United States immigration law places responsibility upon the individual student to know and follow all relevant immigration regulations. Failure to comply with these regulations may have very severe consequences for your ability to study, seek employment, or even remain in the United States. In addition to the information below, be sure to review the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement fact sheet on maintaining visa status.
Maintaining F-1 Visa Status
Make sure that your immigration documents are valid and/or unexpired.
- An unexpired foreign passport valid at least six months into the future.
- An I-94 card marked “F-1 D/S”
- An unexpired I-20 (for F-1 students) that has been stamped by an immigration inspector.
Register for and complete a full course load (12 credits for undergraduate students; 9 credits for graduate students).
- The minimum number of full time course credits per semester is 12 for undergraduates and 9 for graduate students. You are expected to maintain full-time registration and make normal progress toward your degree.
- Obtain PRIOR authorization from you Designated School Official (the International Student Advisor) BEFORE dropping below full course of study, withdrawing from classes, or taking a leave of absence. There are very limited exceptions to the full-time requirement – so you must consult the DSO in advance of any drop below full-time, or you will be in violation of your status.
Change of Address
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) requires that you inform the DSO within 10 days of any address change.
If you are planning to transfer to another institution, you are required by law to notify the DSO before the end of the semester. Your new school cannot issue you a Form I-20 until we have released your immigration record to them.
Optional Practical Training
Students who have completed a degree program and are planning to do Optional Practical Training (OPT) must contact the office and file a Form I-765 so that it is received by USCIS before the completion date of your program.
Students who have graduated and are not doing OPT must leave the U.S. within 60 days of the completion of the program, or transfer to a higher level of degree program.
Maintaining J-1 Visa Status
Detailed information coming soon.
Changing from F-2 to F-1 Visa Status
There are two different ways an individual can change immigration status. An application for a change of status can be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) while you remain in the U.S. or you can travel back home or outside the U.S. to apply for a new visa at a U.S. Consulate.
A change of status application usually takes between 2 and 4 months to be processed by USCIS. After you are approved for the change of status, the next time you travel out of the U.S., you will have to go to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy to apply for the F-1 visa stamp in order to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status.
Eligibility for a Change of Status
To be eligible for a change of status to F-1, you must be admitted to a degree program at Drew University and have received a “change of status” Form I-20 from Drew.
Items in Change of Status Application to USCIS
- A receipt showing that you have paid the “SEVIS fee” which you can print when you pay the fee on line at: www.FMJfee.com.
- Fee (currently $290): check or money order made payable to USCIS; write your I-94 card number, name (if not already printed on your check), and the type of application you are requesting on the face of your check or money order.
- A letter from you requesting the change of status and explaining your circumstances and future plans for when you return to your home country.
- Completed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The application must include the original Form I-20 (please sign the I-20) and I-94 card, and photocopies of the personal information page of passport and current visa stamp (if one is in the passport). You should also include photocopies of your spouse’s/parent’s Immigration documents (I-20, visa, passport).
- You should have a photocopy of your entire application and supporting documents for your records before sending them to the USCIS.
- When you receive a response from USCIS, please report the outcome to International Student Services. Send or bring a photocopy of your Form I-20, I-797 Approval Notice and your new I-94 card to ISS in Brothers College, Room 119.
Application Mailing Instructions
Mail your completed application to the Dallas Lockbox. You should use a reliable express mail/courier service.
For express courier deliveries (Fed Ex or UPS) use the following address:
USCIS ATTN: I-539
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
For regular U.S. Mail (certified) use the following address:
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266
Status While Application Is Pending
You are not allowed to begin your studies at Drew while your F-2 to F-1 change of status application is pending with USCIS; thus, you may not engage in on-campus or off-campus employment of any kind until your change of status to F-1 student has been approved.