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Applicants for Change of Status to F-1 Student No Longer Need to Submit Subsequent Applications to ‘Bridge the Gap’

By Thomas Lee

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on July 20, 2021, a new policy guidance that eliminates the need for individuals who have applied for a 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.


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 will grant the change of status to F-1 effective the day they approve an applicant’s Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. 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.


The 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.


For more information, see the policy alert (PDF, 318.8 KB) and the Changing to a Nonimmigrant F or M Student Status page.


Please note that the information provided on this website is for general information purposes only and is not to be construed nor relied upon as legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. For a free consultation with Attorney Thomas M. Lee, please contact us.