Today USCIS announced that it has updated its policy guidance regarding applications for change of status (COS) to F-1 classification and eliminating the need for individuals to apply to change or extend their nonimmigrant status while their initial F-1 COS application is pending. Previously, 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 often required them to file extensions, or an initial COS and subsequent extensions ensuring that they would not have a “gap” in status. It was often the case that applicants would have to file multiple “bridge” petitions to bridge the gap in status prior to 30 days before the program’s start date.
USCIS will no longer require applications to submit subsequent applications for extension or change of nonimmigrant status while the COS to F-1 application is pending with USCIS, provided that the applicant’s nonimmigrant status is unexpired at the time of filing the initial COS to F-1 application, and the applicant otherwise remains eligible for a COS.
Under the new policy guidance, USCIS will now grant the change of status to F-1 effective the day USCIS makes a final decision on the COS application. If the approval is more than 30 days before the program start date, the student must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time, such as engaging in employment more than 30 days before the program start date as listed on the Form I-20.
USCIS has stated that “[t]he new policy will reduce workloads and costs for both the applicants and USCIS. USCIS is in the process of revising the Form I-539 instructions to reflect these changes.”
To read the updated policy guidance, please click here: https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual/volume-2-part-f-chapter-8.