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I have a PhD place at a US university starting Aug 21 but want to visit a different university for casual research for 6 weeks from July 1. This is longer than the 30 day grace period for the F1. Can I arrive on the visa waiver program or tourist visa in July and then just stay on for the PhD? I guess I might need to change status. Will this work?

Please don’t suggest exiting and reentering, that’s too expensive.

(British masters student in UK)

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It's not possible to do Change of Status from the Visa Waiver Program.

It's possible to do Change of Status from B2 visitor status to F1, but the application takes about 5 months to process these days, and you cannot start studying until the Change of Status is approved. So this is probably not going to work for you either.

Exiting and re-entering is the best option for you. If you already have an F1 visa, you can exit your VWP status to Canada or Mexico and immediately re-enter with your F1 visa.

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