F-1 Visa Updates Favor Foreign Students and Eliminate The Need For Extensions
By: Rachel Horner
The DHS officially rescinded a proposed rule from the Trump Administration which aimed to eliminate the duration of status for those on F-1 and J-1 visas (namely international students and journalists).
The duration of status allowed foreign nationals under said visas to enter the country for a set period of time, ranging from a few weeks to years (depending on the length of the program); however, under the proposal, the maximum time allotted to stay would be either two or four years, depending on the country. This would have proven detrimental for many scholars whose academic programs are time-sensitive or go beyond the maximum two to four years.
DHS reported they received over 32,000 comments on the controversies and pitfalls of the proposal. For one, instead of determining the length of the program at the time of their application interview with a consular officer, applicants would find out the length of their program after a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer’s evaluation, and received confirmation afterwards from the DHS on the approved program length. The determination itself would be based on the visa overstay rate of the application’s country, as well as if the applicant’s citizenship is on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. What’s more, in addition to now dealing with time-sensitive programs under inflexible deadlines, those whose programs changed timelines (common for academic programs) or lasted over their set date would have to apply for US visa extensions, which are costly and not guaranteed.
After the elimination of the proposed rule, even more welcome news came in the following week. USCIS announced that those on F-1 visas do not need to submit multiple applications to extend their non-immigrant status. Originally, F-1 applicants had to maintain their status 30 days before the start of their program. However, with increasing backlogs, those looking to change to an F-1 visa had to file possibly multiple extensions (a B-2 or “bridge application”) in the meantime to ensure they maintained status in order to avoid the waiting period for the approval of an F-1 visa, which could last over a year. Under the new rule, USCIS will grant an F-1 visa status on the day the application is approved, eliminating the need for extensions which ensure there is no “gap” in immigration status.
The elimination of the extension will also mitigate the issue of dependents on H-1B visas who are “aging out.” Previously, once a dependent turned 21, they would no longer be able to claim dependency and would need to file for a change of status to an F-1 visa to continue their studies in the United States. With the elimination of the need for B-2 status to cover the gap as they undergo this change, they will no longer need to worry about the lengthy extension fees and timeline previously required for an F-1 visa.