A "Bridge Visa" is a type of visa that allows a noncitizen to remain "in country" while the non-citizen seeks to change from one type of visa to another type. Bridge visas are somewhat common in other parts of the world. The most common scenario is when someone is in a tourist status, such as B1/B2 and seeks to change their status to a student status (F-1).
In the U.S., bridge visas do not exist officially. However, within the context of a person entering the country on a B-1 visa (temporary business visitor) or B-2 visa (temporary personal/non-business visitor) or other visa who then wants to attend an academic school (on a F-1 visa) or a vocational school (on an M-1 visa), over the last few years, there have been efforts aimed at creating "quasi-bridge visas." The reason is that, previously, F-1/M-1 visas only provided lawful residency status beginning 30 days prior to the start of the academic or vocational program.
Thus, as a hypothetical, imagine that a noncitizen enters the US on a B-2 visa on January 1st. A typical B-2 visa expires at the 180 day mark -- June 30th. Let's also say that the non-citizen applied for a "Change of Status” to an F-1 visa, which was granted, but that the academic program does not begin until August 15th. In our hypothetical, the non-citizen has a six-week "gap" in their visa residency status from July 1st to August 15th. Under previous procedures, the non-citizen would apply for one or more extensions of their Change of Status application to "cover the gap." This method created a type of unofficial "bridge visa."
However, the rules were recently changed. See here. Now, upon approval of a F-1/M-1 visa application (or a Change of Status application to a F-1/M-1), the visa is "good" for lawful residency from the date of approval until 60 days after the completion of the academic/vocational program. It is no longer necessary for non-citizens to attempt to "bridge the gap" when trying to convert to F-1/M-1 status.
Be Sure Not to Violate Your F-1/M-1 Visa Status
The practical effect of this change is to allow noncitizens to be lawfully "in-country" for longer than 30 days prior to the start of the academic/vocational program. Caution is required, however, so that the visa holder does not violate the F-1/M-1 visa requirements. The recent change ONLY affects the residency status and DOES NOT affect other requirements of the F-1/M-1 visas. Thus, as the US Citizenship & Immigration Services states (emphasis added):
"If we approve an application more than 30 days before the student’s program start date, the student must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time. An example of a violation would be engaging in employment, including on-campus employment, more than 30 days before the program start date as listed on their Form I-20."
Violations can result in the F-1/M-1 visa being revoked.
Contact Yekrangi & Associates Today
For more information, contact the Orange County Immigration Attorneys at Yekrangi & Associates today. You are not alone and we will fight for you. Yekrangi & Associates works to meet a higher standard. Our first goal is your satisfaction. Contact us at (949) 478-4963 to schedule a consultation or complete our convenient “Get Your Consultation” form here. We are located in Irvine, California.