Amajor difficulty for anyone with a B-1 or B-2 visa who wants to change their status to F-1 status is that – due to the length of time it takes for the USCIS to consider the change request, the SEVP institution which approved the course of study may “defer” that start date.

Applicants seeking to change their status to F-1 must have approved nonimmigrant status (such as B-1 or B-2 status) which extends to, at least, 30 days before the school’s start date and the F or M change request must be approved before that 30 day period.

An example

If for example, a student has received approval from the school to start school on September 1 of a school year/calendar year, the student’s current nonimmigrant visa must authorize his/her stay in the United States to August 2, of that calendar year.

If a student files for approval to change from B-1/B-2 to F-1 status on their current B-1/B-2 visa then they can begin their studies if:

  • Their current B-1/B-2 status is valid beyond August 2, of that calendar year – provided that:
    • The F-1 request is also approved before August 2
    • The start date is not deferred until the next term – for example, January 1 of the following year.
  • Their current B-1/B-2 status is not valid beyond August 2, of that calendar year. The student then files and is approved for an extension of their B-1/B-2 status to the August 2 date or a later date. This extension process is known as “bridging the gap.”
    • The F-1 request is also approved before August 2
    • The start date is not deferred until the next term – for example, January 1 of the following year.

Why delays in F-1 change request processing and changes in enrollment start dates create complex problems for nonimmigrant visa holders

Unfortunately, there is a major Catch-22 in the student enrollment process and a change to the F-1 status process. That Catch-22 is that the school may decide to “defer” the student’s enrollment date to the following term (such as the January 1 of the following year date). If the enrollment date is deferred, then the 30-day limit is deferred (in the case of the example to about December 2).

The deferment date means a student who didn’t need to bridge the gap – may now need to bridge the gap. This raises, at least, two complications:

1. The student may not learn of the deferral date in a timely manner. The Designated School Official (DSO) is often boxed in too. They rely on USCIS to make a timely decision. When approvals take 5 months or more, then the SEVP approved school is likely to defer the date. There is often a gap between the date the deferral postponement is made – and the date the student is notified he/she must file for a B-1 or B-2 extension.

2. The change request (from B-1 or B-2 to F) status may take months or even up to a year. The uncertainty of the decision date makes it extra difficult to know if the appliance needs to “bridge the gap” by requesting an extension.

Currently, experienced visa lawyers are arguing for some degree of fairness – where it is beyond the control of the student to file an extension request (due to a DSO deferral) in a timely manner.

Call Herman Legal Group at 1 (800) 808-4013 or complete our contact form to speak with us about what steps need to be taken to bridge the gap of your B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant visa while waiting for approval of your F or M nonimmigrant visa.

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