This week, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a policy update that is intended to lessen the burden on those hoping to complete a change of status (COS) and enroll as international students.
The new policy states that nonimmigrants do not need to file status extensions while waiting for their approved F-1 visa (also known as a student visa) to take effect. The change will save many people time, effort, and filing costs.
What’s different about the new policy?
In the past, international students could not be in the country more than 30 days ahead of their academic program’s start date.
However, it often took USCIS more than 30 days to approve an F-1 visa request. Therefore, individuals who were already in the country often found their former status expiring while their student visa was still pending. It was difficult to get the timing correct.
In order to remain in the country legally and “bridge the gap,” aspiring students needed to file continuous extensions on their nonimmigrant status until their F-1 visa was approved and they were within 30 days of their program start date.
For the most part, this meant filling out repetitive paperwork simply to acknowledge a pending decision from USCIS. This also occurred when individuals started their planning early, in order to give the government plenty of time to handle their request.
The former system was a burden to individuals. Plus, the government then had extra copies of the same paperwork to process, which further slowed down their own systems. This change should make the process easier for both aspiring students and the government officials assisting them in pursuit of those goals.
When did the new policy go into effect?
USCIS announced its new policy on July 20, 2021. The change went into effect immediately, meaning that individuals no longer need to fill out nonimmigrant extension paperwork simply to “bridge the gap” between the time their change of status is approved and the time their academic program begins.
If there is a gap period, international students must simply avoid any illegal activities for their new status. For example, they must not seek employment or undergo an on-campus practicum until they are within 30 days of their program start date.
Why is this helpful if you’re seeking a credential evaluation from WES?
This update can help our applicants make decisions about their filing deadlines and academic pursuits.
For example, if you would like to pursue higher education in the United States, you might need a credential evaluation to showcase the value of your previously earned international credentials.
A WES credential evaluation allows admissions officers to quickly verify your diplomas, degrees, and transcripts by analyzing their exact equivalency in the U.S.
First, you will need to know your prospective program’s start date, enrollment deadlines, and application deadlines. Then you’ll want to give yourself enough time to apply to for a credential evaluation from WES, review your Required Documents, request those documents from your former institution, and allow our experts to send your recipients a copy of your official, completed report.
Our processing time, once we have received all of your required documents and your payment in full, averages approximately seven business days.
What is the main takeaway from this policy update?
Because you no longer need to worry about the extra hassle of filing “bridge the gap” extensions, you can:
- Get your credential evaluation from WES
- Apply for your program of study in the United States
- File your I-539 to request a nonimmigrant change of status to F-1
- Wait for approval from USCIS
No redundant paperwork will be required; you will be on your way to pursuing a higher education from a college or university in the U.S.