Change to F-1 student without ‘bridge the gap’ applications

New policy to help 136,000 Indian legal dreamers, children of H-1B workers

In a major relief to legal dreamers, children of H-1B workers, applicants for change of status to F-1 student visa no longer need to submit subsequent applications to ‘bridge the gap’.

Previously, children of non-immigrant visa holders on turning 21 had to either transit to an F-1 visa meant for international students, or deport back to their home country.

The new policy is expected to help some 136,000 children of Indian parents caught up in the employment-based green card backlog, running into several decades, as of April 2020, according to a study by Washington think tank CATO Institute.

A new policy guidance announced Tuesday by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) eliminates the need for applicants for change of status (COS) to F-1 student to apply to change or extend their nonimmigrant status while their initial F-1 COS application is pending.

Read: H-1B holders at wits’ end to get work visas stamped (July 14, 2021)

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.

To prevent a “gap” in status, USCIS said it “will grant the change of status to F-1 effective the day we approve an applicant’s Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.”

If the 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, it said.

The new policy will reduce workloads and costs for both the applicants and USCIS, the immigration agency said.
USCIS is in the process of revising the Form I-539 instructions to reflect these changes.

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