DHS Publishes Final Rule Adjusting Student and Exchange Visitor Program Fees

On May 22, 2019, the DHS has reported that the fees charged by SEVP (the Student and Exchange Visitor Program) to international students, exchange visitors and SEVP- certified schools will be increased beginning June 24, 2019. SEVP does not receive any funding from Congress and solely relies on fees to continue operations; therefore, the increase is necessary to continue to provide oversight of international students and SEVP-certified schools. The increase will affect the following: The I-901 SEVIS Fee for F and M international students (from $200 to $350). The I-901 SEVIS Fee for J exchange visitors (from $180 to $220). Except: exchange visitors in the au pair, camp counselor, and summer work travel program participant categories. The SEVP school certification petition fee for initial certification (from $1,700 to $3,000). Also, SEVP will charge new fees for the following: A petition for recertification filed by SEVP-certified schools ($1,250). A form I-290B “Notice of Appeal of Motion” filed by schools ($675). A change of physical location or adding a new physical location or campus to Form I-17 “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student” by a SEVP-certified school ($655). If you are an international student or exchange visitor and […]
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Court Enjoins USCIS from Enforcement of Unlawful Presence Memo Impacting Students and Exchange Visitors

A Federal Judge has enjoined USCIS from enforcing a policy memorandum issued in August 2018 relative to the accrual of unlawful presence for nonimmigrant student or exchange visitors. The ruling found that the policy memorandum amounts to a “legislative rule” in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act because the government did not publish in the Federal Register or allow for a period of public comment on the rule.  A person can accumulate unlawful presence by (1) entering the U.S. without inspection; (2) overstaying their period of lawful status in the U.S.; or (3) violating their immigration status. Previously, for students and exchange visitors, accrual of unlawful presence began only when DHS or an immigration judge made an out-of-status determination and notified the individual of the same. Pursuant to the USCIS policy update, a determination of retroactive violation is made and can result in the denial of a green card application and bar the individual from entry for a period of three years (if the violation occurred before August 9, 2019) or 10 years (if after August 9, 2019). The Court’s decision in Guilford College v. USCIS prohibits the USCIS from enforcing the policy outlined in its August 2018 memorandum.  If […]
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USCIS Explains that STEM OPT Offsite Employment is Allowed

On August 17, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its website to reflect changes to the Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT). Importantly, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) clarified that participants of this program can participate in training experiences that take place at offsite locations. Training experiences that are at locations other than an employer’s principal place of business are permissible so long as all training obligations are met, such as demonstrating that the employer maintains a bona fide employer-employee relationship with the student.  DHS will review and confirm whether there is a bona-fide relationship between the parties signing the Training Plan on a case-by-case basis. DHS will also verify that the employer that signs the Training Plan is the same entity that employs and provides training experience.  USCIS also updated reporting procedures regarding STEM OPT. These reporting changes have been made to ensure that DHS can properly oversee the program. Students and employers must submit a modified Form I-983 to the Designated School Official (DSO) reporting any material changes at the earliest opportunity. In addition, employers must report a student’s termination or departure to the DSO within five business days. Students, on the […]
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Crucial Changes to Unlawful Presence Regulations

The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and the Foreign Affairs Handbooks (FAHs) are the comprehensive and authoritative sources for the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) organization structures, policies and procedures. These resources convey codified information to DOS staff and contractors, so they can carry out their duties in accordance with statutory, executive and Department mandates. Recently the section of FAM discussing unlawful presence was revised. These revisions highlight the recent changes to F, J and M nonimmigrant visas and unlawful presence.  According to these updates, a foreign national would generally begin to accrue unlawful presence upon the first occurrence of any of the events described: when the foreign national entered the United States without inspection; the day after the expiration date marked on Form I-94 plus any extension or period of re-parole for aliens admitted until a specified date; the day after a foreign national’s period of authorized stay expires for an alien admitted in J, F or M status; the day after DHS denied a request for an immigration benefit for the applicant, if DHS made a formal finding that the alien violated his or her nonimmigrant status while adjudicating the request for an immigration benefit; or the day after […]
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USCIS Taking Steps to Improve Integrity of F-1 and OPT Programs

USCIS aims to improve the integrity of the F-1 and Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs by implementing an updated process that ensures consistency between Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and USCIS systems and informs students of the potential consequences of working with a terminated employment authorization document (EAD).  Under current regulations, F-1 students in the United States on OPT face automatic termination of their OPT if they transfer to another school or begin studying at another educational level. In addition, a student’s corresponding EAD will be automatically terminated as well. While transfer to another school or commencement of study at another educational level automatically terminates OPT authorization, F-1 students who continue to comply with all requirements to maintain their status will not otherwise be affected. One such requirement is not working with a terminated EAD, since a terminated EAD results in a lack of authorization to work in the United States. Failing to comply with this and other requirements carries significant penalties such as removal or bars on reentry to the U.S. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, there is an additional set of penalties for those remaining in the U.S. in violation of lawful nonimmigrant status who accrue […]
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Frequently Asked Questions: F-1 Status

The F-1 visa enables an individual to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. The student must be enrolled in a program that culminates in a degree, diploma or certificate and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students. Q: Can I work on-campus while in F-1 status? A: F-1 students are permitted to work on campus. Approval by a Designated School Official (DSO) or USCIS is NOT required, and students may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during official school vacation periods. On-campus employment includes work performed on school premises or at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school. Q: Can I work off-campus while in F-1 status? A: Yes, but only after completing an entire academic year of full-time study. After the first year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment: (1) Curricular Practical Training (CPT); Optional Practical Training (OPT); or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT). Q: What is the difference […]
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Frequently Asked Questions: OPT Employment

The F-1 visa enables an individual to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. The student must be enrolled in a program that culminates in a degree, diploma or certificate and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students. Q: Can I work on-campus while in F-1 status? A: F-1 students are permitted to work on campus. Approval by a Designated School Official (DSO) or USCIS is NOT required, and students may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during official school vacation periods. On-campus employment includes work performed on school premises or at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school. Q: Can I work off-campus while in F-1 status? A: Yes, but only after completing an entire academic year of full-time study. After the first year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment: (1) Curricular Practical Training (CPT); Optional Practical Training (OPT); or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT). Q: What is Optional Practical […]
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