The short answer is that the best step is to contact an experienced visa lawyer. Bridging the gap in status from B-1/B-2 status to F-1/M-1 status is very complex – and apt to be very frustrating. Skilled lawyers can explain your rights, the probable time frame, and the practical issues for meeting the gap requirements.
The first date to consider is whether your nonimmigrant status will “expire more than 30 days before your F-1 or M-1 program start date.” If you want to stay in America (as opposed to leaving and applying for F-1/M-1 status from abroad), you do need to “find a way to obtain status all the way up to the date that is 30 days before your program start date (“bridge the gap”).”
Generally, if you want to change your status from B-1/B-2 (or another nonimmigrant status) to F-1/M-2, you must file a Form I-539 request to either:
- Extend your current status
- Change your status to another nonimmigrant status
This Form I-539 is in addition to the original I-539 request to change your status to F-1/M-1.
If you don’t file the second I-539 form, your first I-539 form will be denied.
You’ll need to continually check “the USCIS processing times while your Form I-539 change of status request is pending to determine if you need to file a request to extend or change your nonimmigrant status.”
Foreigners seeking to study in the US through an F-1 or M-1 visa should also understand that their “program start date may be deferred to the following academic term or semester because USCIS did not make a decision on your Form I-539 change of status application – before your originally intended F-1 or M-1 program start date.”
In some cases, applicants may need to file multiple bridges the gap requests. In addition, these potential students need to understand that there are separate filing fees for each form they file.
Call Herman Legal Group at 1 (800) 808-4013 or fill out our contact form to talk with us about any questions you have regarding changing your B-1 or B-2 status to F-1 or M-1 status.