The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced policy guidance that eliminates the need for applicants for Change of Status (COS) to F-1 student from submitting subsequent applications to ‘bridge the gap’. The individuals no longer need to apply to change or extend their nonimmigrant status while their initial F-1 COS application is pending.
The update has been issued in USCIS Policy Manual, the agency’s repository for immigration policies. Here’s the update in a nutshell.
As per the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), certain nonimmigrants have the opportunity to request a change to a different nonimmigrant classification for which they qualify. USCIS has been granting applications to change to F-1 status that fall within 30 days of the program start date listed on the applicant’s Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (Form I-20).
It is envisaged that the policy update will result in a reduction in costs and workloads to applicants and the government. To qualify for the provision, the applicant’s nonimmigrant status should be unexpired at the time of filing the initial COS application and the applicant needs to be eligible for a COS.
If an application is approved more than 30 days prior to the program start date, these nonimmigrants need to make sure that they do not violate their F-1 status during that period. Engaging in unauthorized employment, including on-campus employment and practical training, more than 30 days before the start of classes is counted as a violation. Refer to the CFR for further details.
The table below provides a summary of the update.
The update will replace the current policy and streamline the procedures. USCIS is in the process of modifying the Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539) to incorporate these changes. Immigration experts believe that the change will be a boon for legal dreamers, and children of H-1B employees, who were required to either transit to an F-1 visa meant for international students, or deport back to their home country.