Articles Posted in Student Visas

Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with new White House initiatives expanding the post-completion Optional Practical Training program for STEM international students, as well as other government initiatives to attract entrepreneurs and highly skilled professionals to the United States seeking O-1 visas and National Interest Waivers.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching!


Overview


White House Releases Initiative Expanding STEM OPT


We are excited to share that just last week, the White House announced a series of policy changes designed to attract and retain the knowledge and training of international students working toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related fields in the United States. Among these new initiatives, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has announced the expansion of the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, with the addition of 22 new fields of study to the STEM Degree Program List, including economics, computer science, mathematical economics, data science, business and financial analytics.

Currently, the F-1 STEM optional practical training (OPT) extension program grants F-1 students with a qualifying STEM degree, the ability to work in the United States with OPT work authorization for a period of up to 36 months. This expansion of the program will now increase the pool of candidates eligible to receive employment authorization.

Some of the newly added fields of study include: Bioenergy; Forestry, General; Forest Resources Production and Management; Human Centered Technology Design; Cloud Computing; Anthrozoology; Climate Science; Earth Systems Science; Economics and Computer Science; Environmental Geosciences; Geobiology; Geography and Environmental Studies; Mathematical Economics; Mathematics and Atmospheric/Oceanic Science; Data Science, General; Data Analytics, General; Business Analytics; Data Visualization; Financial Analytics; Data Analytics, Other; Industrial and Organizational Psychology; Social Sciences, Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods. To view a complete list of qualifying fields, please click here to view the Federal Register notice. Continue reading

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog! It’s the start of a brand-new year and as always, we at the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick, are committed to bringing you the latest in immigration news. We are happy for you to join us.

In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares his top predictions for U.S. immigration in the new year. In this blog post we cover the following topics: What will happen to visa processing during the COVID-19 pandemic? Will there be immigration reform in the new year? Will any new changes be made to the H-1B visa program? What about fee increases? Stay tuned to find out more.


Overview


What are some of our key immigration law predictions for the upcoming year?


Increase in Filing Fees for USCIS petitions and DOS Non-Immigrant Visa Fees


Our first prediction for the new year is an increase in filing fees at both the USCIS and Department of State levels, to help increase government resources during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As you might recall, back in October of 2020, USCIS attempted to increase its filing fees to meet its operational costs. Among the petitions that were to be the most impacted were N-400 applications for naturalization, L visa petitions, O visa petitions, and petitions for qualifying family members of U-1 nonimmigrants.

Fortunately, in September of 2020, a federal court struck down the planned USCIS increase in fees arguing that the new fee increases would adversely impact vulnerable and low-income applicants, especially those seeking humanitarian protections.

We believe that early in the new year USCIS will again publish a rule in the Federal Register seeking to increase its fees to help keep the agency afloat. USCIS previously insisted that the additional fees were necessary to increase the number of personnel at its facilities to meet the increasing demand for adjudication of certain types of petitions. It is no secret that USCIS has experienced severe revenue shortfalls since the start of the pandemic as more and more families found it difficult to afford filing fees. Once those details have been made public we will provide more information right here on our blog and on our YouTube channel.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the most up to date information about the current status of U.S. visa services at Consulates and Embassies worldwide. In this post we cover U.S. Embassies and Consular posts that we have not yet touched on and provide an analysis of their operating capacity during the worldwide COVID-19 health crisis. Want to know which Embassies and Consulates are scheduling visa interviews?

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


As a preliminary matter, it is important to consider that the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas continue to have very limited operational capacity due to constraints relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some posts have temporarily suspended all routine visa services and have not provided an estimated time frame as to when they will resume at least partial visa services and appointments. The bulk of Consular posts have entered a phased resumption of visa services and are providing visa services as their resources and local country conditions will allow. The health and safety of employees and the public remains a top concern. Emergency and mission critical visa services continue to be prioritized for those facing life and death emergencies, age-out cases where the applicant will no longer qualify due to their age, immediate relative intercountry adoption, and other special cases. Furthermore, expedite requests and National Interest exceptions continue to be considered by Consular posts and Embassies including for health care professionals working to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


How are Consular posts and Embassies prioritizing appointments?


The Department of State announced that Consular missions and Embassies are following a four-tier system of prioritization to triage documentarily qualified immigrant visa applications based on the category of immigrant visa as they resume and expand processing. Consular sections are scheduling some appointments within all four priority tiers every month where possible, however the following are the main categories of immigrant visas in priority order:

  • Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government), and emergency cases as determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Tier Two:  Immediate relative visas; fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas
  • Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad
  • Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas*

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares information about the current status of U.S. visa services at Consulates and Embassies worldwide by country for the month of August 2021. We would also like to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Afghanistan who are facing extremely difficult circumstances in their country. Our office represents several immigrant visa applicants in Afghanistan and are doing everything we can to help reunite visa applicants with their loved ones in the United States.

In this blog post we will run through what we know regarding the operating status of Consulates and Embassies all over the world starting with Kabul, Afghanistan.

Keep on watching to find out more.


Overview


U.S. Consulate Kabul, Afghanistan

Due to ongoing political unrest and security threats in Kabul, Afghanistan, the U.S. Consulate in Kabul, Afghanistan is closed to the public and operations to assist U.S. Citizens are extremely limited due to reduced staffing.

At this moment we have received information that all immigrant visa applicants who had visa interview appointments at the Consulate in Kabul or were waiting to be scheduled for an interview in Kabul, will be receiving an email with instructions on how your case will proceed. Your case may be moved to a different overseas post, or you may receive instructions to complete the repatriation assistance form (details below).

As we all know, the security situation in Kabul is evolving on a daily basis. The Consulate has advised U.S. citizens seeking assistance to depart the country to complete the Repatriation Assistance Request for each traveler in their group. Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who are awaiting immigrant visas are encouraged to complete this form as soon as possible if they wish to depart. The Repatriation Request form should only be used once to avoid delays. You must complete this form even if you’ve previously submitted your information to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by another means. This form is the only way to communicate interest in flight options. The Consulate will notify you directly by email based on your registration as soon as departure options become available.

Eligibility Requirements:

  1. U.S. Citizenship:  The U.S. Embassy will prioritize U.S. citizens for any charter flights.   U.S. citizens with a non-citizen spouse or unmarried children (under age 21) may include their family members in their repatriation assistance requests but should indicate each family member’s citizenship and whether each has a valid passport and/or a U.S. visa.

If you are a non-U.S. citizen parent of a U.S. citizen minor, indicate whether you have appropriate travel documentation to enter the United States (i.e. valid U.S. visa). If you do not have appropriate travel documentation, please identify an individual who currently has valid travel documentation who could accompany your U.S. citizen minor.

U.S. lawful permanent residents may submit a repatriation assistance request, and their request will be considered depending on availability.

  1. Flight Costs: Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid.  The cost may be $2,000USD or more per person.
  2. Travel Documents:  All passengers should have valid travel documents required for entry into the United States (e.g. U.S. passports or visas)

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares his top 5 tips for making a smooth transition from F-1 student visa to H-1B worker visa.

Keep on watching to find out more!


Top Tips: How to Transition From F-1 Student to H-1B Worker


This post is dedicated to F-1 students who are graduating from U.S. universities and are ready to become part of the American workforce.

Many F-1 visa students are fortunate enough to secure a job in the United States and H-1B visa sponsorship from a U.S. employer. If that sounds like you, this video will help you navigate the process and explain how you can make a smooth transition from F-1 student to H-1B worker in a specialty occupation.

What does this process look like and how can you make the transition?

USCIS statistics have proven that many beneficiaries of cap-subject H-1B visa petitions are actually F-1 students currently inside the United States. One of the most important factors in making a smooth transition from F-1 student to H-1B worker is to ensure that you are properly maintaining your F-1 visa status while studying in the United States.

How to Properly Maintain Your F-1 Student Visa Status

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses the National Visa Center (NVC) immigrant visa backlog and current NVC processing times in the month of June. Stay tuned for updates on the Department of State’s plan to reopen Embassies and Consulates worldwide, and information on how Consular posts will be prioritizing visa issuance in the next few months for F-1 students, H-1B workers, H-4 spouses, and J-1 Workers.

Want to know more? Keep on watching for all the details.


Overview


The National Visa Center’s Backlog

As many of you know, last year the Department of State made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consular posts worldwide to prevent the rapid spread of the Coronavirus. The suspension was necessary to adhere to local regulations such as the mandatory quarantines and social distancing required to contain the virus. Although Embassies and Consulates are now following a phased resumption of visa services framework, limited resources and local country conditions in some regions have prevented Consular posts from providing routine visa services as before. Most Consular sections are not operating at normal capacity, and are prioritizing visa appointments for emergencies, mission critical visa services, and immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens including K fiancé(e)s.

On February 2, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,” which was designed to promote integration and inclusion for foreign born immigrants, including the dismantling of harmful anti-immigrant policies.

Despite the issuance of this Executive Order, Embassies and Consulates have not been able to return to normalcy and routine visa services have remained suspended. Consular officials are still refusing to issue visas for individuals that remain in the lower tier of immigrant visa prioritization, including family preference, employment preference, and diversity immigrant visa applicants. This has prompted hundreds of individuals to join numerous class action lawsuits to force the government to intervene.

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a new Presidential Proclamation passed by President Joe Biden, that temporarily restricts and suspends the entry of nonimmigrants into the United States, who were physically present within the Republic of India during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

Want to know more? Keep on watching.


Overview


In response to the magnitude and high number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Republic of India, the White House has made the decision to initiate a Regional COVID-19 related Presidential Proclamation, temporarily restricting and suspending the entry of nonimmigrants from the Republic of India into the United States. Those impacted will include any nonimmigrant who has been physically present within the Republic of India during the 14-day period preceding his or her entry or attempted entry into the United States.

As has been the case with previous COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamations, the following categories of nonimmigrants will NOT be impacted by this Proclamation:

Section 1 of this Presidential Proclamation does not apply to:

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides an important update for international students studying in the United States during the upcoming Fall semester.

Stay tuned to find out more.


Overview

On July 6th international students were shocked to find out that the federal government introduced new guidelines preventing students from attending schools with online instruction only during the Fall 2020 semester.

The new guidelines, released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), provided that students enrolled in schools with online only instruction would not be issued visas, and CBP would not permit these students to enter the U.S. from abroad, despite rising Coronavirus cases nationwide. Additionally, the announcement stated that students already in the United States enrolled in an online only study program would need to transfer to a school providing hybrid or in-person instruction, in order to remain in lawful status in the United States. Students who failed to transfer would be required to depart the country immediately.

Fortunately, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) stood up for international students nationwide and swiftly filed a lawsuit against the government to prevent the guidelines from being enforced. The lawsuit sought a temporary and permanent court order/injunction to stop the government from enforcing any part of the new guidelines on students and universities.

The judge in that case had scheduled an emergency hearing on July 14th to hear oral arguments from the universities and the government.

In a surprising turn of events, just before the hearing was scheduled to begin, the judge announced that the government reached an agreement to rescind the new police in its entirety.

From the Court Docket: Harvard and MIT vs. DHS/ICE re: International Students

“Hearing held on 7/14/2020. The Court was informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution to the combined temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction motions. The Government has agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 Policy Directive and the July 7, 2020 FAQ, and has also agreed to rescind their implementation. The Government will return to the March 9, 2020 and March 13, 2020 policy.”

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Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, we will give you our top 10 tips on how to successfully obtain an F-1 student visa or J-1 Trainee visa.

Overview: 

There are generally two ways to apply for a U.S. Visa. If you are residing lawfully in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa classification (such as a tourist visa) you may apply for a change of status by filing Form I-539 Application to Change Nonimmigrant Status with USCIS. If you are residing abroad however you must apply for your visa at a U.S. Consulate near you.

Regardless of your application method, there are several important tips that can help you successfully obtain your F-1 or J-1 visa.

  1. Proof of Strong Ties to your home country

One of the most important aspects of the application is providing documentary evidence that your stay in the United States will only be of a temporary nature and that you will depart the United States at the end of your student visa or trainee program. To show that you intend to remain in the United States only temporarily, you must provide proof that you have obligations/ties to your home country that require your eventual return.

What types of evidence can be provided to fulfill this requirement?

There are a variety of different types of evidence that can be provided to show strong proof of ties home. The most common types of evidence include proof of residence abroad, proof of employment abroad or a future job offer that will require you to return to your home country, enrollment in an academic program to be attended in the future, military obligations abroad, property ownership abroad, business operations or business ownership abroad, evidence of familial obligations, etc.

  1. Financial Ability

All non-immigrant visa applicants must show that they have the financial ability to support their stay during the duration of their student or trainee program. This can be shown by providing your most recent bank account statements to prove that you have sufficient capital to support your stay.

Alternatively, applicants may provide proof of sponsorship. For purposes of sponsorship, the applicant must have a friend or relative who meets the income requirements sign Form I-134 Affidavit of Support. The sponsor must sign a statement that they will be financially responsible for the applicant’s expenses throughout the duration of their stay in the U.S., and the sponsor must also provide supporting financial documentation showing their ability to sponsor the applicant.

  1. Knowledge of the English Language

In order to obtain a F-1 or J-1 visa, you must demonstrate at your consular interview that you have at least a basic command of the English language to be able to effectively participate in your student visa or trainee visa program.

Please note: You will need to be able to speak for yourself at the time of your interview. You will not be allowed to bring a parent, relative, or anyone else to speak for you at your interview.

  1. Explain how your program of study will relate to your future career in your home country

At the time of your interview you must be prepared to explain to the consular officer how your chosen program of study or training relates to your future career in your home country. For example, if you have chosen to study hospitality management in the United States, you may wish to explain to the officer that you plan to work in the hospitality industry in your home country, and your US degree in hospitality management will help you be an attractive candidate for employers in your home country.

This will increase your chances of success at the time of your interview.

  1. Be clear and concise

Remember that you only have a limited amount of time to speak to the consular officer and show that you qualify for the visa. All of your answers to the officer must be clear and concise. Answer exactly what the officer is asking, nothing less nothing more.

  1. Supplementary documents

Do not bring voluminous documents to your interview. Be organized and bring only documents that are necessary for your interview.

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In this live stream, attorneys Jacob Sapochnick and Marie Puertollano discuss recent topics in immigration including the new USCIS policy giving immigration officers ample discretion to deny an application or petition filed with USCIS without first issuing a RFE or NOID, suspension of premium processing, fraudulent H-1B schemes, and more.

Overview:

RFE/NOID Policy

Beginning September 11, if you do not provide sufficient evidence to establish that you are eligible for the immigration benefit you are requesting, USCIS may exercise their discretion and deny your petition without first issuing a request for evidence or RFE. This new policy applies to all applications and petitions filed after September 11th, with the exception of DACA renewal applications.  The decision to deny your application or petition without issuing a RFE or NOID will ultimately be up to the discretion of the officer reviewing your petition. An officer may in his discretion continue to issue a RFE or NOID according to his best judgement.

If you are filing for a change of status or extension of your status, we recommend that you file early, so that you are not out of status in the case that USCIS denies your request for an immigration benefit. This will give you the opportunity to either re-file or to consider changing your status to another visa type. In addition, if you have the ability to apply for premium processing service, you should take advantage of that service.

Suspension of Premium Processing

At the moment premium processing services have been temporary suspended for cap-subject petitions until February 19, 2019, with the exception of cap-exempt petitions filed exclusively at the California Service Center, because the employer is cap-exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap exempt institution.

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