Articles Posted in International Students

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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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In this blog post, we alert our readers to a new broadcast message issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) provided updated guidance explaining that Consular officers have the authority to issue F or M student visas for up to 365 days in advance of an international student’s program start date.

However, in its broadcast ICE has clarified that this new guidance DOES NOT change the requirement for issuing Forms I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), nor paying the I-901 SEVIS Fee, nor regulations governing admission into the United States.

Despite the advance issuance of an F or M visa, ICE clarifies that students can only enter the United States 30 days before their program start date as listed on their Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.

Students who attempt to enter the United States more than 30 days before their program start date may be found inadmissible by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

ICE notes to help ensure smooth entry into the United States, students and school officials should confirm the following prior to arrival at a U.S. port of entry:

  • Students have an active I-901 SEVIS Fee payment on the Form I-20 that they are traveling under.
  • The name of the school on the Form I-20 matches the name of the school on the visa.
  • Student financial information remains up to date in SEVIS.
  • Students do not attempt to enter the United States more than 30 days in advance of their Program Start Date.

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CBP No Longer Requires Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination for Air Passengers from Any Country starting today May 12, 2023 


The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) now joins the State Department and Department of Homeland Security in announcing the end of the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for international travelers starting today Friday, May 12, 2023.

Noncitizen nonimmigrant air passengers will no longer need to show proof of being fully vaccinated with an accepted COVID-19 vaccine to board a flight to the United States.

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The moment we have been waiting for has finally arrived.

Yesterday, March 6, 2023, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the expansion of premium processing services for certain F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) and F-1 students seeking science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) OPT extensions who have a pending Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and wish to request a premium processing upgrade.

As of yesterday, March 6th USCIS has made possible the online filing of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for F-1 students in these categories. USCIS will also accept the latest edition of the Form I-907 by mail.

In support of this move, USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou said, “The availability of premium processing for certain F-1 students, in addition to the ease of online filing, will streamline the immigration experience for a great many international students.”

Regarding the decision to make online filing of Form I-907 available, he stated, “The ongoing expansion of online filing is a priority for USCIS as we continue to create operational efficiencies and increase access to the immigration system for stakeholders, applicants, petitioners, requestors, and those we serve.”

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