Articles Posted in International Students

student-5473769_1280A new California legislative bill known as AB 2586 may soon grant undocumented students the ability to work on college campuses without having a work permit.

The assembly bill introduced by David Alvarez is meant to provide relief to the millions of undocumented students unable to apply for employment authorization under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

As our readers may know, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stopped processing new DACA applications in 2017, when former President Donald Trump rescinded the program. Since then, only renewal applications have been accepted by USCIS, putting millions of undocumented students out of work who can no longer apply for and obtain work permits.

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On May 13, 2024, the State Department announced record breaking milestones including the issuance of a whopping 5.2 million nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide in the first half of fiscal year 2024 – more than any previous year over the same period.

In the past six months alone, 30 percent of U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide set all-time records for nonimmigrant visas issued.

In particular, travel and tourism has been a focal point for the State Department considering that international visitors contribute as much as $239 billion annually to the U.S. economy and support approximately 9.5 million jobs.

Some of the key highlights from the State Department’s announcement are as follows:

In the first half of fiscal year 2024:

  • Almost 4.1 million B visitor visas and border crossing cards were issued for tourists and temporary business travelers worldwide, with nearly two-thirds from Mexico, India, Brazil, the People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.

By the middle of fiscal year 2024, the State Department issued:

  • Approximately 134,000 visas for exchange visitor program participants and 115,000 visas for students. International students contributed almost $38 billion to the U.S. economy in the year 2022 and made up more than 335,000 jobs
  • A record breaking 205,000 visas were issued for temporary or seasonal workers in agriculture and other sectors
  • Almost 160,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crew members to support global transportation and supply chains—the second-highest half-year issuance record in this category in history
  • Almost 25,000 employment-based immigrant visas—75 percent more than same period in fiscal year 2019

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SSN Updates for New N-400 Applicants


If you have been thinking of applying for U.S. Citizenship, you may be pleased to learn that starting April 1st applicants will have the option of requesting an original or replacement Social Security number (SSN) or card and have the chance to update their immigration status with the Social Security Administration (SSA), without having to visit an SSA office in person.

This is all part of the new edition of Form N-400, Application for Naturalization (edition date 04/01/24) which will allow these requests to be made when submitting the application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Previously, green card holders were required to visit an SSA office in person to notify them of their new U.S. Citizenship status and apply for a replacement SSN card reflecting their new immigration status.

Unfortunately, this new update only applies to applicants filing the new edition of the N-400 application (04/01/24) on or after April 1st.  Those who applied using the previous edition of the form (09/17/19) cannot take advantage of this option.


When will the new edition of the N-400 be available for use?


The new edition of the Form N-400 (04/01/24) will be available for online filing on April 1.

To file Form N-400 online, applicants must first create a USCIS online account, a convenient and secure method to submit forms, pay fees, and track the status of any pending USCIS immigration request throughout the adjudication process.


H-1B FY 2025 Cap Season Updates: What to Expect


You may be aware that the electronic registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap season closed at noon Eastern on March 25, 2024.

Within the next few days, USCIS will conduct a lottery to randomly select within the pool of properly submitted registrations to reach the FY 2025 H-1B annual numerical allocations, including the advanced degree exemption (master’s cap). USCIS will notify the public once the lottery has been completed.

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Yesterday, February 14, 2024, the Biden administration released a memorandum designating Palestinians present in the United States for Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), based on the danger to civilians and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza.

The President’s order halts the removal of certain Palestinians from the United States for a period of 18 months and instructs the Department of Homeland Security to provide employment authorization to eligible beneficiaries, who have been continuously present in the United States since February 14, 2024.

The memorandum would allow DHS to provide employment authorization to such individuals for the duration of the DED period, and further directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to consider expanding employment eligibility for Palestinian F-1 nonimmigrant students.

The President’ s memorandum will soon be published in the Federal Register with further instructions for eligible Palestinian nationals to request Deferred Enforced Departure and employment authorization.

Please note that Palestinians who return to the Palestinian territories after February 14, have committed certain crimes, or present a national security threat, among others, may not be eligible for Deferred Enforced Departure.

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The past year saw big victories for worldwide visa operations.

The Department of State recently provided statistics summarizing its visa processing capacity in the year 2023. The recent data shows tremendous advancement in visa processing capacity at Consular posts globally and provides a strong outlook for visa processing in the year 2024.

In the year 2023, the Department of State issued more nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Consular posts and Embassies worldwide than at any other time since 2015.

This included issuing a record of 10.4 million nonimmigrant visas globally, with more than 1 million nonimmigrant visas issued in a single month during March of 2023.

Some of the State Department’s accomplishments include:

  • The reunification of families, with the issuance of 563,000 immigrant visas (IVs) in FY 2023, with 30 of its missions issuing their largest number of immigrant visas ever.  Consular sections worldwide have reduced the overall immigrant visa interview scheduling backlog by nearly half, from nearly 532,000 in July 2021, to just over 275,500.
  • Prioritizing student and academic exchange visitor visa interviews to facilitate study at U.S. universities and colleges. Consular sections issued 830,000 student and exchange visitor visas in FY 2023, more than in any year since FY 2016.  More than 600,000 of those were for students pursuing an education in the United States, many of them from countries sending record numbers of students. Of these numbers, nearly 40,000 visas were issued to African students which set an all-time record.
  • Record numbers of visas were issued for seasonal agricultural and non-agricultural workers to facilitate the legal and orderly flow of labor. A record-breaking 442,000 visas were issued to H-2A and H-2B temporary workers in 2023, with nearly 90 percent of visas issued to workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 
  • A record number of 365,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crewmembers (C1/D) which are essential to maintaining international transportation and supply chains that support the U.S. and global economies.

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As the new year approaches, we have some unfortunate news to report for certain employment-based applicants who may wish to file their petitions with premium processing service in 2024, including those filing:

  • Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, as well as
  • Certain applicants filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and
  • I-539 Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status with USCIS.

On December 28, 2023, USCIS published a final rule in the Federal Register that will increase the filing fee for Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, to adjust for inflation.

The final rule states that starting February 26, 2024, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will increase the premium processing fees USCIS charges for all eligible forms and categories to reflect the amount of inflation from June 2021 through June 2023 according to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.

Please note that not all petitions are eligible to request premium processing service. Applicants may only request premium processing if USCIS has specifically designated your classification as one that is eligible for premium processing service. To determine whether premium processing is available for your benefit request please review the USCIS webpage.

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In this blog post, we share with you an important update from the U.S. Embassy in Israel.

If you have a pending nonimmigrant or immigrant visa application awaiting an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem or U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv, you should be aware that visa services have been temporarily suspended at these missions due to the ongoing conflict in the region.

The U.S. Embassy in Israel will be focusing its resources to plan the evacuation and departure of U.S. Citizens from the region.

Starting October 13th, the government arranged charter flights to assist U.S. Citizens and their immediate family members to depart Israel.

U.S. citizens in need of assistance must complete the crisis intake form here.


Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa at a Neighboring U.S. Consulate or Embassy


If you have an urgent need to travel to the United States and do not currently have a nonimmigrant visa, you may apply for your visa at another U.S. Embassy or Consulate other than Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

You must contact the nonimmigrant visa unit at the neighboring Embassy or Consulate to determine whether they will accept your application as a third-country national.

The U.S. Consulates in Canada allow third-country nationals to apply for visas including Israelis. Alternatively, please check with the specific Consulate regarding their instructions for requesting expedited interview appointments for emergency travel. In most cases, once you have submitted your DS-160 online nonimmigrant visa application and paid the necessary visa fees on the U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment Services webpage, you may request an expedited appointment. More information about expedites can be found on the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ portion of each country webpage by navigating to the bottom of the DOS Visa Appointment Service and selecting “Answers to Common Questions.”

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In this post, we share with you some great news for Ukrainian nationals under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security has made the decision to extend Temporary Protected Status for Ukrainian nationals currently receiving protections under the program for 18 months from October 20, 2023 through April 19, 2025.

notice has been published in the Federal Register with information about how to register for TPS under Ukraine’s designation.

The main benefit of applying for TPS protections is that those who are approved can remain in the country on a lawful basis, will receive protection against deportation (deferred status), and are eligible to apply for employment authorization and travel permission by filing, Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, and Form I-131 Application for Travel Document, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The registration process for Ukraine began on August 21, 2023, and will end on April 19, 2025.


Extension of Designation of Ukraine for TPS


On August 18, 2023, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced an 18-month extension and re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the country of Ukraine. This extension and re-designation will be in effect from October 20, 2023, through April 19, 2025 (an 18-month period).

Secretary Mayorkas made this decision after consulting with government officials and taking into consideration the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine, and the expansion of Russia’s military invasion that has created a humanitarian crisis, preventing Ukrainians from safely returning.

The extension of TPS for Ukraine will allow approximately 26,000 current beneficiaries to retain TPS through April 19, 2025, if they re-register and continue to meet TPS eligibility requirements.

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The news you have been waiting for is finally here. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced the expansion of premium processing for applicants filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and seeking a change of status to F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1, or J-2 nonimmigrant status.

For the first time ever, USCIS will also allow the online filing of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for these applicants.


When can I request Premium Processing service?


IMPORTANT: applicants may not request premium processing before the dates indicated below

The expansion of premium processing service for certain Form I-539 applicants will occur in two phases as follows:

  • Starting tomorrow Tuesday June 13, 2023, USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests, filed via paper form or online, for applicants seeking a change of status to F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1, or J-2 status, who have a pending Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.
  • Starting Monday June 26, 2023, USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests, filed either via paper form or online, for applicants seeking a change of status to F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1, or J-2 statuswhen filed together with Form I-539.

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The Department of State raised eyebrows earlier this month when it released information that it will be reducing the waiting period for 221(G) “administrative processing,” in an effort to process visas more efficiently.

While this is welcome news, in practice it may not mean much. Consulates and Embassies have been notoriously secretive when it comes to 221(G) administrative processing and do not reveal the reason for a visa applicant being placed in administrative processing in the first place, nor the type of security checks that are being conducted.


What is 221(G) Administrative Processing?


First, let’s explain what administrative processing is. When an applicant visits a U.S. Consulate or Embassy overseas for their visa interview, there are only two possible outcomes that can occur at the conclusion of their interview. The Consular Officer may choose to either issue or “refuse” the visa. A refusal is not the same as a denial. It simply means that the visa applicant has not established his or her eligibility for the visa they are seeking for the time being, and the Consulate needs additional time or requires further information either from the visa applicant or another source to determine the applicant’s eligibility for the visa.

In most cases, visa applicants who have been “refused” will require further administrative processing.


How will I know if I have been placed in 221(G) administrative processing?


Visa applicants placed in administrative processing are often given what is called a “Notice of 221(G) Refusal” at the conclusion of their interview, which states that the visa application has been “refused” under section 221(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Notice should indicate whether additional administrative processing is required for your case, and whether any further action is required on your part, such as providing additional documentation or further information to process your visa.

However, in some cases visa applicants are not given such a Notice and will later discover that they have been placed in 221(G) administrative processing upon checking their visa status on the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) visa status check webpage.

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