All's Well That Ends Well: Applicants for Change of Status to F-1 No Longer Required to Submit "bridge" Applications

by Rabindra Singh

After years of litigation, USCIS is now changing its tune by announcing today a new policy guidance that eliminates the need of filing “bridge applications” to extend/change nonimmigrant status for applicants who have timely filed a change of status (COS) application requesting student (F-1) status while the initially filed F-1 COS application is pending adjudication. 

I was correct in calling out USCIS and litigating improper denials of B-2 to F-1 COS applications.

I litigated this issue multiple times [Jaradat v. McAleenan et al, 1:19-cv-05320; Khowaja v. Kelly et al., 1:17-cv-03603] in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 

For years, USCIS denied such COS applications solely on the ground that the applicant failed to file bridge extension application(s) after timely filing a COS application requesting student (F-1) status.

On each complaint, I argued that the Special Instruction was not just Instructions but a legislative substantive rule that was made effective without following the Administrative Procedure Act (APA)’s notice-and-comment process. As such, the Special Instruction should be set aside.

During the course of each litigation, USCIS never contended that the Special Instructions were not a legislative, substantive rule. Though each time USCIS fought hard, each time it settled by offering the relief requested in the complaint. 

I recall writing an Article titled USCIS Is Improperly Denying Visa Change Applicationspublished by Law360, in which I discussed the improper B-2 to F-1 denials at-length. 

My Article concluded by stating the following: 

“The deliberate decision by USCIS not to confront the core issue raised by the complaint in Jaradat v. Mcaleenan — whether or not the special instruction is a legislative, substantive rule— confirms that the April 2017 special instruction is not a special instruction but a substantive, legislative rule that was implemented without following the required APA’s notice-and-comment process.

USCIS, on its own, should set aside this legislative, substantive rule labelled as a special instruction otherwise it will continue to breed litigation in the future…”

Eventually, after waste of so much of applicants and tax payers resource, USCIS listened and changed its course.

All’s well that ends well!

About The Author

Rabindra Singh

Selected by Super Lawyers as a “Rising Star”, Rabindra (Rabi) Singh is the Founding Partner of HSD Immigration, LLC.

From individuals to startups to multinational corporations, Rabi has advised clients in a variety of industries, with a focus on the information technology and financial services industries. His work focuses on complex employment- and family-based immigration matters.

Because of his excellent client service, Rabi has received multiple AVVO’s Clients’ Choice Awards. He also holds AVVO’s Highest Rating (10.0).

Rabi’s areas of expertise include, but are not limited to, various employment-based green cards; investment-based visas; a range of nonimmigrant visa petitions such as H-1B, L-1, TN, O, P, U, etc.; waiver applications; humanitarian reinstatement applications; affirmative and defensive asylum applications; family- and marriage-based green cards; CSPA and DHS TRIP matters; motion to reopen/reconsider; and AAO and BIA appeals.

He regularly obtains favorable immigration benefits by filing Federal Court Complaints against DHS/USCIS challenging their arbitrary and capricious decisions. Rabi’s practice also focuses in the area of worksite enforcement and compliance which involves advising corporate clients on DOL/WHD audits and I-9 investigations.

An avid writer, Rabi frequently writes for both print and electronic media. He authored a Book Chapter Article for ILW’s PERM Book (2017-2018 Edition, Editor: Joel Stewart). His articles have featured in the prestigious New Jersey Law Journal and Law360. In addition, he is a frequent contributor to ILW.COM.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.