Change of Status to F-1

Option 1: COS Application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Option 2: Travel and Re-enter the U.S. in F-1 Student Status
COS I-20 Request Process

Students must meet with an OIS advisor to file a Change of Status (COS). There are two options:

Option 1: COS Application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

This option requires students to file a COS within the U.S. The processing time is approximately 3-4 months. The Graduate Admissions (GA) office will issue a “Change of Status” I-20 for this option. Once the student receives the I-20, they must make an appointment with an OIS immigration advisor to review the required documents for USCIS application. 

Simply obtaining the I-20 does not change a student's status to F-1. Students must submit the application packet to USCIS and receive COS approval.

Depending on the student’s current status, enrollment at USC prior to the change of status approval may be affected in the following ways:

Individuals on F-2 Status: F-2 status holders cannot register for classes or receive any paid assistantships or on-campus employment work authorizations until the COS has been approved.

Individuals on H-4, L-2, R-2 Statuses: These students can register for classes while the COS is pending but cannot receive any paid assistantships or on-campus work authorizations until the COS has been approved.

Individuals on H-1B Status: H-1B status holders can register for classes while the COS is pending but cannot receive any assistantships/funding or on-campus work authorizations until the COS is approved. In addition, as the student’s current status is dependent upon employment, they should maintain employment until the change of status has been approved. There is no grace period for H-1B status holders if terminated from their job. Even with a COS case pending, termination of employment can affect immigration status and the COS application. 

Option 2: Travel and Re-enter the U.S. in F-1 Student Status

This option requires students to depart the U.S. and re-enter in F-1 student status. The student is required to:

  1. Depart the U.S. with an “Initial Attendance” I-20 issued from Graduate Admissions (GA) office
  2. Pay the SEVIS fee (https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/)
  3. Apply for F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy/consulate abroad (Canadian citizens are exempt from this requirement)
  4. Re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status

This procedure automatically changes the student’s status to F-1 upon entry to the U.S. The length of this procedure varies depending upon the student’s departure date from the U.S. and the processing time for the F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy/consulate abroad. However, applicants can register for classes and receive paid assistantships or on-campus employment immediately after re-entering the U.S. in F-1 status. 

COS I-20 Request Process

  1. Choose one of the COS options above and complete the COS I-20 Request Form
  2. Make an appointment to see an Immigration Advisor at OIS and receive approval
  3. Upon OIS approval of the COS, as well as submission of the appropriate financial documents to usci20@usc.edu, the I-20 will be processed within 1 week by USC GA

Once the I-20 is issued, students cannot change the type of I-20 they receive unless there is a sufficient reason to do so. Processing time for the I-20 normally takes one week, if all the proper financial statements have been submitted. I-20 processing questions must be emailed to GA: usci20@usc.edu.