Dependent Children Should Apply for Change of Status to F-1 Well Before “Aging Out”01 Apr 2019
Many nonimmigrant visa classifications allow children of the principal to apply for dependent status. For instance, an H1B worker’s dependents typically may be admitted in H-4 status, while the dependents of an F-1 student may request admission in F-2 status. Upon reaching the age of 21, however, dependent children are no longer eligible for this classification. This is commonly referred to as aging out, and creates an obstacle for children in dependent status who wish to pursue, or resume, studies at a U.S. university.
Concerns over the aging-out issue have increased now that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has instituted a bridging policy for moving to F-1 status, a matter further complicated by the lengthy adjudication timeframes for these case types. As such, it is recommended that children in dependent status who wish to remain in the United State as students file change-of-status (COS) applications well before reaching the age of 21.
How New USCIS Bridge Policy Affects Students in Dependent Status
As previously reported in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, USCIS Expands New Policy for Nonimmigrants Changing Status to F-1 (15.Mar.2018), a policy was instituted in 2017 that now requires any nonimmigrant applying for a COS to F-1 to maintain nonimmigrant status up to 30 days before the program start date. Due to backlogs within the USCIS, an application to change to F-1 status may remain pending for many months, so many F-1 COS applicants are being forced to also apply for B-2 status to cover the gap.
Avoid Need to Bridge Status by Filing F-1 COS Early
A COS application typically may be filed up to six months before the requested start date. Meanwhile, the USCIS oftentimes takes substantially longer than this to process F-1 COS applications. In order to avoid, or at least limit, the need to bridge, filing an F-1 COS application well before the dependent’s 21st birthday may be recommended. In fact, given that the USCIS sometimes takes more than a year to adjudicate these applications, it may make sense to apply before the child even turns 20 years of age.
It is unfortunate that the USCIS has instituted this arbitrary bridging policy. A simple solution would be for the USCIS to allow for F-1 COS applications to be filed using premium processing. But, there has been no indication that the agency has plans to allow this. For the time being, dependent children should consider applying for F-1 status well in advance to avoid the problems associated with the bridging policy.
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