Articles Posted in F-1 Visa

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In today’s blog post, we are happy to bring our readers some very exciting news.

On April 26, 2021, the Department of State formally announced a new National Interest Determination for certain categories of nonimmigrant visa applicants currently unable to enter the United States due to COVID-19 related Regional Presidential Proclamations issued earlier this year. This new determination will allow certain travelers to obtain their visas and enter the United States, despite the issuance of COVID-19 related Regional Presidential Proclamations, known as Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, and 10143.

These Proclamations were issued early last year to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19 to the United States, specifically from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

Such Proclamations had the effect of restricting and suspending the entry into the United States, of both immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Few categories of individuals were exempted from these Presidential Proclamations, including lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders), spouses of U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents, and others who were similarly exempted.

Individuals who have not been specifically exempted from the Regional Proclamations and have remained physically present in the impacted regions, have been unable to proceed with visa processing. Consulates worldwide have refused to grant visas to these individuals due to the enforcement of the Proclamations.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It’s a brand-new week and we are excited to share with you a recent update that will benefit F-1 students applying for employment authorization under the Optional Practical Training program (OPT).

Today, April 12, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students requesting OPT may now file their Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, online by creating an online account at myaccount.uscis.gov, instead of having to submit a paper application by mail to USCIS, if they fall under one of the following categories:

  • (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
  • (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and
  • (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?


Optional Practical Training (OPT) refers to a temporary period of employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.

Eligible F-1 students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).

Eligible F-1 students who receive STEM degrees may apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT.


How Can You Qualify for OPT?


All OPT must be directly related to your major area of study. If you are an F-1 student, you may be eligible to participate in OPT in two different ways:

  • Pre-completion OPT:  You may apply to participate in pre-completion OPT after you have been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis for one full academic year at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary that has been certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enroll F-1 students. You do not need to have had F-1 status for the one full academic year; you can satisfy the “one full academic year” requirement even if you had another nonimmigrant status during that time.

If you are authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT, you may work part time (20 hours or less per week) while school is in session. You may work full time when school is not in session.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some important immigration updates.


USCIS Expands Premium Processing Service to E-3 Petitioners


We are happy to report that beginning February 24, 2021, petitioners filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, who are requesting a change or extension of status to E-3 classification, will be able to take advantage of premium processing service to expedite processing of their petition. The filing fee for premium processing service for E-3 petitions is $2,500.

What is premium processing?

Premium processing provides expedited processing for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker and I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. The main benefit of this service is a guaranteed 15-calendar day processing time for all those who take advantage of it.

When does the 15-calendar period begin?

The 15-calendar day period begins when USCIS properly receives the current version of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at the correct filing address noted on the form.

Once the I-907 is received, USCIS either issues an approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny, or request for evidence within the 15-calendar day period.

Is premium processing available for other petitions?

At the moment premium processing service is only available for I-129 and I-140 petitions. However, H.R. 8337 proposed expanding premium processing service to other types of applications in the future including applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status, applications for employment authorization, and other types of benefit requests.


USCIS Introduces Flexibilities for Certain Students Filing Form I-765 for OPT


We are happy to report that on February 26, 2021, USCIS announced new flexibility policies for certain foreign students who have not received receipt notices for Form I-765 petitions for OPT as a result of USCIS delays.

USCIS has stated that the agency has been experiencing delays at certain lockboxes and has not been able to issue receipt notices for certain Form I-765 applications for optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students in a timely manner.

As a result, USCIS will provide the following flexibilities to assist certain applicants for OPT who have been impacted by the delays.

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nesa-by-makers-IgUR1iX0mqM-unsplash-scaledWe are very happy to announce that yesterday July 14, 2020, the Trump administration backed down and agreed to cancel a new set of federal guidelines that would have required international students to attend classes in-person during the upcoming Fall 2020 semester.

As you may be aware, on Monday July 6th U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a news release with new modifications that would have applied to international students in the United States, and those awaiting their visas abroad. The announcement prohibited international students from taking courses entirely online during the upcoming semester. It stated that students enrolled in schools with only online instruction would not be issued visas, and CBP would not permit these students to enter the United States. In addition, students already in the United States, who had enrolled in an online program, were given two options, transfer to another school with a hybrid or in person curriculum or depart the United States.

Shortly after these measures were announced, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on behalf of all international students affected by the new guidelines. The universities requested an emergency hearing to block the government from enforcing these measures. That hearing was scheduled to take place yesterday morning, but in a surprising turn of events, just before the hearing was getting started, the judge announced that the government had agreed to rescind its policy and would no longer require students to attend in-person classes in order to remain in the country.

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We continue to have good news for international students. As you already know, on July 8th Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit to stop the government from enforcing new guidelines on international students that would prohibit them from taking online classes during the Fall semester, despite increasing coronavirus cases nationwide. The new guidelines announced by the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) would refuse visas to students in schools that plan to teach classes fully online this fall and would bar these students from entering the country. Students already in the United States enrolled in schools teaching online classes would need to leave the country or transfer to a school with in-person instruction to keep their visas.

Since the Harvard-MIT lawsuit was filed, Northeastern university has joined the fight. In addition, many other universities across the United States have rallied together in support of their students, including the University of California school system, Princeton, Cornell, John Hopkins University, and the University of Pennsylvania. These institutions have filed amicus briefs supporting the Harvard-MIT lawsuit and/or filed lawsuits of their own in district court.

On July 9th Attorney General Xavier Becerra also filed a lawsuit on behalf of the State of California against the Trump administration to stop the government’s new policies from going into effect.

Like the state of California, many more states are expected to file their own lawsuits in the coming week.

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We have news that may be some relief to international students across the United States.

Today, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit in District Court in Boston against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), challenging new guidelines that prohibit international students from taking online classes during the upcoming fall semester.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief to bar the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, from enforcing recent federal guidelines just announced on Monday, that prohibit international students from attending U.S. colleges and universities offering only online instruction during the upcoming Fall 2020 semester.

As our loyal followers know, early this week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a news release introducing a new set of guidelines for international students who will take courses in the U.S. during the upcoming fall semester.

Among the new guidelines, we learned that F-1 and M-1 students will be prohibited from taking courses entirely online during the fall semester. The announcement stated that the Department of State would not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs operating entirely online, and Customs and Border Protection would not allow such students to enter the United States.

International students in the United States enrolled in schools and/or programs operating entirely online were only given two options (1) depart the United States or (2) take other measures such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.

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Today, Monday, July 6, 2020, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a news release introducing new modifications taken by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that will apply to all international students in F-1 and M-1 status taking courses during this upcoming Fall 2020 semester. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will be publishing new procedures and responsibilities for F-1 and M-1 students during the upcoming Fall 2020 semester in the Federal Register including changes to current policies for F-1 international students.

Monday’s modifications introduce surprising requirements for F-1 and M-1 students taking online classes due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the fall 2020 semester.


What are these new requirements?

There are three sets of new requirements.

F-1 and M-1 Students Attending Schools with Full Online Instruction During the Upcoming Fall 2020 Semester Must Transfer to In-Person Instruction or Depart the United States

Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students who are attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall 2020 semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.

Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.

If the student fails to transfer to a school with in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester, the student may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.

F-1 Students Attending Schools With In-Person Instruction Bound to Existing Regulations – Can Take 3 Credits Online

F-1 students who will attend schools operating under “normal” in-person instruction during the Fall 2020 semester (as opposed to online classes) will be bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students are permitted to take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

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The Trump administration is setting their sights on a new enemy: students and researchers of the People’s Republic of China. A new presidential proclamation, “Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China,” issued on May 29, 2020, will temporarily suspend the entry into the United States of Chinese nationals seeking to enter the United States on an F or J visa to study or conduct research in the United States, except for student seeking to pursue an undergraduate course of study. The proclamation goes into effect at 12:00 pm (ET) today June 1, 2020 and will remain in effect until terminated by the President.  

Specifically, the proclamation limits the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) ability to misuse nonimmigrant F student and J researcher visa programs.


Who will be suspended?


F or J Chinese nationals entering to study or conduct research in the United States and who either

  • Currently “receive funding from or who currently is employed by, studies at, or conducts research at or on behalf of… an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy’,” or
  • In the past “has been employed by, studied at, or conducted research at or on behalf of… an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy'”

The proclamation defines “military-civil fusion strategy” as “actions by or at the behest of the PRC to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities.”

Section 1 exempts F and J undergraduate students from the proclamation. In addition, graduate students and researchers are also exempt from the proclamation if they do not have any of the specific current or past funding, employment, study, or research nexuses with “an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy’.”


Why the Proclamation?


The proclamation was issued to protect the country’s national and economic security from attempts by the People’s Republic of China “to illicitly acquire American technology and intellectual property from our academic institution and research facilities for Chinese military ends.”

According to the Department of State, “[the country’s] concern is with the malign actions of the Chinese Communist Party and specific individuals, not with the Chinese people.” These actions were made as “a direct consequence of PRC government strategies and policies that exploit the access of some of China’s brightest graduate students and researchers, in targeted fields, to divert and steal sensitive technologies and intellectual property from U.S. institutions, taking undue advantage of our [country’s] open and collaborative academic and research environment.”

The U.S. government is particularly concerned that U.S. graduate students and researches will be targeted, co-opted, and exploited by the government of the People’s Republic of China for military gain.

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In the midst of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic, USCIS reminds applicants and petitioners impacted by the pandemic that they can seek certain types of discretionary relief on a case-by-case basis.

Relief for Individuals Seeking Extensions/Change of Status

Special relief is available to individuals who were unable to file an extension or change of status petition before the end of their authorized stay expired, if a special situation prevented the individual’s departure and/or filing.

According to USCIS, “when applying for an extension or change of status due to a special situation that prevented your planned and timely departure,” the agency “may take into consideration how the special situation prevented your departure.”

In addition, if an applicant was not able to apply for an extension or change of status before their authorized period of admission expired, USCIS in their discretion may excuse the delay if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the applicant’s control. An applicant in such a situation should be prepared to provide documentary evidence of those extraordinary circumstances. Depending on the applicant’s situation, the types of evidence that can be provided will vary.

Relief for F-1 Students Based on Severe Economic Hardship Caused by Unforeseen Circumstances

F-1 students who are experiencing severe economic hardship because of unforeseen circumstances beyond their control (such as those impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic) may request employment authorization to work off-campus (if they meet certain regulatory requirements) by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization along with Form I-20, and supporting materials. See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9).

The student’s Form I-20 must include the employment page completed by your Designated School Official, certifying your eligibility for off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control.

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The Trump administration’s controversial rule making certain foreign nationals inadmissible to receive permanent residence on public charge grounds, will become effective beginning October 15, 2019.

First, and foremost let’s recap what this rule is about and who it will apply to:

Under immigration law, an individual who, in the opinion of DHS is likely at any time to become a public charge is (1) ineligible for a visa (2) ineligible for admission to the United States and (3) ineligible for adjustment of status (permanent residence).

This means that the rule applies to foreign nationals applying for a U.S. visa, foreign nationals seeking admission through a port of entry, and individuals applying for adjustment of status.

When an individual applies for any immigration benefit with the government, (whether a U.S. visa or green card application), the official adjudicating the petition must determine whether that individual is or will likely become a public charge. This determination is referred to as a “public charge determination.”

What makes someone a public charge in the eyes of immigration?

A person is a “public charge” if they are primarily dependent on the Government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at Government expense.

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