Paperwork needed for change of visa

So you wanna study in America returns with what paperwork you need to have to you know, study here. I know that this post has been anticipated for some time so today you finally get it! YAY!!

Here is a checklist of all the paperwork you will need to do and have in order to apply and study in America. This is a general one but it helped me a lot so I hope it helps you!

*NOTE: this is under the assumption that you are doing a change of status in the US and not traveling home to do it.* 


  1. Application form for your school. Remember that you need to indicate that you are an international student and to write your permanent home address in your home country as they need this to apply for your SEVIS I-20.
  2. Official transcripts. These need to be the ORIGINAL ones so you need to ask your parents to send it to you if you do not have it. This includes your high school one as well as any other college transcripts you have. In some colleges, you will have to translate it either into English or get it evaluated so that they can see the US equivalent of it.
  3. Proof of English proficency. This is only if your home country is not exempted from it. At my college, I was exempt from giving this information as I am from South Africa
  4. Bank statement and agreement of financial support. This is for whoever is sponsoring you. Your family back home? Your host family? A boyfriend? Each college is different but generally you have to have around $25000 of cash in the bank. This is to prove that they can support you if you are not able to pay for it yourself.
  5. Passport.
  6. Copies of current I-20/visa. This is if you are still in the states.
  7. Immunization forms. This is only needed right before you start school.

Once you have submitted your application to your school, they will accept you and apply for a new SEVIS I-20 and once they have that, you will be able to carry on with the application process.

Now that you have been accepted into the college and they have obtained your new I-20. You will have to complete your first step online by filling out the form: I-539 which you will fill out online. That is all online and then you will need to print it out for your records and for the “packet” you will need to create which you will then send to USCIS and pray that your visa gets accepted.

What goes into the “packet”? 

  1. Detailed letter requesting and explaining the need for your change of status.
  2. Form G-1145: e-Notification of application. This just gives you text messages about your application.
  3. Completed original I-539 form.
  4. Most recent I-94 record.
  5. Photocopy of proof of payment of the SEVIS fee (SEVIS I-901)
  6. Copy of your checks. You have to pay for finger printing as well as this application.
  7. Detailed evidence of financial support.
  8. Photocopy of the visa page and ID page in your passport.
  9. Copy of the signed I-20 from your school.
  10. Photocopy of ALL your DS-2019’s. I had a lot as I was an aupair previously.
  11. Proof of residency abroad. 

In the letter explaining why you want to change your status, it should include the following: 

  1. Be addressed to: “dear immigration services officer.”
  2. Explain what you are applying for (i.e change from J-1 to F-1)
  3. Explain why you are applying.
  4. Include a statement that you plan on returning home when your studies are done and how you plan on using your education to help your country.
  5. List all the contents of your application.
  6. Include your contact information and an original signature.

I hope all this information helps you and makes you feel more at ease when trying to navigate your application. It feels like there is A LOT of information and paperwork. I know itt can be really overwhelming, but it is doable. I will also have a copy of my personal letter as well as information on how to complete the form if you need it. You can email me for that and I will be happy to send it to you.

If you have any other questions that I have not already answered, please DM me on Instagram and I will be happy to answer them!

Check out my first blog on changing your status here! FAQ about changing your visa is here too.

FAQ: Going from a J-1 to F-1

Since my previous blog, I have gotten frequently asked questions that I did not answer in that blog, so today I will be trying to answer them! Please remember that every college is different and every state is different. I will be doing more posts as I get more information or if the information changes. My goal is to help people who want to change their status but cannot afford a lawyer. I would also like to state that this should not be the primary reason to why you come to Aupair. I am not encouraging anyone to come here just to change their status BUT I am here to provide you with information if you so choose to.

Can I work while studying?

The only work you are legally allowed to do is on your school campus. Your F-1 visa is only to study full time and work on your school campus for 20 hours per week. You cannot legally work with your host family or any other family.

Do I need a lawyer to do the process?

No, you do not. Most schools do recommend you using a lawyer as legally they cannot help you fill in the paperwork. I am however proof that you do not need a lawyer. I did not use one and I got my visa just fine!

Do you need to take the SAT’s?

Every school is different. The school that I initially applied to wanted me to have taken my SAT’s but the college I ended up at did not. What is also important to note, is that at my college the SAT’s that I took helped me with my placement at the school. Generally, you need to take a placement test to determine where you would be placed in English and Maths but with my scores, it placed me immediately.

Do you need to get your matric certificate/ high school diploma evaluated?

This yet again depends on your college. I personally did not and I am not sure how it works but I do know that you need to pay a lot to get it done which kind of sucks in my opinion. One of my friends paid about $300 for it.

Do I go for an interview at the embassy like I did for my J-1?

No, you do not. You send in your paperwork and pray you to get someone who is nice to approve of you. I am not joking. Pray bro.

Are you allowed to study while your visa is getting approved?

This also depends on your college. I was able to but opted out to just waiting to get my paperwork. This can help you as you can get a headstart on your studying.

Can I study part-time?

No. You have to be taking a minimum of 12 credits per semester. You are only allowed to take ONE class online and the rest has to be in person. This is very important to note. You are here on an F-1 and that requires you to study FULL TIME. 

Can I travel to and from my country while I am studying?

The short answer is yes, but naturally, like everything else. It is a little more complicated. You are able to go back home to visit but then you do have to apply at the embassy for an interview to get your visa in your passport. This is quite frustrating as I have only heard of girls getting rejected. It is basically the whole process all over again. So my suggestion is to do your schooling and then go home or get your family to visit you if possible. It is not the ideal situation so you would have to weigh out the pros and cons of the entire situation, unfortunately.

Who is paying for your studies?

This is a conversation you need to have with whoever is sponsoring you. I am personally paying for my own studies as I do not want to have anything being held over my head. This obviously is very dependent on your sponsor and what you want.

How long should I apply before my visa ends?

Changing your visa can take from 2-12 months, sometimes longer to get, so you should apply for a change of status as soon as you are able to. I applied right as my second year started so I would have 12 months for my visa to be approved. I did get it in 3 months which is great but that is considered VERY quick so you have to take that into account.

Like I said in the beginning, I will be posting more of these as I get more questions as well as changing the answers if they change! If you have any further questions, please email me or send me a DM on Instagram!

Read more about how I changed my status here.

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So you wanna study in America? 

So you wanna study in America? 

The first thing you have to think about is can I afford it? Most schools across America average $10k or more for international students a year. This is not including books; gas; food etc. 

As an international student, you cannot work legally anywhere except at your school, but most schools will favor second-year students before the first years. 

The next thing you have to think about is a sponsor. Who is going to sponsor you and can they afford to. A lot of schools have a sponsored requirement. Generally, a sponsor has to have between $20-40k in the bank. It has to be “cash on hand” where they can draw it out if needed so like a savings account is good. 

You can also actually have more than 1 sponsor. A sponsor is needed for the actual schooling and then living aspect.

You want your host family to sponsor you. Okay, you need to sit down and have a conversation with them. Are they willing to sponsor you? Will they continue to pay you as normal or pay you more? Will they pay for your college or is that on you? What are the options? 

Personally, my host family will continue paying me the same amount and I have to pay for everything myself. That’s just a personal decision. I will help out as much as I can with a full workload. 

I’m still allowed to stay with them and do what I’m doing now. 

Once you have a sponsor, you need to apply for school. I will always recommend applying to a community college as they’re cheaper and more accessible. 

You need to apply as an international student and the school generally has a specific person who liaises with international students. They will mostly always advise you to get a lawyer to do this process but that’s up to you. 

Once you have been accepted, you need to think about the different options. Will you go home and apply for everything and then come back? Will you do a change of status and just stay in the country? If you go home and come back, you will have a visa in your passport and will be able to visit home more often. The downside of this is that you may get denied a visa. This is the downside to both options but apparently more people get denied in their home country. 

If you stay in-country and have a change of status, once you have submitted your documents, you CANNOT leave the country for ANY REASON! They will trash your visa application. If your visa gets approved you can’t go home. Most people who have had a change of status and then gone home, have been denied to come back to the states. You have to apply again for your visa while you’re visiting because you technically do not have a visa in your passport, just a piece of paper. 

If you change your status in the USA, please remember that you have to have 6-12 months left on your visa so that there’s enough time for the processing and government to make a decision. If you don’t have enough time on your visa, they can actually deny your change of status. 

Once you have decided that, you have to wait for the school to get your papers from the government, and then you can apply for your change of status if you’re in-country. This is what I’ve done so I can only talk about this.

Once the school got the relevant paperwork, you’re able to apply for your change of status. 

You have an online application that you have to submit. This is a very LONG application and it has to be perfect. 

Once you have that done, submit it, print it and pay the fee ($350 from what I remember) 

You then have to pay another fee (also $350 I think) and have that. It’s the sevis fee. 

You then have more paperwork you have to submit in an envelope to whatever address they give you, mine was Texas but other people submitted in other places. This includes an essay as to why you want to study in the USA and what you will be doing with your degree in SA. 

Once that is done, you mail it and wait. I got a letter saying I had to go for biometrics so that’s what I did. Then it’s the waiting game. 

If you change your status you need 6-12 months on your current visa as this is enough time to get the change of status. Sometimes they can deny you based on how much time you have left on your visa. So watch for that

I will do a follow up post on the paperwork needed and what I submitted, so look out for that.



Dealing with conflict with your host family


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