On July 20, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced new policy guidance that eliminates the need for individuals who have applied for a change of status (COS) to F-1 student status, to also apply to change or extend their underlying nonimmigrant status while their initial F-1 COS application is pending.
Under the previous policy, applicants needed to maintain status up to 30 days before the program start date listed on their Form I-20, Certificate for Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, which required them to file extensions, or an initial COS and subsequent extensions ensuring that they would not have a “gap” in status. For example, if you decide to change your status from a B to an F-1, or H-4 to F-1 from within the U.S., you must file a Form I-539 with USCIS and this can take many months (6-12 months) to be approved. In late 2016, USCIS clarified that your underlying status must still be valid at the time they make a decision on your request to change to F-1 status. Therefore, more often than not, applicants were required to apply for a change to F-1 status along with an extension or additional change of status to the B visa status. This resulted in additional legal and filing fees, as well as longer wait times for a decision.
As of July 20, 2021, to prevent a “gap” in status, USCIS will grant the change of status to F-1 effective the day USCIS approves an applicant’s Change of Status to F-1. If USCIS approves an application more than 30 days before the student’s program start date, the student must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time. An example of a violation would be engaging in employment, including on-campus employment, more than 30 days before the program start date as listed on their Form I-20.
If you have questions on the student visa and changing your status to a student status, please contact the attorneys at MMH.