USCIS recently announced plans to update Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. This change is particularly important to any foreign national currently here on a temporary basis who is intending on changing or extending his/her status. Apparently, the form has already been revised but will not be released until the same day the changes become effective, which is March 11, 2019. As of that date, any applications to change/extend non-immigrant status must be filed on the latest version. USCIS will not accept previous editions of Form I-539 and accordingly reject applications with the older version or applications that are missing required signatures or filing fees.
A very common misconception about the H-1B visa is that H-1B workers are granted a grace period in the event that they are laid off, terminated, or fired from their jobs. Some people think there is a grace period of ten days; others, thirty, and some others, sixty. This often arises in the context of an individual who has just been laid off by his/her employer. In order not to become "illegal," the terminated individual will try to switch to a different employer or different status, whether as a student, H-4 dependent family member, or even as a B-2 tourist. Unfortunately, while under some circumstances, a change of status may be granted by USCIS, the regulations generally prohibit a change of status within the United States once a foreign national has violated or fallen out of status. Therefore, once an H-1B is fired or laid off, the probability of switching to a different status without having to leave the United States is generally very slim. This is why, for example, when an H-1B tries to switch from H-1B to H-4 status (on the basis of a spouse holding H-1B status), USCIS will not only request proof that the spouse is currently working as an H-1B, but as equally important, proof that the applicant was maintaining his/her H1B status prior to the application to change status. If the applicant cannot demonstrate that he/she was in lawful H1B status (in other words, working according to the terms of the H-1B), a change of status will likely not be granted because a non-immigrant cannot normally switch to or extend a non-immigrant status if he or she has already fallen out of status. This is not to say that it is impossible to switch status but it will be very difficult. USCIS does provide, however: "In deciding whether to approve a change or extension of status for any nonimmigrant who has fallen out of status, however, USCIS may exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis to grant the extension or change of status despite the failure to maintain status."