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Change of Status From B-2 to F-1

Individuals on a B-2 tourist visa are not allowed to 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.

Contact International Student Services (ISS) as soon as you know you must obtain F-1 status in order to discuss your options. This change of status can be especially challenging, and it may be best to travel, apply for an F-1 visa abroad, and reenter the U.S. in F-1 status.

It is highly advised that all students who opt to change their status to F1 in the U.S. process their application through a lawyer.

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

  • The regulations prohibit beginning a full course of study until the change of status to F-1 is approved. Students cannot study legally towards a degree until they receive their F1 change of status approval.
  • 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 B-1 or B-2 status while your Form I-539 is pending. You will need to file a second Form I-539, with a separate fee, to request an extension of your B-1 or B-2 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 B-1/B-2 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 file a second Form I-539 requesting to extend your B-1 or B-2 status. If you do not file this extension request on time, USCIS will deny your Form I-539 request to change to F-1 status. As processing times are taking at least 6 months with USCIS, it is advised that all applicants apply for an extension of their tourist status.
    • 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. You must file a second Form I-539 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.


  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 an International Student Services to discuss your options for obtaining an F1 visa. You can schedule a meeting by emailing or calling 845-574-4527.
  3. Prepare the required documents and follow next steps for obtaining F-1 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.