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 spring, summer and fall 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
DHS Proposed Rule Establishing a Fixed Time Period of Admission and an Extension of Stay Procedure for Nonimmigrant Academic Students, Exchange Visitors, and Representatives of Foreign Information Media
On 09/25/2020, DHS published a proposed rule to eliminate Duration of Status (D/S) for F students and J exchange visitors. Currently, F students and J exchange visitors are not given a date-specific I-94 card (i.e. a fixed admission period). They are admitted for what is called Duration of Status (D/S), which allows them to remain in the U.S. as long as they are pursuing a full course of study or an exchange visitor program.
Within the scope of D/S, students can take as long as they need to complete a program study provided they are making normal academic progress. Students are also able to transfer freely from one institution another and pursue additional programs of study at the same educational level or different educational levels.
This proposed rule will set an initial authorized period of admission to the U.S. at 2 or 4 years and require those who haven’t completed their program by the specified date to file an extension of stay application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The rule would apply immediately to F students and J exchange visitors who enter after publishing of a final rule and would set criteria to transition those already present in U.S. to date specific status within a 4 year period.
Key Highlights of Proposed Rule:
- This proposed rule will have a negative impact on international enrollment and operations (and is unnecessary).
- Remove Duration of Status and give all F and J nonimmigrants a fixed admission date not to exceed 4 years (2 years in some cases).
- The 60 day grace period for F students would be reduced to 30 days (aligning it with J exchange visitors and M students).
- To remain in the U.S. beyond their initial admission period, students will have to apply to USCIS for an extension of stay using form I-539, which involves a substantial filing fee.
- Current students in the country when the rule becomes effective would need transition to a date specific end date 4 years from the date of the final rule.
- The rule will limit how many degrees a student can obtain at the same level of study (3 total).
- The rule will limit the number of times a student can change to a lower degree level (1).
- The rule will limit language training students to an aggregate 24-month period of stay, including breaks and an annual vacation.
- Those reaching the 4 year admission period at the same time they are ready to apply for OPT would need to submit both an I-539 for the extension of stay and an I-765 for OPT.
- The H-1B cap-gap employment authorization period would be extended from 10/01 to 04/01 of the following year if an H-1B petition requesting a change of status is timely filed on behalf of an F-1 student.
- Gives USCIS and CBP officials the authority to determine if student is making adequate academic progress.
- Allows F students who timely file an extension of stay application to receive an automatic extension of employment authorization for 180 days of their on-campus employment authorization, off-campus employment authorization for severe economic hardship employment or STEM OPT extension application.
- Prohibit F students who timely file an extension of stay application from continuing Curricular Practical Training (CPT), pre-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or post-completion OPT, or employment with an International Organization until the extension of stay is approved.
- Allow J-1 exchange visitors who timely file and extension of stay application to continue employment for 240 days. J-2 dependents with work permits that expire and are pending extension cannot continue working while the extension is pending if the EAD has expired.
- F students and J exchange visitors could affect an extension of stay through travel and re-entry instead of filing an extension of stay application with USCIS.
- To promote E-Verify usage, students at institutions that use E-Verify for hiring may be able to receive 4-year admissions while students at institutions that do not will be subject to 2-year admissions.
- A two-year period of admission could be granted to:
- Students/scholars who were born in or are citizens of countries on the State Sponsor of Terrorism List (North Korea, Iran, Sudan, and Syria).
- Students/scholars who are citizens of countries with a student and exchange visitor total overstay rate of greater than 10 percent according to the most recent DHS Entry/Exit Overstay report (over 30 countries-mostly in Africa and Asia).
- Students/scholars deemed to be of U.S. national interest concern including certain programs of study, such as Nuclear Engineering.
Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted until 10/26/2020. At that point the comments will be reviewed and evaluated and a final rule will be published.
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.