Articles Posted in Student Visas

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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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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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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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Certain types of nonimmigrants will be expected to shell out more money for the nonimmigrant visa process.

The State Department has announced that starting June 17, 2023, nonimmigrant visa (NIV) application processing fees for visitor visas for business or tourism (B1/B2s and BCCs), and other non-petition based nonimmigrant visas such as student and exchange visitor visas (F, M, and J visas), will increase from $160 to $185.

Additionally, processing fees for certain petition-based nonimmigrant visas for temporary workers (H, L, O, P, Q, and R categories) will increase from $190 to $205.

Fees for a treaty trader, treaty investor, and treaty applicants in a specialty occupation (nonimmigrant E category) visa will also increase from $205 to $315.


What if I pay my nonimmigrant visa fee prior to June 17, 2023?


In this case you are in luck. Nonimmigrant visa fees paid prior to June 17, 2023, will remain valid through the expiration date on your nonimmigrant visa fee payment receipt.


Why the increase?


The Department of State has said that nonimmigrant visa fees are set based on the actual cost of providing nonimmigrant visa services and are determined after conducting a study of the cost of these services.

The agency uses Activity-Based Costing (ABC) methodology to calculate, annually, the cost of providing consular services, including visa services.

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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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We have great news for H-1B visa registrants! Today, March 27, 2023, USCIS announced that it has received enough electronic registrations to reach the FY 2024 H-1B visa cap—just 10 days after the H-1B electronic registration period closed on March 17, 2023.

USCIS randomly selected from among registrations that were properly submitted to meet the 65,000/20,000 annual numerical limitations for the regular cap and advanced degree exemption.

Petitioners who have been selected have been notified of their selection via their myUSCIS online accounts.


Notification of Selection


Now that the selection process has been completed, USCIS has sent electronic notices to all registrants with selected registrations that are eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition on behalf of the individual named in the notice within the filing period indicated on the notice.

Account holders who submitted the selected registration have been notified of selection via email or text message stating that an action has been taken on their myUSCIS online account. Account holders can log in to see the full notice and determine whether they have been selected.

A registrant’s USCIS online account will show one of the following statuses for each registration:

  • Submitted: The registration has been submitted and is eligible for selection. If the initial selection process has been completed, this registration remains eligible, unless subsequently invalidated, for selection in any subsequent selections for the fiscal year for which it was submitted.
  • Selected: Selected to file an H-1B cap petition.
  • Not Selected: Not selected – not eligible to file an H-1B cap petition based on this registration.
  • Denied: Multiple registrations were submitted by or on behalf of the same registrant for the same beneficiary. If denied as a duplicate registration, all registrations submitted by or on behalf of the same registrant for this beneficiary for the fiscal year are invalid.
  • Invalidated-Failed Payment: A registration was submitted but the payment method was declined, not reconciled, disputed, or otherwise invalid.

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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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