Articles Posted in F-1 Visa

For years you have 8276375308_d5f2721898_zput your trust in our office for all of your immigration needs and for that we thank you. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to serve you and your families. Throughout the years, we have helped thousands of immigrants from all over the world attain their American dream. Learning about their lives and their struggles has

always been an important part of our practice. Although many challenges lie ahead for immigration, we are confident that important changes will come about in the new year. Do not despair and know that our office will be with you every step of the way. We wish you and your families the happiest of holiday seasons.

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We would like to inform our readers that a new development has been occurring in recent months involving Form I-539 change of status applications filed by prospective students. Students applications wishing to change their status from a B-2 visa classification to F-1 must proceed with caution. USCIS has recently been issuing denials for such change of status applications that request a change of status from a B-2 nonimmigrant visa classification to F-1 student status. These denials have been issued, despite the fact that applicants have seemingly filed their application in a timely and proper manner with USCIS. To submit an application in a timely manner, it is required that the applicant file an I-539 change of status application with USCIS, prior to the expiration of their underlying B-2 status, as indicated on the applicant’s I-94 arrival/departure record. An additional problem that has been occurring involves the delayed adjudication of these applications with the California Service Center. In delaying the processing of these applications, designated school officials (DSO) have been forced to defer student program start dates that appear on the SEVIS form, before adjudication of the applicant’s change of status application has been completed. The unfortunate cause of these delays has resulted in a discrepancy between the deferred program start date and the ending B-2 visa status or the date USCIS adjudicated the I-539 application to change status.

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14604464454_ab9f59b1e0_zA new lawsuit has been filed in federal court challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s authorization of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) for STEM students in the United States. The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers is seeking an end to the STEM OPT program because they claim the program is putting American technology workers at a competitive disadvantage. As previously reported, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers had been battling the Department of Homeland Security in court for the past year asking a federal judge to invalidate 17-month OPT extensions granted to STEM students, because DHS violated the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

In response, the federal judge had ordered the Department of Homeland Security to publish a new final OPT rule to allow certain F-1 students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics to obtain employment authorization. DHS published the final rule earlier this year, replacing the previous 17-month STEM extension rule that had been in place since 2008. The new rule published by DHS allows certain F-1 students to apply for 24-month extension of their optional practical training program (OPT) in order to continue working in the United States following the completion of their studies. This new rule went into effect on May 10, 2016. The same plaintiffs who challenged DHS are coming forward yet again, this time questioning DHS policy, and alleging that the STEM OPT program is putting businesses first instead of protecting American technology workers.

The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers is a labor union that represents the interests of American technology workers, who they claim are losing out on jobs to foreign workers because of guest worker programs. The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and the labor union are working together to dismantle the program which they say circumvents American labor protections in favor of cheap labor. In a recent statement the IRLI claims that the DHS exceeded its authority by allowing the STEM OPT program to exist. According to them, “not only does the OPT program create more competition for suitable unemployed and underemployed American workers, but it creates a tax incentive for unscrupulous employers to hire foreign labor over American workers because aliens on student visas and their employers do not have to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes.”

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Did you know that if you fail to provide USCIS written notice of a change of address, within 10 days of moving to your new address, you may be convicted of a misdemeanor crime?  If you currently have a case pending with USCIS, and you fail to provide written notice of a change of address to USCIS, within 10 days of moving, you could face a fine of up to $200, imprisonment up to 30 days, or both if convicted. If you are an alien (non U.S. Citizen) you could also face removal from the United States for non-compliance (INA Section 266(b)).

It is extremely important for applicants to notify USCIS immediately upon moving to a new address. Filing a change of address with USCIS is easy and it’s free. Applicants may change their address online by visiting the USCIS website and completing Form AR-11 online. In order to file a change of address online, you must know the Receipt Number (appearing on the Notice of Action) associated with your application, if your application is currently pending with USCIS. A Receipt Number is also known as the case number, identifying the petition submitted. The Receipt Number typically begins with three letters and is followed by ten digits.

The first three letters of the Receipt Number indicate the USCIS service center which is processing the petition, as follows:
– EAC – Vermont Service Center;
– WAC – California Service Center;
– LIN – Nebraska Service Center; and
– SRC – Texas Service Center

If you have filed more than one petition with USCIS (as in cases of adjustment of status for spouses of U.S. Citizens) you must provide the receipt number of each petition you have filed, when submitting the change of address online. If you do not have your receipt notice or have lost it, you should contact USCIS National Customer Service Center by telephone for assistance:

Our number is: 1 (800) 375-5283
Our TTY number is: 1 (800) 767-1833

If you are outside the United States and have filed an application or petition with a USCIS Service Center, you can call 212-620-3418 to check the status of your case.

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Throughout the next few months, USCIS will begin the process of returning H-1B petitions that were not selected in the H-1B lottery for fiscal year 2017. Each package will contain the respective H-1B petition along with a rejection notice specifying that the petition was not selected in the lottery. If you would like a copy of your rejection notice, please contact your employer or the attorney that filed your petition with USCIS. If you were not selected in the H-1B lottery for fiscal year 2017, there are a few visa options you may want to consider applying for. As always you can visit our website to read about the various different visa types that may be available to you. To discuss your options moving forward, please contact us for a free consultation. Do not despair. Many applicants that were not selected in the H-1B lottery in previous years, have been chosen in subsequent years.

Long Term Options for Employment

Employment-Based Green Card

Typically, the employment-based green card application is the most permanent long term option for employment. The drawback is that obtaining an employment-based green card is a very long process that will require you to maintain another nonimmigrant status, while your green card application is pending. For more information on employment-based green cards please click here.

Family-Based Green Card (Adjustment of Status within the United States)

If you are the spouse, parent or child of a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible for family-based permanent residency. The green card application includes the application for employment authorization, which is granted within 3 months of filing. Employment authorization allows the applicant to work while their application is in process. Please be aware that the 3-month time frame for employment authorization is only for applicants applying for adjustment of status from within the United States. For more information about this process please click here.

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As previously reported, the Department of Homeland Security published a new final rule that will allow certain F-1 students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, also known as (STEM) fields, to apply for a 24-month extension of their optical practical training (OPT) program. This new 24-month OPT extension will replace the 17-month STEM OPT extension that had been previously in place since 2008. Eligible students can begin to apply for the new 24-month extension starting May 10, 2016. If you mistakenly apply for a 24-month extension before May 10, 2016 you will receive a 17-month extension.

Applicants should note that the cap gap extension has not changed. Individuals who have filed an H-1B change of status application that is currently pending with USCIS, must keep in mind that their status will only be extended until September 30. It is recommended that selected H-1B participants upgrade their petition to premium processing, so that foreign workers in F-1 status do not experience significant gaps in employment. USCIS will adjudicate STEM OPT applications under the 2008 rules until May 9, 2016. STEM OPT extension applications filed and approved before May 10, 2016 will receive a 17-month extension. If you have a pending application requesting a 17-month STEM OPT extension on May 10, 2016 you will receive a request for evidence asking for additional documentation to satisfy the new rule for the new 24-month extension. We have learned that the SEVIS system will be updated so that I-20’s will reflect 24-month extensions.

Students currently on 17-month STEM OPT

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The new replacement rule affecting the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for F-1 students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), has been posted and is now available for inspection in the federal register. The new replacement rule will replace the previous 2008 rule and become effective beginning May 10, 2016.

The new rule authorizes F-1 STEM students pursuing a 12-month Optional Practical Training program in the United States to extend their ‘OPT’ status for a 24-month period. The 24-month extension replaces the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to STEM students. The 17-month STEM OPT extension will continue to be effective until May 9, 2016. The new 24-month extension applies only to F-1 STEM OPT students attending accredited United States institutions, whose employers participate in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services E-verify program. Only students in a valid period of post-completion OPT may file for a STEM OPT extension. The 24-month extension, coupled with the 12-month period given with initial post-completion OPT, will give STEM students a period of 36 total months of practical training in their field. Amendments that come with the new rule include additional oversight and improvement of the program requiring formal mentoring and training plans by employers, a new STEM definition and Classification of Instructional Program Categories, provisions on previously obtained STEM degrees, Accreditation and Employer Visits, and OPT compliance. In addition, new provisions have been introduced relating to wage and protections for STEM OPT students and safeguards for American workers as described below.

The ‘Cap Gap’ provision previously available to F-1 STEM OPT students in 2008 remains in place. This provision allows students with a timely filed H-1B petition requesting a change of status, the benefit of automatically extending their F-1 status and employment authorization until October 1 of the H-1B visa fiscal year for which the student has applied. The Cap-Gap was created with intention of avoiding any disruption students might experience in their careers and personal life as a result of temporary gaps in their status.

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On January 23, 2016 a Federal District Court Judge for the District of Columbia granted the federal government an extension for the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program to resume, giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) more time to issue a new replacement rule. The STEM OPT program had been in place since 2008, but was recently invalidated following a court order requesting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to issue a new replacement rule by February 12, 2016. DHS responded by requesting an additional 90 days to implement the final rule by May 10, 2016.

As part of their request, the federal government argued that exceptional circumstances existed to warrant the extension. This was owed to an unprecedented amount of comments received by DHS, that could not be reviewed and analyzed by the February deadline. According to the Administrative Procedures Act, DHS is required to publish a final rule 60 days before its effective date. During the comment period alone, DHS received over 50,000 comments that were nearly impossible to review and revise by the February deadline. Although plaintiffs for the original suit challenged the court stating that the court did not have jurisdiction to grant the extension, the court agreed with the federal government. The court stated that it did indeed have jurisdiction over the motion and that the undue hardship that STEM OPT participants and employers would experience, absent a new replacement rule, constituted an exceptional circumstance to warrant the extension. It is estimated that approximately 434,000 international students might benefit from the new replacement rule.

Presently, 23,000 students are STEM OPT participants, while approximately 2,300 more individuals are dependents of these participants. Had the extension been denied, thousands of students, their educational institutions, and their employers would be adversely affected. Litigation will continue over the validity and issuance of the replacement rule. If your initial OPT will expire between now and the May 10 deadline, and you are still within the 120-day filing window, you should apply for your 17-month extension as soon as possible, to benefit from the 17-month extension under the 2008 OPT rule. If your OPT will expire on or after May 11, and you are still within the 120-day filing window, you may be able to receive a 17-month extension. Once the new rule is in place and you are outside of the filing window, you will need to wait for the new rule and apply for benefits under the new rule. The new rule is expected to be published by March 11, 2016.

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As previously reported, the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) rule that had been in place since 2008, was invalidated following a court order requesting the Department of Homeland Security to issue a new replacement rule. The court gave the DHS until February 12, 2016 to come up with a replacement rule in order for the STEM OPT program to continue. In order for a new replacement rule to be put in place, DHS was required to publish the final rule 60 days before its effective date, according to procedural rules established by the Administrative Procedures Act. In order to meet such a deadline, DHS needed to have published the final rule by December 14, 2015 in order for it to be enforced by the February deadline. Luckily, the government filed a motion to extend the stay of the court order—to May 10, 2016, thus requesting an additional 90 days for the government to implement a final rule. In order for the motion to be successful the government must establish that exceptional circumstances warrant such relief to be given. The government has argued that there is an unprecedented amount of comments that cannot be reviewed and analyzed by the February deadline. During the comment period, DHS received over 50,000 comments that it must review, revise, and finally publish a final rule. The court is not expected to rule on the motion until early 2016. Meanwhile the plaintiffs of the original suit have filed an appeal before the DC Circuit Court arguing that the OPT program is not within the authority of the DHS.

If the motion is unsuccessful, the government may file a motion at the district court level or request a stay of the court’s injunction at the circuit court level. In any case, those affected should be aware that the government still has several avenues through which relief may be granted: (1) the Judge may grant the government its requested 90-day delay on the present motion; (2) the Judge may later grant a complete stay pending appeal of the injunction; or (3) the DC Circuit may stay the Judge’s injunction while it considers the merits of her rulings in the underlying case.  CIS has not yet released official correspondence explaining whether students affected will be granted a STEM extension after the February deadline.

For more information please contact us.

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It is our pleasure to introduce our readers to our esteemed Paralegal and Case Manager Katie Foley who has worked at the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick since 2010. Ms. Foley, originally from Santa Cruz, California holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies from Cal State East Bay and her paralegal certificate from San Diego Miramar College. Throughout her career, Katie Foley has assisted our attorneys with various different types of immigration petitions including family-based petitions, employment based petitions (H-1B, E-2 etc.), deferred action, marriage visas, I-751 petitions, fiancé visas, consular processing, naturalization, temporary visas (B-1/B-2, J-1, F-1 etc), deportation and removal cases.  She has successfully processed hundreds of applications and in the process has formed long standing relationships with our clients. In her role as case manager, she assists our legal assistants with their case loads and provides direction as needed. Ms. Foley is an outstanding member of our firm for her impressive attention to detail, her understanding of the law, and the extensive guidance she provides our clients to ensure every case has a successful outcome. She provides all of our client’s strong personal support and comprehensive step-by-step instructions for each immigration process. If you are an international or out of state client, not to worry, Ms. Foley has perfected an easy online case processing system to assist clients with their immigration concerns no matter where they reside. In her free time, she enjoys lap swimming, barbecues, and gardening. To read more about Ms. Foley please click here.

For immigration questions please call our office. Your Immigration is our Passion.