Change of Status

Many potential students currently hold a visa that is something other than F-1.

Changing your visa to F-1 status

If your visa is anything other than F-1 and you want to change your status to an F-1 visa, take the following steps:

Option 1: Travel

  • Request an initial entry Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 from Mississippi State University
  • Travel outside the United States
  • Apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad
  • Re-enter the United States with the F-1 or J-1 student documentation

Travel is generally the fastest and most efficient way to change status. We recommend you to research waiting times and visa information on the Department of State website.

Option 2: Application to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

If you cannot travel, you may be eligible to submit an application to USCIS to change status while remaining in the United States if you meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • You are maintaining your current nonimmigrant status
  • Your current period of authorized stay has not expired and will not expire more than 30 days prior to your Mississippi State University program start date
  • You have no previous violations of status
  • Your current status does not prohibit a change of status application through USCIS*


  • Individuals admitted under the visa waiver program cannot change to F-1 or J-1 status.
  • Vocational students in M status cannot change to F-1 or J-1 status.
  • Individuals subject to the 212(e) Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement must first obtain a waiver to submit a change of status application to USCIS.
  • Individuals in F-2 status are prohibited from studying full time before USCIS approves the change of status to F-1 or J-1 status.
  • Individuals admitted to the United States in tourist status or any status that prohibits study cannot legally begin an academic program before USCIS approves the change of status to F-1 or J-1 status.

USCIS typically takes 3-8 months to review the change of status application. You are strongly advised to avoid traveling outside the United States while the application is pending. Please note that if you leave the United States after the change of status is approved, you must still apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to re-enter the United States.

To apply to USCIS to change status, you must:

  1. Obtain a change of status Form I-20 from Mississippi State University. Please see the I-20 information page for information about this.
  2. File the I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status with USCIS. We recommend contacting an immigration attorney for assistance with this process.