I have received my F1 visa already in Chile, but I would like to travel in the US for a couple months before the start of my program. My F1 visa only allows me to enter the US 30 days prior to my program start date, but as a citizen of Chile I am eligible to travel under the ESTA/Visa Waiver Program for 90 days. My question is if I can activate my F1 visa while in the US or if I must travel back to Chile and then back to
There is a near duplicate here. The main takeaways:
Can I activate my F1 visa while in the US?
No. Change of status under VWP is not permitted.
Must I travel back to Chile and then back to the US?
You do not have to return to Chile but you must leave the US. Technically you must go further than Canada, Mexico or nearby Caribbean Islands but the second part is not consistently enforced.