Articles Posted in Student Visas

In this video attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a very hot topic in the world of immigration—the H-1B visa lottery program. Learn how you can increase your chances of winning the H-1B visa lottery for the fiscal year 2024 cap in this video.

Recently, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the initial registration period for the FY 2024 H-1B cap will open starting at noon Eastern time on March 1st and close noon Eastern time on March 17th.

The H-1B season is always an exciting time that gives you the chance of being selected in the lottery and the opportunity to live and work in the United States.

If you want to know more just keep on watching.

Did you know? The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers for specialty occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. The most common occupations for the H-1B visa are the STEM occupations. Every fiscal year, USCIS is limited to a congressionally mandated visa quota of 65,000 cap-subject H-1B visas. Separately, 20,000 H-1B visas are available for foreign nationals who hold a master’s or other advanced degree from a US institution of higher education (cap-exempt).

Continue reading

Do you want to know how you can change your status from a B1/B2 tourist visa to F-1 international student from inside the United States? If so, then this is the right video for you. In this video, we answer this important topic and discuss some important considerations you may want to know if you are interested in changing your status while inside the United States.

When you enter the United States in B1/B2 nonimmigrant status, you do so for a specific purpose – to remain temporarily for business, tourism, or a combination of both. But what happens when after you have entered the United States, you decide that you want to enroll in a course of study in the United States? Is this possible?


Overview


The short answer is yes, however there are some important considerations.

To begin, it is important for you to understand that you cannot file a change of status application while inside the United States during the first 3 months (90 days) of gaining admission to the United States. Doing so may trigger a presumption that you misrepresented your true intention for entering the United States and could land you in hot water with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

However, if, during the course of your remaining duration of stay in the United States (after those 90 days) you become interested in studying in the United States, it is possible for you to apply for a change of status while remaining in the United States. Please note that you must have a good reason for changing your status to F-1 from inside the United States, instead of opting to apply for your F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. For instance, if you could not return to your home country for political or legitimate medical reasons.

Continue reading

Are you an international student in the United States or planning to apply for an F-1 visa? Then this video may interest you. Here, we discuss a recent announcement made by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding the loss of accreditation of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency, and how it will impact certain F-1 students in the United States. The ACICS agency accredited close to 30 schools in the United States attended by more than 5,000 students.

Did You know? The U.S. Department of Education has announced it will no longer recognize the ACICS as an accredited agency. Accordingly, students in an English language program or those seeking an extension of their STEM OPT may be impacted.

If you want to know more just keep on watching.


Overview


On August 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. This determination immediately affects two immigration-related student programs:

Continue reading

In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick addresses a very important question: I want to apply for a U.S. visa, but my country does not have a U.S. Embassy or Consulate (or it is closed at this time), how can I apply for a visa in this situation?

Did You Know? The United States has a diplomatic presence in more than 190 countries around the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates have temporarily suspended certain U.S. visa services or have been operated at a very limited capacity due to local country conditions and regulations. In countries where the United States does not have a diplomatic presence, other U.S. Embassies or Consulates have been responsible for the processing of visas from those country nationals.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in my home country (or the post nearest me is closed) what can I do to get a U.S. visa? What are my options?

Options for Nonimmigrant and Immigrant Visa Applicants


In countries where the United States has no diplomatic presence, or where the U.S. diplomatic mission has limited or suspended its activities, often times the U.S. Department of States will accommodate visa seekers by processing their applications at U.S. Embassies or Consulates in nearby countries.

However, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a nearby country must be willing to accept applications from third-country nationals for the visa type sought. Please note that certain U.S. Embassies or Consulate may not be able to accommodate applicants if the officer is not trained to speak the third-country language or is not familiar with the process for third-country nationals. Third country nationals should also be aware that they bear the responsibility for paying their own costs of transportation and hotel stay in a nearby country, during the visa interview and visa issuance process. Medical examinations for immigrant visas may also need to be conducted by a civil surgeon in the nearby country, therefore applicants should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they wish to apply to understand the requirements and procedures for third-country nationals.

Due to the recent closure of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, for instance, the Department of State designated U.S. Embassy Warsaw in Poland as the processing post for Russian immigrant visa applications.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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*

Continue reading

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)

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading