Obtaining your Initial Visa

Change of Status Inside the U.S.

Students who prefer to file a change of status application within the U.S. must meet with an OISS  advisor to file a change of status application. Change of status application processing is currently taking approximately 3 to 4 months. Students who travel outside the U.S. while their application is pending and students whose change of status application is denied, should proceed with option 2 below in order to return to the U.S. to continue their studies in F-1 status at the University of St. Thomas.

The following documents are required to change your immigration status to F-1 within the U.S.

  • Brief letter explaining why you want to change your status to F-1 (i.e. to receive the benefits of F-1 status such as work on-campus or being eligible for practical training before or after graduation). You should explain how this degree program would benefit you when you return to your home country in the future.
  • A completed I-539 form (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status). 
    List the OISS address as your current address:
    c/o OISS
    Mail #5014, 2115 Summit Ave
    St. Paul, MN 55105-1096
  • A check or money order made out to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security" for $370.
  • I-20 form issued from the International Admissions office for the purpose of change of status. You will have to submit an original copy of your financial verification to International Admissions in order to have an I-20 issued. You will pick up your I-20 from OISS when you have your appointment.
  • St. Thomas admission letter.
  • Proof of financial support for the amount listed on your I-20. This can be the same as used to obtain the I-20 from International Admissions (see above). Financial documents should be dated within the last 6 months.
  • Completed I-134 Affidavit of Support. (This form should only be used when someone is sponsoring you from within the U.S.)
  • Copies of passport, visa and copy of I-94 and other current immigration documents.
  • Photocopy of your SEVIS I-901 fee payment receipt ($350.00 fee). You can pay it online.
  • If you are married and your spouse has a different last name, a photocopy of your marriage certificate is recommended.
  • If you are currently on a dependent visa, you should include the following:
    • If on F-2, include proof that the F-1 has maintained full-time status, photocopy of F-1's I-20, passport, visa and copy of I-94
    • If on H-4, include H-1B employer verification letter and last 4 pay stubs for the H-1B spouse, photocopy of H-1's passport, visa, I-797s and copy of I-94
  • If you are including dependents in your change of status to F-1, include their information on the last page of the I-539, their dependent I-20s (issued by International Admissions) and photocopies of their passports, visas and copy of I-94.
  • Receive updates from USCIS on your case by completing G-1145 (optional)

Visa Categories not allowed to change status to F-1 within U.S.
Students in the visa categories listed below are not allowed to change status to F-1 while in the U.S. These non-immigrants may still be eligible for F-1 status, but only if they obtain an F-1 visa and re-enter the U.S. as explained in option 2 below.

  • M-1 students
  • C, D and K non-immigrants
  • J-1 Physicians in the U.S. for medical training
  • J non-immigrants subject to 212(e), 2-year rule
  • WT and WB visitors under the Visa Waiver Program

Enroll as a Full-time Student while application is pending
Once you submit the change of status application, you must enroll at the University of St. Thomas as a full-time student (12 credits per semester for undergraduate students, 6 credits per semester for graduate students) even before the application has been approved since we do not know when a decision about your application will be made. (See exceptions to this rule below). If your change of status to F-1 is approved and you are not a full-time student, you could be out of immigration status and required to apply for re-instatement to correct your immigration status.

Maintain current immigration status
All individuals applying for change of status to F-1 must maintain their current immigration status until their F-1 status is approved by USCIS. In other words, you must be in status to change status.

Exceptions to Full-time enrollment while application is pending
B-1, B-2, and F-2 visa holders who apply for a change of status to F-1 are not allowed to begin their studies until their change of status to F-1 has been approved by USCIS. 

Schedule an appointment
Contact The Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS) at 651-962-6650 to schedule an appointment with an Immigration Advisor to begin the change of status application process. An advisor will discuss your specific circumstances and may recommend that you include additional documents with your application, depending on your unique situation. If you bring the original documents to your change of status appointment, the Immigration Advisor will make the necessary photocopies for your application.

Obtaining Your Visa & Status

Read carefully all information on the Form I-20/ DS- 2019. The US Government mandates that you understand and follow the rules and regulations pertaining to your student visa.

1. Go to the website for your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate and follow the instructions on how to obtain a non-immigrant student visa. You are able to find the List of Embassies and Consulates. Once you choose your country, click the "visas" tab.
2. Sign the front page of your I-20/ DS-2019 and schedule your student visa appointment by following the instructions on your local Embassy/Consulate's website.
3. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee by going to the following website:https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/.
4. Pay the visa application fee by following the instructions on your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website.
5. Obtain and complete a student visa application form DS-160
6. Prepare the following items, and bring them to your visa interview:

  • Completed visa application
  • Original I-20/DS-2019 and the admission letter sent by the University of St. Thomas
  • SEVIS I-901 fee payment receipt
  • Nonrefundable visa application fee
  • Passport valid for at least six (6) months beyond the expiration of your I-20/ DS-2019. Students from these countries are exempt from the 6 month rule. 
  • One photograph (2x2 inches)
  • Original school transcripts and public examination certificates, including a student copy of your TOEFL, IETLS, GMAT, or GRE score report if applicable
  • Official documentation to prove your financial support
  • Any evidence that demonstrates strong ties to your country or any other residence outside of the USA (property, employment, finances, family, etc.)
  • All other documents listed on the visa application specific to your country

7. If you have further questions about the visa process, please visit the following website for more information: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange.html or contact the University of St. Thomas Admissions office.

Attention: Do not enter the United States on a B-2 Tourist Visa! As of April 2002, the US government has made it very difficult to change to a Student Visa here in the US. In addition, you will not be able to begin studies until the change to F-1/J-1is approved.

When you arrive in the US, an Immigration Inspector will review your papers and may interview you as described above. He/she will check that you have a valid student visa in your passport, will look at your Form I-20/DS-2019 and may ask to see financial documentation. Please note that U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently began using an automated Form I-94 "Arrival/Departure Record". This means that CBP no longer requires visitors to fill out the form before arriving at a U.S. port of entry.

Be sure to bring your passport and I-20/DS-2019 to your immigration check-in so that OISS staff can make sure your legal papers are in order and copy them for filing purposes.