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Changing Your Visa Status

​Policy on B visas

North Lake College does not issue I-20s (F1 and/or F2) to those in the United States on "B" tourist or visitor visa status. This is due to tightening US government policies.

Any student who registers for classes as a "B" visa holder is subject to serious immigration consequences. We reserve the right to refuse to issue an I-20 if a person (including dependents) applying to NLC is found to be in the United States in visitor status. If you are in visitor status, you will be required to depart the United States before any I-20 can be issued. All applicants must meet other documentary requirements for I-20 issuance.

Other colleges/universities or institutes in the United States may have different policies regarding "B" visa holders.

Do I need to change status to study at NLC?

Other than a "B" visitor status (see above) it really depends on what visa you are currently on and your educational goals. If you are on one of these visa types below, then you may be required to change your visa status to F1 before joining an academic degree program:

  • An F2 dependent visa IF you wish to enroll full-time
  • An M1 visa
  • Any dependent child visa status, if you are almost 21 years old
  • A J1 exchange visitor whose J1 program is ending (such as a J1 exchange visitor who is in the au pair program)

If you have questions and/or if you are required to change status to an F1, please contact us and we will be happy to help.

Please note that you are not required to change to F1 status if you are in the United States on an unexpiring H4 or L2 visa. United States permanent immigrants, such as green card holders, may also study without changing visa status to F1. You are not allowed to change your status at all if you are on certain types of visa. If you are uncertain, check this detailed chart (for non-immigrants only) or ask the International Center for help by contacting our office.
Effective in June 2015: F2 visa holders may study part-time (under 12 credit hours OR under 18 clock hours per week), including credit courses and ESL without having to change to F1. As an F2, if you wish to study full-time in a degree program (12 credit hours), OR 18 or more clock hours per week in class/labs, then you must change status to F1.

Important notes on changing visa status in the United States

  • If you are a current NLC student, and you are an H4 dependent child whose status is about to expire, you can apply for admission as an F1. However, it is strongly recommended that you return to your home country to apply for the F1 visa OR seek assistance from an immigration attorney.
  • It is easier to change status for some visa types than others.
  • Change of status is adjudicated by USCIS, a division of The U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Change of status applications sometimes take 5 to 6 months, or longer.
  • Your current I-94 status must be valid before you can file for a change in visa status, unless this requirement is specifically waived by USCIS on the USCIS website.
  • We strongly advise you to contact an immigration attorney for additional information on changing your visa status while in the U.S. as not all visa types are eligible for a change of status.
  • Immigration attorneys will charge fees for their help.
  • Other colleges/institutes, and universities may have different change of status procedures.
  • If you are approved in the US for a new visa status, and then travel, you must obtain a new visa stamp at the US Embassy or Consulate before returning to the US. Otherwise you will not be allowed to re-enter.
  • Changing status by traveling to a neighboring country such as Mexico or Canada, while possible, is very risky and not recommended.

The Application Process

First, apply to North Lake and be accepted. NLC will issue an acceptance letter and I-20 form. Make sure NLC has your contact information, including a phone number, email address, and street address.

Please note that effective in July 2014, the NLC International Center no longer provides assistance with the change of status paperwork process with USCIS. If you wish/must change to an F1 we highly recommend that you return to your home country to apply for the F1 visa if you are admitted. Otherwise, you may need to use an immigration attorney to get assistance with the required change of status paperwork to USCIS.

Information about changing a visa status is found  on the USCIS website using their new online system. Change of status applications can be filed by paper mail or online. When you fill out the application, you must use the North Lake College International Center address on the I-539, not your own address. Our address is in the box on the right side of this page. We request you use our address so in case you move while the change of status application is being adjudicated it will have less of a chance of getting lost in the mail. If you are working with an immigration attorney, and if their policies require that their clients use their address on the I-539, then you may do so. As stated above you may be able to file for a change in visa status with USCIS if you are on a visa that we will issue an I-20 for such as H4 but we cannot provide any change of visa status paperwork assistance.

Once you are accepted to North Lake College, International Center advisors (referred to as DSOs on Study in the States) are ready to help you with any F1 questions you may have. We do not provide change of status advice but we may be able to answer other questions.

If you apply for a change of status, you must notify us of the progress.

If you are approved to change to F1 visa status, then you will be required to enroll full-time in the next available term, even if that is the summer term. For example, if your change of status to F1 is approved in April, then you must enroll full-time for the summer semester that begins in June.

If your change of status application is denied then you must consult an immigration attorney and/or depart the United States immediately.

If your change of status application is still pending, you must notify the NLC International Center at least 15 days before your first semester begins so that we can provide a deferral to the next semester. Otherwise, you may be forced to start the whole process again.