SEVP Issues 'Clarifying' Q&A For Foreign Students Re Online-Only Coursework Visa Ban
SEVP released new guidance on the Trump administration’s shifting policy on foreign students taking online coursework in the fall.
USCIS announced that planned furloughs of more than 13,000 of its employees have been postponed for a month.
State Dept. Issues Guidance On National Interest Exceptions For Certain Travelers From The Schengen Area, United Kingdom, And Ireland
DOS released updated guidance stating that certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students may qualify for national interest exceptions to COVID-19-related travel restrictions.
State Dept. Issues One-Month Extension For Immigrant Visa Medical Exams
DOS announced that the CDC approved a one-month extension for medical examinations conducted between January 1 and June 30, 2020.
USCIS issued a policy alert regarding the deployment of investment capital, including further deployment after the job creation requirement is satisfied. USCIS said the clarifications apply to all Form I-526 and I-829 petitions pending on or after July 24, 2020.
USCIS has released guidance on face masks and social distancing for visitors to its facilities.
The USCIS Ombudsman recently reported on the agency's delays in printing green cards, employment authorization documents, and other secure documents, and offered help.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the National Retail Federation, and several others sued the Trump administration on July 21, 2020, seeking an injunction to block President Trump's recent proclamation suspending new nonimmigrant visas.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) released new guidance dated July 24, 2020, in the form of “clarifying” questions and answers regarding the Trump administration’s shifting policy on foreign students taking online coursework in the fall. The guidance follows the Trump administration’s agreement on July 14, 2020, to rescind a new policy to bar all nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students taking only online classes, due to the pandemic, for the fall 2020 semester from entering into or remaining in the United States. The bar now applies to certain new students.
Below are selected highlights of the new guidance from SEVP:
COVID-19-related travel bans remain in place for several countries and regions. However, the Department of State released guidance on July 22, 2020, indicating that students may qualify for national interest exceptions in some cases. For example, students traveling from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas “do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on July 24, 2020, that planned furloughs of more than 13,000 of its employees have been postponed for a month to allow Congress to move on the agency’s emergency funding request for $1.2 billion. Jessica Collins, a USCIS spokesperson, said that recent assurances from Congress and an “uptick” in receipts allowed the agency “the flexibility to responsibly delay the start date” of the furlough until August 30, 2020.
Regarding the previously projected USCIS deficit, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said that he is “committed to addressing this issue in the next coronavirus supplemental so that USCIS can continue accomplishing its missions without a furlough.” He noted that new revenue estimates show the agency could end the fiscal year with a surplus rather than a deficit, based on an internal staff memorandum. Shortly before USCIS announced the one-month delay in furloughs, Sens. Leahy and Jon Tester (D-MT) had called for the Trump administration to call off the furlough plans in light of the new estimates. Ms. Collins said the funding request remains unchanged “and the agency is depending on Congress to provide emergency funding to ensure agency operations continue uninterrupted.”
COVID-19-related travel bans remain in place for several countries and regions. The Department of State released updated guidance on July 22, 2020, stating that certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students may qualify for national interest exceptions. Below are highlights:
On July 24, 2020, the Department of State announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a one-month extension for medical examinations conducted between January 1 and June 30, 2020.
The announcement notes that immigrant visas are limited to the validity of the medical exam for a maximum of six months. Those who were unable to travel on their issued visa, or obtained their medical exam but did not receive their visa, should contact the Immigrant Visa Unit of the U.S. embassy or consulate that issued or is adjudicating the visa application to determine whether they may be issued or reissued a visa for one additional month. “If you are not able to travel within the one additional month, consider waiting until you are able to travel and obtain a new, full validity medical examination and visa,” the announcement states.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy alert on July 24, 2020, that provides “clarifying guidance” included in the USCIS Policy Manual regarding the deployment of investment capital, including further deployment after the job creation requirement is satisfied. USCIS said the clarifications apply to all Form I-526 and I-829 petitions pending on or after July 24, 2020. The guidance:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released guidance on face masks and social distancing for visitors to its facilities.
Among other things, the guidance states that all applicants, petitioners, and visitors over the age of two must wear face coverings while in a USCIS office until further notice. USCIS notes that social distancing requirements are also in place. The guidance restricts who may accompany applicants with scheduled appointments or those who are attending naturalization ceremonies.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ombudsman recently reported on the agency’s delays in printing lawful permanent resident (LPR) cards (green cards), employment authorization documents, and other secure documents, and offered help.
The Ombudsman noted that the reduced capacity followed USCIS’ ending of a contract with an outside company responsible for printing the cards. USCIS said it intended to hire federal employees to replace the contractors, but its financial situation resulted in a hiring freeze.
The Ombudsman said that USCIS “expects these backlogs will continue for the foreseeable future” and that stakeholders are submitting requests for case assistance to the Ombudsman, which is assisting. Specifically, for those whose applications have been approved but whose cards have not yet been produced, the Ombudsman is sending weekly spreadsheets to USCIS to verify that card requests are in line to be processed. Such requests may be submitted at https://www.dhs.gov/topic/cis-ombudsman/forms/7001.
The Ombudsman also noted that LPRs may obtain proof of their status by requesting a stamp of temporary evidence in a valid passport. “Please reach out to USCIS’ Contact Center (800-375-5283) to make an appointment at your local USCIS field office,” the Ombudsman said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the National Retail Federation, and several others sued the Trump administration on July 21, 2020, seeking an injunction to block President Trump’s recent proclamation suspending new nonimmigrant visas.
Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO, said the lawsuit ” seeks to overturn these sweeping and unlawful immigration restrictions that are an unequivocal ‘not welcome’ sign to the engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses and other critical workers who help drive the American economy.” He said that left in place, the restrictions would “push investment abroad, inhibit economic growth and reduce job creation.” Linda Kelly, NAM Senior Vice President, and General Counsel said the visa restrictions would “hand other countries a competitive advantage because they will drive talented individuals away from the United States.” Marcie Schneider, President of Intrax, another party to the lawsuit, noted that J-1 cultural exchange programs “contribute more than $1.4 billion to the American economy each year.”