Applicants on nonimmigrant status such as B-2 (visitor visas for tourism, pleasure or visiting purposes) sometimes apply for change of status to F-1 (student visa) during their stay in the United States. But the recent trend in such change of status has seen high rate of denials by the USCIS. Even though Form I-539 was timely filed before the expiration of the applicant’s underlying nonimmigrant status, there is a delay in final adjudication of the petitions. In these cases, the deferred start date does not align with the end of B-2 status or the date the USCIS adjudicate the application to change of status. It also triggers the school’s DSO to defer the program start date in SEVIS.

USCIS agrees to the above trend in denials and for reference, cites 8 CFR S248.1(b), S214.2(f) (5)(i) and the instructions to the Form I-539, which together state as follows:

“A change of status may be granted for a period up to 30 days before the report date or start date of the course of study listed on Form I-20. You must maintain your current, or other, nonimmigrant status up to 30 days before the report date or start date of the course of study listed on Form I-20 or your requested change of status may not be granted”.

USCIS comments that to remain eligible for a change of status to F-1 status, the individual must file an application to extend his current nonimmigrant status to bridge the gap in time between the current nonimmigrant status expiration date and the 30-day period before the new F-1 program start date. Although there is no regulation to deny change of status applications without a bridge petition but are reported to be denied on grounds of being “unnecessary” or is pending, while the change of status application gets denied. This reflects USCIS’s inability to process the applications in a timely manner.

We will keep our readers updated with the course of direction USCIS adopts in the change of status in the above situations.