Change your Education Level as an F-1 student

If you are a current UW-Madison student in valid F-1 status and you have been admitted to a new educational program at UW-Madison, you need to complete a change of education level form.

  1. Check your eligibility:
    • You must be in valid F-1 status at UW-Madison
    • You must be formally admitted to a new program of study at UW-Madison
    • You must request the change of education level within 60 days of the following:
      • Current students: completing your current program
      • OPT/STEM students: the expiration of your EAD card
    • Your new program of study must start within 5 months of the following:
      • Current students: completing your current program
      • OPT/STEM students: the expiration of your EAD card
  2. Apply for Change of Education Level in Terra Dotta:
  3. ISS will create your Change of Education Level I-20 once you have completed your current program of study

Travel:

  • You can travel internationally during the change of education level process.
  • You must have your I-20 for the new program when you re-enter the United States.
  • You can return to the United States once you have your I-20 for your new program. You do not need to wait until 30 days before the program start date.

Visa:

  • If your F-1 visa is valid, you can use it to re-enter the United States. You do not need to apply for a new visa when you change education levels.

Staying in the US:

  • If you complete the change of education level process within the required time frame, you are allowed to stay in the United States during the summer. You do not need to depart the U.S.

Work eligibility:

  • Your off-campus work eligibility (CPT) at your current degree level ends on the date that your change of education level occurs.
  • Continuing students: Per F-1 rules, you are eligible to work on campus once you have your new I-20 because you are considered a continuing student.
  • OPT/STEM extension students: You are eligible to work on OPT/STEM until the expiration date of your EAD card or the date your change of education level is processed, whichever is sooner.
  • After you change education levels, show your new I-20 to your on-campus employer to update your employment records.

When can I schedule my change of education level?

  • You can schedule your change of education level in advance.
  • The change of education level must happen during your 60-day grace period, after you complete your current education level.

When will my I-20 be ready?

Your I-20 can be prepared once all these conditions are met:

  • You have submitted a complete change of education level form and
  • Your new program appears in the university database and
  • Your current program has ended

Please allow for normal ISS processing times.

How much funding do I need to show?

Please use the Estimated expenses in Terra Dotta to calculate your funding needs.

What are the benefits of changing my education level?

  • You do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again.
  • You can stay in the U.S. or travel internationally during the change of education level process.
  • You can return to the U.S. more than 30 days before your program starts. Check the information on your new I-20; it should have a new start date, list your new program and say “continued attendance.” You will need a travel signature in order to return.
  • You may be eligible to apply for off-campus employment benefits such as CPT earlier.

Can I stay in the United States during the summer?

Yes. If you have maintained your F-1 status and have been approved for the change of education level, you can stay in the U.S.

Am I required to go to International Student Orientation (ISO) again?

If you were a VISP student and are joining a degree program, we recommend you attend ISO for your graduate program to learn more about off-campus employment benefits available to degree-seeking F-1 students.

Students with “continued attendance” I-20s are not required to complete ISS check-in or attend ISO again.

Is this all I need to do to change my education level?

This information pertains to your immigration status only. Please follow your new program’s instructions to meet any academic requirements as necessary.