No more B-2 bridge gap for F-1 students

Recent changes have gone into effect to streamline the F-1 student visa gap period. On July 20, 2021 US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new policy concerning Change of Status (COS) to the Nonimmigrant Student (F-1). 


The previous process went like this:


  • Maintenance of another nonimmigrant visa status operated as a “bridge” to fill the gap to keep the applicant in status for the time needed to get the form I-539 COS to F-1 approved. 
  • Since it was taking longer than one year to adjudicate the COS I-539, applicants had to submit multiple I-539 forms to request B-2 status extensions in six-month increments to fill the status gap. 
  • Combined with the backlog of immigration cases and paperwork due to COVID-19 delays, this process proved to be extraneous and in need of improvement.


Under the new regulation, an applicant must still be in valid nonimmigrant status at the time the I-539 application for COS is filed with USCIS, but the process itself has been refined for a more effective process. 


The current process looks like this:


USCIS will grant F-1 status effective the date the application is approved. 

  • If approved more than 30 days before the program start date, the applicant must ensure USCIS that they will not violate their 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.


As a note to remember in regards to the new process: during the time needed to process the request to change status to F-1, the applicant needs to possess a valid and updated Form I-20.  The new process is designed to be more timely, however, timelines can still vary. So, pay attention to the period of validity of the Form I-20 to renew it, if necessary. 


If you are in need of an international student visa attorney, contact our team at Loigica for a complimentary consultation.