Children holding a dependent visa status can maintain the dependent status up until the age of 21, as long as the Primary visa holder also maintains all terms of the Primary visa. If the dependent child is approaching the 21stbirthday, s/he may request a change of status to F-1 student. The applicant must request the change of status prior to the 21st birthday. We recommend applying for the change of status at least 8 to 10 months prior to the 21st birthday, preferably prior to the semester in which the applicant will become 21. The application will take several months to process once it arrives at USCIS.
The Form I-20 will be issued with a start date according to the next available semester. If the application is approved in time for the start of the semester, the applicant will then be required to enroll as a full time student in that first semester. All F-1 students must register full time each fall and spring semester thereafter. Although the summer is considered the annual vacation period at UF, if an applicant is approved for F-1 status beginning in a summer semester, the applicant must register full-time during that first summer. But enrollment in future summer semesters is optional unless required by the academic program.
If the dependent child fails to apply for a change of status prior to the 21st birthday, a change of status inside of the U.S. will no longer be possible. The applicant would need to prepare to change status by applying for the student visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.