DHS Proposes Changing Duration of Status (D/S) To Fixed Periods
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule on September 25, 2020 that would eliminate “duration of status” (D/S) for F students and their dependents, and J students and scholars and their dependents. D/S would be replaced with a fixed period of time determined before arrival. The proposed rule has a 30-day period for comments from the public after which all comments are considered before a final rule is crafted.
How does D/S work now?
Under current regulations, students and scholars, and their F and J dependents, are admitted into the U.S. for duration of status (D/S), which is the length of stay on the I-20/DS-2019, plus any applicable grace periods. Students and scholars with D/S may have their programs extended by their visa sponsor and maintain their status provided they abide by the provisions of their visa status. Examples of extensions include: students who need additional time to complete degree requirements, to change degree levels or academic programs, or to engage in authorized post-graduate employment through F-1 Optional Practical Training or J-1 Academic Training. J scholars (researchers and professors) may have their DS-2019 extended if they need additional time to complete research or continue teaching with a renewed contract.
What would the proposed rule change?
The proposed rule does not change current visa holders’ immigration status. All processes and regulations related to admission for duration of status (D/S) remain in place. Currently enrolled students in F and J status, graduates engaged in authorized OPT/AT, and J scholars and their respective dependents are not affected by the publishing of the proposed rule. Your D/S notation remains in effect.
The proposed rule would replace D/S with a fixed period of either two or four years upon admission to the U.S. with a requirement to apply for an extension of stay from USCIS if needed. It would also reduce the F-1 60-day grace period after completion of a program or OPT from 60 days to 30 days. (J students and scholars currently have 30 days.) In addition, the proposed rule would increase the time period for submission of an Optional Practical Training (OPT) application from 90 days to 120 days before the program end date on the I-20.
When will the change take place?
We cannot predict how long the process will take after the 30 days for public comment or what the final rule will look like. We anticipate that DHS will receive many comments and the review might take a protracted period of time. In the past, proposed rules have changed significantly by the time they were finalized. It is also possible that the final rule could trigger litigation that could impede its implementation.