F1. Include details of your study plans.
Fill out a form I-539 to change your nonimmigrant status from F2 to F1. The filing fee is $290 as of December 2010. The form asks for information such as your name, address, arrival date, current visa status, your I-94 number and passport details.
Gather all your supporting documentation. Include your original I-20 form, the receipt for your SEVIS I-901 fee, your letter explaining your study plans and your completed I-539 form. Include photocopies of your immigration documents such as your F2 visa, your passport picture page, your current dependent I-20 form, your I-94 card and financial documents that show you have the funds to cover your education and living expenses. Include photocopies of the immigration documents of the original F1 Visa holder.
Keep copies of all forms, receipts and immigration documents for your records and store them in a safe place.
Mail your documents to the USCIS office as indicated on your form I-539. The USCIS recommends that you mail your documents at least 60 days before the expiration date on your current F2 visa.
- Ask the school department that issues your I-20 for help with your change of visa status documentation.
- After receiving your change of status application, the USCIS mails you a receipt with an estimated processing time and contact information to check the status of your application.
- If your F2 visa expires before the USCIS makes a decision on your application to change from F2 to F1 visa status, you may remain in the country until you receive their decision, provided that you filed on time your application to change status.
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