One week into her senior year, Natasha Reifenberg headed to an academic health conference in El Salvador, presenting a policy brief based in research she had been involved in for the last two years. An opportunity usually reserved for distinguished academics, the trip was just one of many highlights in an outstanding undergraduate career that includes internships at the Global Fund for Women and United Nations Development Program and independent research opportunities centered around women’s issues and rights. Reifenberg attributes her accomplishments to her education in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters — particularly her philosophy major.
Changing Status to F-1
Students who have been admitted to a program of study at the University of Notre Dame and who are already present in the United States in another immigration status may change status to F-1. An I-20 form issued by Notre Dame is required to be eligible for F-1 status. The I-20 for new students will be issued shortly after the student’s admission to the university. Students who are already enrolled at Notre Dame in another immigration status who wish to change status to F-1 may request an I-20 from ISSA by completing and submitting the New I-20 Request eform with the appropriate documentation. This form is available in ISSAlink. ISSA will then issue a new I-20 form to the student. Please note that the issuance of the I-20 does not automatically change the status of the individual to F-1. Once an I-20 form has been issued, students may initiate a change of status to F-1 by either departing the U.S. and applying for an F-1 visa from a U.S. consulate abroad, or by filing an application to change immigration status to F-1 within the U.S.
Travel and Reentry with an F-1 Visa
Students who are outside the U.S. or who are present in the U.S. in another immigration status and will travel outside the U.S. prior to beginning an educational program may apply for an F-1 visa from a U.S. consulate abroad to enter the U.S. in F-1 status. However, it is not necessary for an individual who changes status to F-1 within the U.S. to obtain a new visa unless the individual departs the United States and then wishes to return in F-1 status.
Changing Status to F-1 Within the United States
Students who are present in the U.S. in another immigration status may normally apply within the U.S. to change immigration status to F-1 without departing the country. However, the following nonimmigrants are not permitted to change to F-1 status from within the U.S.: C, D, and K nonimmigrants, M-1 students, J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training and their dependents, J nonimmigrants who are subject to INA §212(e)—the 2-year home country physical presence requirement, and those admitted to the U.S. as WT or WB visitors under the Visa Waiver Program.
Students who are eligible and who wish to apply to change status within the U.S. must file an application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service prior to the expiration of their present immigration status. Processing times may vary, but applications to change status may take up to five (5) months.
Applicants should ensure that they are able to maintain status during an extended processing time. Applicants changing status to F-1 from an immigration status that prohibits enrollment in a course of study must delay enrollment at Notre Dame until the change of status to F-1 is approved. Applicants changing status to F-1 from an immigration status that prohibits employment will be unable to commence work for graduate assistantships or other campus employment at Notre Dame until the change of status to F-1 is approved.
Depending on the student’s previous immigration status, a delay or a denial may result in the applicant being unlawfully present in the U.S. and being compelled to depart the country.
To change status to F-1 inside the U.S., the student must file an application that includes the following documents with the USCIS service center that has jurisdiction over the student’s U.S. residence:
- Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
- I-539 filing fee (currently $370.00 USD)
- Cover letter from the applicant indicating the applicant’s original status, the status requested and the circumstances or reason the change is being requested
- ORIGINAL I-20 form (signed by student)
- COPY of ND admission letter
- COPY of I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt (currently $200.00 USD)
- COPY of the financial support documentation provided to Notre Dame
- COPY of the student’s passport (biographical and issuance/expiration information)
- COPY of the student’s I-94 record
- COPY of the student’s visa (most recent, if available)
- COPIES of documentation of previous immigration status
It is strongly recommended that applicants for a change of status consult with an advisor and/or allow ISSA to review the application prior to submitting it to USCIS.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Applicants who depart the U.S. after a change of status to F-1 must obtain a F-1 visa from a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. in order to return to the U.S. in F-1 status.
I-539 applications filed using an Indiana address should be sent to the following address:
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
If using a different state address on the application, contact ISSA for the appropriate USCIS office for submission.
When Francesco Tassi arrived at Notre Dame, he was sure he would major in finance. But a lecture on refugees set him on a different path — one that led him to travel through Italy for three months to study refugee integration firsthand. Tassi, who was born in Italy and moved to the United States in third grade, traveled widely in high school and spent time living with host families in several countries. Those experiences sparked a passion for learning about and understanding cultures.