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Change of StatusBecome an International Student at COA

How to Get An F-1 Status

Last updated June 6, 2018

Thank you for your interest in College of The Albemarle (COA). We have over 100 international students on our campuses representing 28 different countries.

Many of our students came to the U.S. on a J or B visa type and decided they wanted to stay in the U.S. to study. Due to recent changes in U.S. Custom and Immigration Services (USCIS) guidance nonimmigrant visa holders must be able to maintain their current visa status in order to apply for a change of status. If a student is unable to maintain or extend their current visa status, it’s highly recommended a student return to their home country to seek an F-1 Visa. Students interested in changing their status in the U.S. should consult a licensed immigration attorney about the newest complexities in U.S. immigration law. A student’s ability to take classes while seeking a change in status is dependent on what is permitted by their current immigration status. Before we can assist you in completing the necessary U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) forms, you must complete the steps below and gather the necessary documents.

Enrollment Steps

  1. Apply to COA You must first complete an online application to COA
  2. COA Connect Session: To proceed you must attend an online COA Connect session
  3. Placement Test: Take and earn a score of “117” or higher
    • You must place into Developmental Reading and English (DRE) 097 or higher to qualify for an I-20
  4. Documents: Prior to meeting with a COA Designated School Official (DSO) you must have all the documents listed below
    • You must bring the required documents with you when completing a change of status application
  5. Financial Information: Once you have the necessary financial documentation, please email one of our COA international student contacts; once your documents have been verified, you may proceed to step six
    • Be sure to include bank information and a detailed sponsor letter
    • U.S. businesses may not serve as Visa sponsors
  6. Complete I-539: You need to come to your appointment with a completed Form I-539
    • You may complete the form online; however, you cannot submit the form online but instead should bring a completed form with you
  7. Set Appointment: Once your financial documents have been verified, you can make an appointment with a COA DSO to complete the change of status application
    • Appointments last approximately 1.5 hours

Registration Deadlines for Change of Status Students

Status Completion Date Session Semester
Completed application May 2 – Aug. 10 start 16-week session fall
Completed application Aug. 11 – Oct. 17 start second eight-week session spring
Completed application Oct. 18 – Dec. 15 start first 16-week session spring

Checklist for F-1 Visa Documentation

Copy of student’s passport: Student’s passport must be valid for six months beyond the change of status date. Students with passports that expire within that period are encourage to apply for an F-1 Visa from their home country.

Copy of student’s valid visa: Students should apply while they still have a valid J-1 or B Visa. Students must be able to maintain a status while their application is being processed. Current process times are 12 to 15 months. Students who are unable to maintain a valid status should return home to request an F-1 Visa.

Copy of I-94 card: Visit the Department of Homeland Security for details.

Copy of DS-2019 (from the student’s J-1 Visa)

Letter from the student’s sponsor that states they’re “willing to help the student financially” for their entire length of studies. See our sample letter. If student is self-sponsoring, he/she should write a letter indicating this. U.S. businesses cannot serve as visa sponsors as it may give the impression that the student would work for that business while an F-1 student.

Three most recent consecutive months of bank statements on official bank stationery showing that the sponsor has an ending balance of $17,000 for each of the three months. If the documentation is from a bank overseas, the money must be officially converted to the U.S. dollar and the information must be translated to English.

High School transcripts in the student’s native language and officially translated to English. If the student has attended university those transcripts are also required. We must have proof that the student has graduated from high school and must have a transcript of the classes taken at university.

A letter stating why the student wants to study in the U.S., how it’ll benefit the student when he/she returns home and why studying in the U.S. is preferred over returning home.

Check or money order for $370 made payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security to cover change of status request fee. No cash can be accepted.

MasterCard™ or Visa™ credit or debit card to make a $200 online payment to be added to Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) — an immigration tracking system — a 901 fee receipt will be given to student to show payment (no other form of payment accepted).

Sample Sponsor Letter for F-1 Visa Applicants

[Date]

Dear [Immigration Official]:

This letter verifies that I will sponsor [name of student] while he/she studies at the College of the Albemarle for their entire length of studies. [How you know this student and why you want to sponsor them.]

Attached please find my most recent bank statements (last three consecutive months), which show that I have in excess of $17,000 in my bank account. These funds will be replenished and I will continually forward money to the students account for all living needs, including tuition, food, clothing, rent, transportation, books and all other living expenses.

Sincerely,

[Sponsor’s handwritten signature and typewritten name]

Transcript Translations and Transferring Credits

COA requires your high school and university transcripts in your native language as well as an English translation of each.

The transcripts are used for admitting you to COA, and for that purpose, we’ll accept your own English translation of your high school documents. Your university transcript should be translated to English by an official translation service. We recommend you use translation services in your home country as they generally are quicker and more time efficient.

If you would like for the courses you’ve taken in your country to be considered for transfer credit to our school, then you must hire an agency to translate and evaluate your transcripts.

These translations and evaluations must be received by COA directly from the evaluating agency at the following address:

College of The Albemarle
Attention: Registrar
PO Box 2327
Elizabeth City, NC 27906-2327

Translation and Evaluation Service Providers

View a list of credential evaluation agencies that perform these evaluations. Not all of these agencies provide both translation and evaluation services, and those that do provide both price the services separately. Evaluation services alone will typically cost $70 to $150 or more, depending on the type of evaluation requested. If you don’t want to transfer any of your previous college credit to COA, a simple translation is all that is needed.

Tips for Writing a Change of Status Letter

When writing your change of status letter, we recommend you share the reasons why you would like to study and attend a college/university in the U.S. We also recommend you note how studying in the U.S. will help you gain employment when you return home. Since an F-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa, USCIS officials will want to know of your plans to return home and how this educational opportunity will assist you when you return home. If you’ve attended university or college in your home country, you’ll want to let officials at USCIS know how it benefits you to study in the U.S. versus continuing your studies in your home country. Often times USCIS asks students to provide additional documentation to support their desire to become an F-1 student. Students with multiple J-1 jobs will need to provide proof that their additional jobs were approved by their sponsor.

Registration Deadlines

In certain situations, students seeking a status change can begin classes while they await adjudication from USCIS. Please refer to the chart below to determine class registration deadlines. B-1/B-2 students may not start classes while they await USCIS adjudication.

Change of Status Date Starting Semester Registration Time Period
Dec. 16 – May 1 summer April – May
May 2 – Aug. 10 fall April – August
Aug. 11 – Oct. 17 fall: late start November – January
Oct. 18 – Feb. 15 spring November – January

Change of Status Vs. an F-1 Visa

Individuals seeking to become students at an Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) authorized college or university such as COA can become F-1 students in two different ways:

Change of Status

Students can apply for a change of status from their current status to an F-1 (student status). These students apply to USCIS while their current visa is still valid and must be able to maintain their current status while seeking a new status. A student’s ability to take classes depends on their current status.

  • Takes roughly 12 to 15 or more months to learn if your status change has been approved
  • Students cannot get a U.S. driver’s license while awaiting a change of status adjudication
  • Change of status doesn’t grant students multiple entry to the U.S., meaning once a student leaves the U.S. they aren’t able to return without first getting a valid F-1 Visa
  • Having an approved F-1 status doesn’t guarantee a student will get approval for an F-1 Visa (if the student returns home)
  • If a student decides to leave the U.S. while awaiting a change of status their application is considered abandoned and will be denied

F-1 Visa

Students are able to apply for an F-1 Visa from their home country. Students seeking to apply for an F-1 Visa from home will need to apply to COA, take the placement tests and submit an I-20 application. Students are encouraged to apply for their I-20 while in the U.S.

  • F-1 students will need an I-20 that requires documentation
  • F-1 Visas allow for multiple entries to the U.S. meaning students can return home during holidays and breaks
  • Students can either take the North Carolina Diagnostic Assessment and Placement (NCDAP) test at COA or can take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) from their home country
  • Students with F-1 Visas are allowed to enter the U.S. 30 days before the start of their program

COA International Student Contacts

  • Cross, Katie

  • Coordinator, International Student Services and Academic Advisor

  • Dare County Campus: 104

  • 252-473-2264 ext. 7011

  • Boyce, Cherrie

  • Academic Advisor

  • Elizabeth City Campus: AE 133

  • 252-335-0821 ext. 2281