Articles Posted in International Students

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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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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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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What is the H-1B Visa? The H-1B visa is a work visa that is awarded on a lottery basis. The H-1B visa program allows American companies and/or qualifying organizations to employ foreign workers to fill specialty occupations temporarily. The foreign worker must posses a combination of education, specialized training, and/or experience that is equivalent to training acquired by the attainment of a U.S. bachelor’s or higher. The H-1B program was first enacted by Congress with the intention of helping American employers seek out distinguished foreign workers, possessing the skills and abilities necessary to perform the duties of the specialty occupation. The H-1B program has remained popular because it has allowed American employers to remain competitive and provides highly skilled foreign workers a path to permanent residence.

The provisions of the H-1B visa program allow qualified foreign workers to attain temporary employment having met specific requirements. H-1B visa recipients typically work in the STEM fields as scientists, engineers, computer programmers, software developers, business analysts, etc. although fashion models are also classified under the H-1B category.

USCIS will begin to accept H-1B cap-subject petitions for fiscal year 2017 beginning April 1, 2016. April 7, 2016 is the absolute deadline to file an H-1B cap-subject petition. Please note: employers cannot file an H-1B petition for an employee more than 6 months before the employee’s intended start date. If accepted, H-1B visa workers can begin employment by October 1st. The H-1B visa is issued for up to three years but may be extended for another three years.

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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.

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International students seeking a STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension must be aware that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not yet published a replacement rule authorizing further STEM OPT extensions, this following a court decision prohibiting DHS from allowing 17 month extensions to be issued. The OPT program allows foreign students the right to seek temporary employment during or following their studies in the United States. On August 12th of this year a court decision invalidated the processing of a DHS rule allowing a 17 month STEM OPT extension program to take place, due to procedural errors. The court’s ruling will be officially enforced on February 12, 2016 in an effort to delay hardships STEM students are likely to experience, and the disruption of employment among technology companies and relevant sectors. The delay also allows DHS to present a new rule before February 12, 2016.

With time running out (4 workdays to be exact) no such rule has since been released by DHS. While DHS has not communicated any changes to international student offices, we expect that any new rulings will have no impact on the initial 12-month OPT program. Until further clarification is provided by DHS, universities are authorized to continue to produce I-20 forms for STEM extensions. In fact, most universities are continuing to accept applications for STEM extensions, regardless of DHS’ failure to publish a new rule within the given time. Students should heed with caution if they wish to file an application for extension, as they may risk forfeiting money spent on such applications. EAD cards already issued under the existing STEM program are considered valid until further notice. DHS mandated employment reports and regular attendance should continue as normal. Students should make sure to abide by the strict unemployment limits of OPT, regardless of these developments.

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