“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed changes to its regulations that would strengthen and enhance the process for foreign students with science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degrees from a U.S. college or university to get practical training experience in the United States. The enhancement of this regulation was announced as a part of President Obama’s November Executive Actions.
The optional practical training program, or OPT, allows nonimmigrant international students and new graduates to extend their time in the U.S. on their F-1 student visa status to gain on-the-job-learning for up to a year. The proposed rule would allow certain F-1 STEM students to extend their OPT period by 24 months with the appropriate mentoring and training by employers. The proposed rule would also improve and increase oversight over OPT STEM extensions.
By increasing access to OPT for STEM students, the proposed regulations will help U.S. colleges and universities remain globally competitive in attracting international students in STEM fields. It also reforms the program to better ensure that practical training opportunities are designed to meet student needs, while requiring greater accountability of employers and students.
The proposed rule aims to ensure F-1 students gain valuable practical STEM experience through practical training that supplements knowledge gained in their academic studies. The rule also seeks to improve and increase the oversight of STEM OPT by requiring the implementation of formal mentoring and training plans by employers and by adding wage and other protections for OPT students and U.S. workers. The proposed rule would only permit STEM OPT extensions to F-1 students with degrees from accredited schools, and whose employers are enrolled in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ E-verify employment eligibility verification program. DHS encourages comments on this proposed rule; public comment will be open through November 18, 2015.
On September 9, USCIS enhanced SAVE CaseCheck to make it easier for people applying for federal, state or local benefits to check the status of their immigration verification case.
Benefit-granting agencies may need to verify a person’s immigration status to process an application. The SAVE Program lets them do that, and CaseCheck lets applicants monitor the progress of the request.
Until now, to run a CaseCheck query, applicants had to obtain a case verification number from a participating SAVE agency. Now, they can enter their date of birth along with a number from one of these immigration documents:
Certificate of Citizenship
Certificate of Naturalization
Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status
Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
Form I-94 stamp in an unexpired foreign passport
Permanent Resident Card
Employment Authorization Card
This update of CaseCheck will mean more convenience for applicants, and save time for benefit-granting agencies.
USCIS, in coordination with Department of State (DOS), is revising the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for employment-based or family-sponsored preference adjustment of status. The revised process will better align with procedures DOS uses for foreign nationals who seek to become U.S. permanent residents by applying for immigrant visas at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad.
This revised process will enhance DOS’s ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin. This will help ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas are issued annually as intended by Congress, and minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates.
The Visa Bulletin revisions implement November 2014 executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson, as detailed in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, issued in July 2015.
What is Changing
Two charts per visa preference category will be posted in the DOS Visa Bulletin:
- Application Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued); and
- Dates for Filing Applications (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply).
Each month, in coordination with DOS, USCIS will monitor visa numbers and post the relevant DOS Visa Bulletin chart. Applicants can use the charts to determine when to file their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
To determine whether additional visas are available, USCIS will compare the number of visas available for the remainder of the fiscal year with:
- Documentarily qualified visa applicants reported by DOS;
- Pending adjustment of status applications reported by USCIS; and
- Historical drop off rate (for example, denials, withdrawals, abandonments).
About the Visa Bulletin
DOS publishes current immigrant visa availability information in a monthly Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited visas are available to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date.
- The priority date is generally the date when the applicant’s relative or employer properly filed the immigrant visa petition on the applicant’s behalf with USCIS. If a labor certification is required to be filed with the applicant’s immigrant visa petition, then the priority date is when the labor certification application was accepted for processing by Department of Labor.
- Availability of an immigrant visa means eligible applicants are able to take one of the final steps in the process of becoming U.S. permanent residents.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced that the designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has been extended for 18 months, effective 1/23/16 through 7/22/17. The 60-day re-registration period runs from 8/25/15 through 10/26/15.
Effective July 21, 2015, new guidance (PA-2015-001) in the USCIS Policy Manual clarifies the eligibility requirements for modifications to the Oath of Allegiance.
Reciting the Oath is part of the naturalization process. Candidates for citizenship normally declare that they will “bear arms on behalf of the United States” and “perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States” when required by the law.
A candidate may be eligible to exclude these two clauses based on religious training and belief or a conscientious objection. The new guidance clarifies that a candidate:
May be eligible for modifications based on religious training and belief, or conscientious objection arising from a deeply held moral or ethical code.
Is not required to belong to a specific church or religion, follow a particular theology or belief, or to have had religious training in order to qualify.
May submit, but is not required to provide, an attestation from a religious or other type of organization, as well as other evidence to establish eligibility.
Beginning July 13, 2015, USCIS will resume accepting Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for all Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, H-1B extension of stay petitions. This is 2 weeks earlier than the previously announced date of July 27, 2015.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a notice that Nepal has been designated for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a period of 18 months, effective today, June 24, 2015, through December 24, 2016. This designation allows eligible Nepalese nationals (and immigrants having no nationality who last habitually resided in Nepal) who have continuously resided and have been continuously physically present in the United States since June 24, 2015, to be granted TPS. The 180-day registration period ends on December 21, 2015.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs is currently experiencing technical problems with our overseas passport and visa systems. This issue is not specific to any particular country, citizenship document, or visa category. The Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) problems we are experiencing are not the same challenges we overcame last summer. We are working urgently to correct the problems and restore our system to full operational status as soon as possible. We apologize to applicants who are experiencing delays or are unable to obtain a passport overseas, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or U.S. visa at this time. Domestic passport issuances are not affected at this time. We are able to issue emergency passports to U.S. citizens overseas for urgent travel. We are seeking to assist non-immigrant visa applicants with urgent humanitarian travel. Travelers with an urgent humanitarian need for travel should contact their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We are aware of pending overseas adoption cases, including in China. We are prioritizing these cases and seek to issue these visas with few delays. We regret the inconvenience to travelers, and remain committed to facilitating legitimate travel while protecting our borders. We are working urgently to correct the problem and expect our system to be fully operational again soon. We will post updates to Travel.State.Gov as more information becomes available.
Q: Is this the same issue as last year? Was it not fixed?
This is not the same issue as last year.Q: What is going on? Why can’t the Department issue visas, passports, and other travel documents?
We are working as quickly as possible to pinpoint the root cause of our technical issues. We apologize to travelers and recognize that this may cause hardship to individuals waiting for visas and passports overseas.Q: How is this affecting consular operations?
Passport applications accepted overseas on or after May 26, 2015 are affected. If you applied for a U.S. passport during this time frame and have travel plans within the next 10 business days, please consider requesting an emergency passport at the U.S. embassy or consulate at which you originally applied. Information about how to apply for an emergency passport is available on the website of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Security measures prevent consular officers from printing a passport, report of birth abroad, or visa until the case completes the required national security checks. Service to our customers will be interrupted until the system is brought back online.Q: Can the Department just print travel letters for those who need to travel quickly?
At this time we are able to issue passports to U.S. citizens overseas for emergency travel. Domestic passport operations are not affected at this time. U.S. citizens applying for a passport domestically will receive passports within the four-to-six week standard for routine passports. We are seeking to assist nonimmigrant visa applicants with urgent humanitarian travel. Please contact the embassy or consulate where you applied for additional information.Q: What caused this outage? Was it a malicious action or hack?
There is no evidence the problem is cyber security related. We are working urgently to correct the problem and expect the system to be fully operational again soon.Q: How long before you restore full system functionality?
We do not yet have a timeline. We are working urgently to identify the problem and correct it. We expect the systems to be fully operational again soon.
Getson & Schatz, P.C. Attorney Marco Pignone was quoted in Al Dia News regarding one of our firm’s cases. http://aldianews.com/articles/politics/immigration/honduran-man-facing-deportation-has-two-days-make-his-case/39306
- Uncategorized (376)