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New Policy Guidance for F-1 Change of Status Petition

On July 20, 2021, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued new policy guidance in the policy manual to eliminate subsequent filings on F-1 change of status petitions. This will be a big relaxation for beneficiaries who are seeking a change of status to F-1 student status.

Who is Eligible for Change of Status to F-1?

  • You were lawfully admitted to the United States in a nonimmigrant status.
  • Your nonimmigrant status remains valid when you file a change of status petition.
  • You have not violated the conditions of your status.
  • You have not committed any crimes or engaged in any other actions that would make you ineligible for a change of status.

Previous Policy on Change of Status to F-1

As per the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a nonimmigrant can request a change of status to another nonimmigrant status. If you are in the United States in valid nonimmigrant status for a purpose other than to attend school and wish to change your nonimmigrant status to a student status while remaining in the United States, you can request a change of status by filing of a Form I-539, Application to Extend/ Change Nonimmigrant Status. When you are seeking a change of status to F-1, USCIS will verify whether you are maintaining your status until 30 days before the program start date listed on their Form I-20, Certificate for Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Therefore, you will be in the situation to file extensions, or an initial change of status and subsequent extensions, ensuring that there would not be a “gap” in status.

New Policy Benefit:

As per new policy guidance, those who are seeking a change of status to F-1 are no longer required to submit subsequent applications for extension or change of nonimmigrant status while the change of status application to F-1 status is pending with USCIS.

When filing the change of status to F-1, applicants must make sure the nonimmigrant status is unexpired at the time of filing the initial change of status application, and the applicant is otherwise eligible for a change of status.

How to Prevent a Gap in Status?

According to new policy guidance, USCIS decided that it will grant the change of status to F-1 effective on the day the change of status is approved. Therefore, you are no longer required to provide proof that you are “bridging the gap.”

Key Points Related to the New Policy:

  • The new policy eliminates the need to file multiple petitions while the initial change of status petition is pending.
  • Petition requests will be granted effective on the day the change of status is approved.
  • If an application is approved more than 30 days prior to the program start date, nonimmigrants must ensure that they do not violate their F-1 status during that time.
  • Please note, engaging in unauthorized employment, including on-campus employment and practical training more than 30 days prior to the start of classes will be considered a violation of F-1 status.
  • F-1 students who violate the terms of their status begin to accrue unlawful presence on the day after USCIS or an immigration judge determines that they have violated their nonimmigrant status.
  • If a change of status petition is not yet approved before the program start date mentioned on the form I-20, the applicant must request that their Designated School Official (DSO) postpone the program start date in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) before the current program start date has been reached.
  • Applicants can expect the new revised Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539) to reflect these changes.

Documents needed for filing change of status to F1 student status:

  • Receive acceptance from a U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
  • Obtain an initial Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status
  • Copy of SEVIS fee receipt
  • Most recent I-94 copy
  • Passport biographic page
  • All visa stamped pages
  • Copy of approval notices
  • Explanation letter about change of status to F-1
  • Proof of funds
  • If you are on a dependent visa, you will need to provide spouse documents such as pay stubs, approval notices, I-94, passport copy and employment letter

Where to file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status:

USCIS Dallas Lockbox Facility

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):USCIS
PO Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266
FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:USCIS
Attn: I-539
2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067   

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