United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have announced changes to F1 student visa rules. The new rules mean that international students will no longer have to submit multiple applications to extend their non-immigrant status. The announcement is also expected to benefit H1B visa holders and their children in the future.
Under previous rules, F1 student visa applicants were required to obtain their visa up to 30 days prior to the start of their course, and they had to apply for numerous extensions to ensure that there was no gap in their US immigration status. However, USCIS will now grant F1 visa status upon an applicant’s date of approval.
The new rule will also help the children of H1B visa holders who are often ‘aged out’. However, while changes to the rules have been welcomed, US immigration advocates have called for per-country visa limits to be scrapped and to make more visas available.
According to US officials, the policy has been changed to help reduce the cost to applicants and the federal government. The key change is that applicants will no longer have to submit subsequent applications for a visa extension of change of immigration status while their COS application for F1 status is pending USCIS approval.
However, F1 visa applicants are reminded that they should not violate the conditions of their visa on any given day if the application for change of status is approved before 30 days or more from the start of their course.
Any unauthorized employment during this timeframe would be classed as a violation of F1 status.
Prevent gap in status
A memo issued by USCIS stated: “To prevent a gap in status, USCIS will grant the change of status to F1 effective from the date of an applicant’s Form I-539 – this form is the one used to apply to extend or change nonimmigrant status.”
News of the changes to the F1 visa rules come after the Biden administration recently scrapped student visa restrictions proposed by the former Trump administration. The proposed restrictions would have seen student visa validity periods reduced.
According to a statement published by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), they received more than 30,000 public comments about the restrictions, 99% of which were strongly opposed to them.
The DHS said that ‘it was concerned that the proposed legislation would unnecessarily impede access to US immigration benefits’.
Apply for US visa extensions
“If Trump’s proposals had gone through, students and journalists would have been forced to apply for US visa extensions with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or leave the country and apply to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for re-entry,” the DHS said.
A report published by Inside Higher Education said: “Higher education groups were alarmed by the plan to change the policy, which, they argued, would create uncertainty and confusion for students who would have to navigate a burdensome and costly new reapplication process in order to continue their studies in the US.”
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