Change of Status to F-1

If you are currently in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa and wish to pursue a degree program, you may be required to change to F1 student status to study in the US.

Important Notes for B-2 Tourist Visas: Individuals on a B-2 tourist visa cannot legally study towards a degree program in the U.S.  All prospective students with B-2 visa status should change their status to F-1 before pursuing a degree program at RCC. The regulations prohibit beginning a full course of study until the change of status to F-1 is approved.

You should follow the following steps to learn more about your options:

  1. Apply to Rockland Community College and submit all requirements for an international student applicant. Obtain an admission letter and I-20 from RCC.
  2. Meet with International Student Services to discuss your options for obtaining an F1 visa. You can schedule a meeting by emailing [email protected] or calling 845-574-4193.
  3. Prepare the required documents and follow the steps for obtaining F-1 status.  Depending on your situation, you may have two options to obtain F1 student status:

Option 1: Travel and Reentry

Plan your travel and F-1 visa appointment accordingly.

  1. Pay the $200 SEVIS fee at
  2. Schedule a visa appointment at the local consulate in your home country by visiting and review all the requirements to apply for the F1 visa. You can apply for the F1 visa within 120 days of the start date on your I-20.
  3. Once a visa is obtained, you can enter the U.S. with your I-20 and F-1 visa no earlier than 30 days before the I-20 start date.

Option 2: Change of Status in the U.S.

If you choose to change your status in the U.S., you must apply for the change of status on your own. We highly recommend seeking an immigration lawyer for assistance. ISS will issue you the Change of Status SEVIS I-20, but we are not able to assist you with the change of status and extension of your current status application.

Important Notes on Applying for a Change of Status in the U.S.

  • F-1 status cannot begin earlier than 30 days before the start date on your I-20. You should submit your application several months in advance, and you must be able to maintain your current B-1/B-2 status until 30 days before the I-20 start date.
  • You must maintain your current non-immigrant status while your Form I-539 is pending. You may need to file a second Form I-539, with a separate fee, to request an extension of your current status if:
    • Your current status will expire more than 30 days before the initial F-1 program start date. USCIS may approve your Form I-539 change of status request only if you are maintaining your current status up to 30 days before your program’s initial start date. If your status will expire more than 30 days before your F-1 program’s initial start date, you must be able to extend your current non-immigrant status. If you do not or cannot extend your status, USCIS will deny your Form I-539 request to change to F-1 status. As processing times are taking at least 8 -10 months with USCIS, it is advised that all applicants apply for an extension of their status if possible.
    • Your F-1 program start date is deferred to the following academic term or semester because USCIS did not make a decision on your Form I-539 change of status application before your originally intended F-1 program start date. Your current non-immigrant status must stay valid until at least 30 days prior to the new start date.  You may be required to extend your current status, especially if you are on a B-2 visa, in order to bridge the gap in time between when your current status expires and the 30 day period before your new F-1 program start date.
  • If approved, you will have only changed your STATUS. You will not receive a visa in your passport. If you plan to travel after changing your status, you will need to make an appointment with the U.S. consulate outside the U.S. and apply for an F-1 visa. The chances of the consular denying your visa may be higher. It is advised that you do not travel outside the country once your change of status is approved and until you complete your studies.