J/F/M 签证在 Grace Period 内是否可以转换身份?

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我之前的文章解释过,B1/B2 签证一旦 I-94 过期,身份立刻失效,这时哪怕你有 pending case、可以合法在美国停留,但无法再次延期或转换身份,因为你没有任何合法身份可以「延」或「转」。今天有读者问,J-1 结束后的宽限期内是否可以转换到 H1B?

J/F/M 签证的宽限期

在学业/交换结束后,为了让 J/F/M 签证持有人准备离境,USCIS 默认会给一个宽限期(Grace Period),其中 F-1 是60天、J-1/M-1 是30天。但是,如果你违反身份,你的 J/F/M 身份会立刻失效,没有任何宽限期,参见 DHS 说明[来源]

Termination Reason Duration of Status
Termination for any violation of status No grace period. If the student and/or any dependents are still in the United States, the student must apply for reinstatement, or student and/or dependents must leave the United States immediately
Authorized Early Withdrawal Student and/or any accompanying dependents must leave the United States within 15 days of termination date. This grace period only applies to F-1 students and their dependents. It does not apply to M-1/M-2 students and dependents.
Change of Status Approved Student loses F-1/M-1 status and remains in authorized stay under new status.
Change of Status Denied Student remains in previous nonimmigrant status and must follow the authorized stay requirements of that status.

F/M 宽限期内可以转换身份

参见 DHS 说明[来源]

When F-1 or M-1 students finish their programs of study and/or post-completion practical training (employment), they have a grace period during which they can do the following:

F-1 Student 60-day Grace Period M-1 Student 30-day Grace Period
  • Apply and be accepted to a new academic program to start within five months
  • Apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of class of admission
  • Travel within the United States and make preparations to depart by the end of the grace period
  • Apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for a change of class of admission
  • Travel within the United States and make preparations to depart by the end of the grace period

F/M 都可以在宽限期内向 USCIS 申请“change of class of admission”。USCIS 官网在解释 F-1 申请 H-1B 的 Cap-Gap 时也说[来源]

The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1 of the current calendar year:

  • Are either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period; and
  • Have a pending or approved H-1B change-of-status petition with an Oct. 1 start date that was filed prior to the expiration of their OPT or 60-day grace period. 

F-1 只要在 OPT 或60天宽限期结束前申请 H-B 即为有效。

J1 是否可以在宽限期内转换身份?

这个问题 DHS 和 USCIS 官网都没有明确回答。国务院官网反而有一处看上去不大乐观的回答[来源]

During this 30-day grace period, participants are no longer in J-visa status, and are under the jurisdiction of the USCIS. The USCIS grants this period to allow participants to settle their affairs and to prepare to return to their home countries. Program participants may no longer continue and/or complete exchange activities, nor may they work.

不过,我查到的资料没有一处明确否定,反而是有很多明确肯定、并且可靠的来源,如:

  • University of Washington, International Student Service[ref]: “Period of Authorized Stay. Your admission to the U.S. is for ‘duration of status,’ that is, for the length of your J-1 status. J-1 status covers: [...] 30-day ‘grace period’ after completion of studies, to prepare to depart the U.S. or change to another status.
  • University of Miami, International Student & Scholar Services[ref]: “Upon completion of your J-1 activity, you and your J-2 dependents may remain in the U.S. for an additional 30 days. This 30-day grace period is given to you so that you may pack your belongings and travel in the U.S. before you leave this country. Unless you are eligible to apply for a change of status and do so within the 30-day grace period, you cannot remain in the U.S. beyond the 30-day grace period. Staying in the U.S. beyond the 30-day grace period without a pending application for a change of status is considered illegal and will have a negative effect on your ability to come to the U.S. in the future.”
  • University of Chicago, the Office of International Affairs[ref]: “Following completion of your J scholar program, you have a 30 day grace period to remain in the U.S. as a tourist and finalize departure plans.  During this grace period J scholars are NOT permitted to work. This grace period simply provides you the opportunity to prepare for departing or traveling within the U.S., or apply to change to another status. 
  • 在法律问答网站 avvo 上也有多名律师明确回复了类似的问题[来源],比如 New York 的移民律师 Alexander Joseph Segal 回答:“valid grace period is valid J1 status so you can seek the change if you are not subject to INA 212e.”

因此,从我看到的可信资料来看,J-1 在30天宽限期内提交 H-1B 没有问题(当然,前提是你可以豁免回国居住两年的要求,即 INA 212e);提交之后、在 USCIS 批复之前可合法在美国停留。

J/F/M 与 B1/B2 有何不同?

为何 B1/B2 的 I-94 过期之后不能转换身份、也没有任何宽限期,而 J/F/M 则有宽限期、可以继续转换身份呢?我认为是因为 J/F/M 的合法身份是 duration of status (D/S),并没有明确的 I-94 日期,只要没有违反身份的行为,其在美国停留的所有时间,包括宽限期内,都是合法身份,因此符合转换身份的资格;提交转换身份申请之后,在案件尚未批复之前可继续在美国停留。

本文仅为提供信息之用,不是法律建议。

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生于湘西农村,毕业于北京大学,曾在广东省中山电视台、北京盛唐传扬公关公司、迪思传媒集团工作,2012 年底搬到美国首都华府,两个儿子都在 Arlington 出生,先后在 Falls Church 和 Vienna 买了两套房。「美国攻略」给新移民提供实用可靠的美国生活信息,很多是亲身经历。另外,我还撰写博客「戴睿可美国日记」,偶尔在微信上发一些琐事。

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