The United States government makes changes to immigration and travel policy for international students and scholars. Get informed on the latest updates.
DHS Changes Due to COVID-19
For fall and spring semesters, DHS temporarily relaxed many of the regulations for F-1 students.
- F-1 students could be enrolled in any combination of courses including all online courses.
- On-campus work could have be done remotely if the position was flexible enough to allow it.
- Students who left the U.S. during spring and summer but remained enrolled full-time were able to remain active as F-1 students regardless of the length of time spent abroad and could accumulate time abroad towards meeting eligibility requirements for benefits such as Optional and Curricular Practical Training (OPT and CPT).
Other Government Updates
On October 25, 2021, U.S. President Joseph Biden issued “A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” This presidential proclamation establishes new rules for international travel to the United States. The rules are effective November 8, 2021.
To enter the U.S. as a noncitizen, you must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by an FDA approved or authorized vaccine or WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccine. In addition, you must show a negative COVID-19 test result within three days of your scheduled flight. To be considered “fully vaccinated,” you must have received all necessary doses of the vaccine series, and two weeks time must have passed since you received the last dose. There are limited exemptions for these new requirements.
Effective November 29, 2021, students and scholars from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe will not be able to enter the U.S. as a result of the Omicron Coronavirus variant. Currently, no exemptions or an expiration date have been issued. Additional details will be added as they become available.
Effective December 6, 2021, you will need to have a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before you travel by air into the United States. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight. If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e., your positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).
Strengthening the H-1B Non-Immigrant Visa Classification Program (Department of Homeland Security)
This DHS rule largely focuses on revamping the definition of specialty occupation and third-party worksites. Under the new rule employers must demonstrate to DHS that a direct relationship exists between the stipulated required degree field and the duties for the position. In simple terms, more scrutiny will be given to applications to demonstrate the position meets the definition of “specialty occupation”.
Employees located at sites that are not owned, leased, or operated by the University will be limited to one year approvals. This rule could affect some of our UC positions and could make it more difficult to obtain H-1B visas for certain positions. This rule doesn’t go into effect until 12/7/2020.
Strengthening Wage Protections for the Temporary and Permanent Employment of Certain Aliens in the United States (Department of Labor)
On October 8, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) published an interim final rule that modifies how Prevailing Wage Determinations (PWD) are issued for nonimmigrant workers in the H-1B and E-3 visa classifications as well as the Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) system used for permanent resident petitions. This rule is effective immediately and focuses on wages paid to employees.
In enacting this interim rule, the DOL argues that previous wage levels were artificially low which provided an incentive for employers to hire and retain foreign workers at wages well below their U.S. counterparts. As a result, DOL has adjusted the PWD wage levels, increasing many levels by $30,000 or more. If this rule is not changed (or legally challenged), fewer H-1B hires will be possible. Instead, employees will need to be hired on different immigration status (J-1 or O-1), provided they qualify.
On April 22, 2020, President Trump issued Proclamation 10014 called “Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak.” The proclamation stopped U.S. Consulates from issuing Immigrant Visas to applicants outside the U.S. for 60 days. The order took effect April 23rd and lasted for 60 days.
While the proclamation didn’t really impact university operations, it was indicated that additional analysis of nonimmigrant programs would be conducted by the Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security. Their analysis concluded that certain nonimmigrant visas pose a risk of displacing or disadvantaging U.S. workers during COVID-19 recovery. As a result, President Trump has now issued a “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following Coronavirus.” This proclamation is effective beginning June 24, 2020 and extends the provisions of Proclamation 10014 until December 31, 2020. In addition, it has the following new provisions that effect university operations:
- Prohibits the issuance of H-1B visas at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy through December 31, 2020. This will affect new H-1B hires outside the U.S. who have not obtained an entry visa as of June 24, 2020 and current H-1B employees who may be abroad who don’t have a valid visa stamp.
- Prohibits the issuance of J-1 intern visas at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy through December 31, 2020.
Exemptions to the proclamation include permanent residents, a spouse or child of U.S. citizens, or workers who will be engaged in medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized and those who are involved with medical research the will help the United States combat COVID-19.
During the preceding weeks there was a lot of speculation that the administration would attempt to suspend or eliminate Optional Practical Training (OPT) or implement provisions that would affect other visa classifications. The proclamation has no impact on:
- F-1 Students, OPT, STEM OPT (including student visa applications at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy once they reopen)
- H-1B petitions filed with USCIS (those already in the U.S. applying for extensions of H-1B status or change of H-1B employer or change of status to H-1B)
- H-1B visa holders currently outside the U.S. who have a valid visa issued on or before June 24, 2020. Please note the impact upon current H-1B employees already in the U.S.: for those whose H-1B visa stamp has expired, travel abroad is still not advisable because they will not be permitted to obtain a visa stamp any sooner than January 1, 2021.
- J-1 research scholars, professors, and students
- TN, E-3, and O-1 visas
- Labor Certification and green card applications filed with USCIS
This proclamation will be reviewed after 30 days and then every 60 days until December 31, 2020, so it is possible that future provisions may be added later. On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the provisions of the Presidential Proclamation issued on September 24, 2017. As background, below are the specifics of each travel ban / proclamation that has been issued. We will continue to monitor events and keep this page up-to-date as details become available.
If you have any questions, you can contact the international office for assistance.
On September 5, 2017, President Trump announced that Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was being rescinded and that that new applications for individuals seeking Deferred Action status would no longer be accepted.
On January 9, 2018, U.S. District Court judge William Alsup ordered a nation-wide temporary injunction on the Trump Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, stating the decision to end the program was based on a “flawed legal premise.” This decision orders the federal government to resume accepting renewal applications from anyone who had DACA status before Sept. 5, 2017. The USCIS was ordered to post “reasonable public notice” on the process to apply to renew DACA.
Students needing assistance with the DACA renewal application fee may want to visit the Mission Asset Fund. This organization is providing grants for the renewal application fees.
On April 24, 2018, Washington DC federal judge John Bates ruled that the Trump administration’s claim that DACA was unconstitutional “was virtually unexplained.” As a result, he has given the administration 90 days to better explain why DACA is unconstitutional. This opens the door potentially for those who have never held DACA status before, but who otherwise qualify, to apply for DACA protection. Currently, only those hold the status or held the status prior to September 5, 2016 can apply for extensions. This ruling could change that by the end of July. We will monitor the administration’s response to ruling and update this site when more details are available.