Agency Guidance and Regulatory Changes

May 9, 2022

USCIS extends automatic Employment Authorization Document (EAD) authorization period for certain EAD renewal applicants

On May 4, 2022 USCIS announced it will extend the automatic 180-day work authorization extension for EAD renewal applicants to 540 days for a temporary period.  The automatic extension time is counted from the expiration date of the EAD card.  This change is due to the lengthy processing times for EAD renewals, which caused many EAD renewal applicants to have to stop working while awaiting issuance of their new EADs.  The extension provision ends on October 26, 2023, so any renewal applications filed/received after that date will be subject to the standard 180-day automatic extension period.

May 9, 2022

U.S. immigration benefits for Ukrainian students

On April 19, 2022 Department of Homeland Security's Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) published a Special Student Relief (SSR) notice for Ukrainian students in the Federal Register.  SSR is an immigration benefit that allows eligible students to enroll in a reduced courseload, and to receive authorization for on or off-campus work authorization beyond the standard regulatory limits.   The publication includes the criteria for SSR eligibility.  Eligible students must apply for an be granted SSR before they can begin to take advantage of this temporary benefit. 

In addition to Ukraine, SSR benefits are currently in place for students from several other countries experiencing crises, including Burma/Myanmar, Haiti, Hong Kong, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.  A helpful summary of SSR and links to the specific SSR programs for each country can be found on the NAFSA website.

Also included in the April 19, 2022 Federal Register publication was the USCIS announcement of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for citizens of Ukraine.  The TPS designation allows eligible Ukrainian nationals who have continuously resided in the U.S. since April 11, 2022 and who have been physically present since April 19, 2022 to apply for TPS. The designation period is for 18 months, from April 19, 2022 to October 19, 2023.  TPS is a limited form of relief designed to help individuals whose countries are experiencing emergency situations such as natural disaster and war.  When a country is designated for TPS by the Department of Homeland Security, eligible citizens from that country can apply for the benefit to USCIS, which includes work authorization. 

There are currently 12 other countries with TPS designation, including Burma/Myanmar, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. A helpful summary of TPS and links to the specific TPS programs for each country can be found on the NAFSA website.

May 9, 2022

Continuation of SEVP COVID-19 Guidance for Academic Year 2022-23

On April 18, 2022 the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated it's COVID-19 guidance for the Academic Year 2022-23 by stating that the agency would extend the guidance originally issued in March 2020.  The guidance provides certain flexibilities in the regulations based on COVID-19 public health concerns, allowing international students in F-1 status to enroll in a hybrid course of study if that is what the school is offering due to COVID-19.  Outside of this temporary guidance, the standard F-1 regulations include the non-COVID rule that limits a student to a maximum of one online course to meet the full course of study requirement for maintenance of F-1 status.

While Dartmouth students engaged in hybrid courses of study under this guidance from March 2020 through Academic Year 2020-21, Dartmouth resumed in-person studies for Academic Year 2021-22, and plans to continue in-person studies in Academic Year 2022-23.

May 9, 2022

USCIS announces expansion of Premium Processing for certain immigration benefits applications

On March 29, 2022 USCIS announced it will expand premium processing (expedited processing) to additional benefits applications, and will be establishing internal cycle time goals to reduce existing backlogs in case processing.  Applicants filing Form I-539 for a change or extension of status, and Form I-765 for an EAD, as well as certain I-140 immigration visa petition applicants, will be able to pay an additional filing fee in order for the application to be adjudicated faster.  A Final Rule was published in the Federal Register, effective May 31, 2022, but no implementation dates have been confirmed.  USCIS plans to begin a phased implementation. OVIS will continue to provide updates as to when premium processing will be available for these applications.

May 9, 2022

CBP announces issuance of electronic I-94 records at land ports of entry

On March 18, 2022 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in the Federal Register that it will no longer issue paper I-94 records of arrival at land ports of entry, and will issue only electronic I-94 records except in limited circumstances and "upon request if feasible."  CBP began automating I-94 records for travelers entering the U.S. by air and sea in 2016, but continued to issue paper I-94 records at land ports of entry. 

March 17, 2022

DHS Designates Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status

On March 15, the Department of Homeland Security announced Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Afghanistan for a period of 18 months.  The TPS designation will not go into effect until a notice is published in the Federal Register.  TPS will only apply to individuals who were already residing in the U.S. on March 15, 2022 and meet the other requirements for TPS.  The Federal Register notice will provide instructions for applying for TPS.  OVIS will update our website as new information becomes available.

March 14, 2022

U.S. State Department provides information on immigration options for citizens of Ukraine

The U.S. Department of State has updated its website with information on visa and other immigration options for citizens of Ukraine, including Humanitarian Parole and Refugee status. 

Additional external resources for affected students and scholars can be found on the NAFSA website and the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration website.

March 8, 2022

Consular Services for Russian citizens

Prior to the situation in Ukraine, the U.S. Department of State announced that consular posts in Kazakhstan, Serbia and Armenia would be designated visa processing posts for F and J visa applications of Russian applicants.  OVIS is not aware of any change in these designations resulting from the Russian attack on Ukraine. We will provide updates as they become available.

March 7, 2022

DHS designates Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status

On March 3, 2022 the Department of Homeland Security announced the designation of Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a period of 18 months.  In order to be eligible for TPS, students must have continuously resided in the U.S. since March 1, 2022.  The announcement stated that the TPS designation will go into effect upon publication in the Federal Register, and instructions for applying for TPS will be in that notice.  OVIS will continue to provide updates as they become available.  Additional background on TPS can be found on the NAFSA website

February 25, 2022

Crisis in Ukraine and U.S. Govt Agency Actions

The situation in Ukraine is fluid and information is constantly changing.  The U.S. Department of State website has information related to consular and border closures impacting Ukraine and Russia.  Some countries, including Poland and Slovakia, are relaxing immigration requirements for entry by Ukrainian citizens.  There are travel advisories and alerts in place for any travel to the region.   The U.S. Dept of the Treasury has imposed sanctions against Russia, including actions against some of the country's largest financial institutions.  OVIS and our campus partners continue to monitor the escalating situation, and will provide updates as they become available.

January 21, 2022

DHS Vaccination Requirements for Non U.S. Travelers Entering U.S. by Land from Canada or Mexico

Beginning January 22, 2022, the Dept of Homeland Security announced it is requiring non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents entering the U.S. by land or ferry for all purposes, including "essential" travel such as work or school, to provide full proof of COVID vaccination status. 

January 19, 2022

Dept. of State extends waivers for in-person visa appointments at U.S. Consulates abroad through December 31, 2022

On December 23, 2021 the U.S. State Department announced that the agency, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, authorized consular posts abroad to waive in-person visa interviews, at their discretion, for applicants in certain visa categories, including F, J, H and O.  Applicants must be applying at consulates in their home countries or countries of residence, and who either were previously issued any type of visa and have not been refused a visa, or who are a citizen of a Visa Waiver country who has previously traveled to the U.S. on ESTA.  According to the State Department's Foreign Affairs Manual, the policy does not include citizens of China who are applying for F or J visas.  The policy is in effect until December 31, 2022.

November 4, 2021

New International Travel Policy for Travelers Coming by Land from Canada and Mexico

Beginning November 8, 2021, nonimmigrants who are full vaccinated against COVID will be able to cross the land borders with Canada for non-essential purposes (tourism).  Travelers coming to the U.S. for essential travel are not required to be vaccinated at this time, but beginning in January 2022 all foreign nationals crossing U.S. land ports-of-entry, for essential or non-essential purposes, will be required to be fully vaccinated and must provide proof of vaccination. Please refer to the U.S. Customs & Border Protection Agency website for more information. 

September 22, 2021

Travel restrictions with Canada and Mexico

U.S. Customs & Border Protection announced another extension of the restriction on non-essential travel across the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders, to October 21, 2021. The restriction originally went into effect on March 21, 2020 for a 30-day period, and has been extended on a monthly basis. The restriction does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and foreign nationals who are traveling to work in the U.S. or to attend an educational institution. Non-essential travel includes tourism. Since August 9, 2021, the Canadian government has permitted non-essential travel from the United States to Canada for fully vaccinated U.S. nationals and permanent residents who reside in the United States. Please refer to the U.S. Customs & Border Protection Agency website for more information. 

September 17, 2021

Dept of State expands visa interview waivers for certain F-1 and J-1 applications

The U.S. Department of State announced that it is authorizing consular posts to expand the categories of F, M, and "academic J visa applicants" (students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists) whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview, with certain exceptions.  According to the announcement on the State Department website:   "Consular officers may, if they so choose, and pursuant to local conditions, now waive the visa interview requirement for F, M, and academic J visa applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and who have never been refused a visa unless such refusal was overcome or waived, and who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility; or first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided they have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility."  The expansion is through the end of 2021. 

July 7, 2021

DHS formally withdraws proposed rule to eliminate D/S (duration of status)

On July 6, 2021 the Department of Homeland Security officially withdrew the agency's proposed rule to eliminate duration of status (D/S) for F-1 students, J-1 Exchange Visitors and their dependents. DHS confirmed that it received more than 32,000 comments during the proposed rule public comment period. The official withdrawal notice is published in the Federal Register.

May 24, 2021

SEVP Guidance for Fall 2021

On April 26, 2021, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated its COVID-19 guidance by adding an updated section clarifying questions for the 2021-22 academic year. The updated guidance states that SEVP will extend the March 2020 guidance for the upcoming academic year. The guidance enables schools and international students to engage in remote learning in excess of the regulatory limits due to continuing COVID-19 public health concerns. According to the guidance, new or initial students coming to the U.S. cannot engage in a fully online course of study. Schools may issue Forms I-20 to students seeking to enroll in a program of study that includes in-person and online components beyond the regulatory limits. The guidance also states that once a school returns to "normal operations," if students cannot or will not return to the U.S. to study, their F-1 records should be terminated in the SEVIS system. OVIS will continue to provide updates as we receive additional information and clarification on the SEVP guidance and announcements on Dartmouth's operations for Fall term 2021. 

May 24, 2021

U.S. Department of State Announcements on National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) for China, Iran, Brazil South Africa and India

On May 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of State posted an update to its April 26, 2021 announcement on the eligibility for National Interest Exceptions to the 14-day travel restriction to the U.S. for travelers from India, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area countries, the U.K. and Ireland. According to the announcement, students with F-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program on or after August 1, 2021 do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to obtain an NIE prior to travel. Students who require a new F-1 visa stamp in their passport should check the status of visa services at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Those applicants qualified for an F-1 visa will be automatically considered for an NIE to travel. 

The text of the Department of State announcements is ambiguous, and seems to say that the August 1, 2021 condition does not include the Schengen countries or the UK and Ireland.  There is also uncertainty as to whether the August 1, 2021 condition applies only to new students, or to both new and continuing students. The agency has been asked to provide clarification on these critical points. OVIS is monitoring the guidance and will provide updates when they become available.

May 24, 2021

Suspension of U.S. Consular Services in Russia

Effective May 12, 2021 the U.S. Embassy in Russia suspended processing of nonimmigrant visas except for diplomatic travel. No date has been provided for resumption of visa services. 

April 30, 2021

Dept of State expands National Interest Exceptions for Students

On April 26, 2021 the U.S. Department of State announced the expansion of travel ban exemptions to COVID-19 – related Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992 and 10143 so that students coming from China, Iran, Brazil and South Africa can now qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE) in order to travel directly to the U.S. from those countries. The NIE has already been in place for students coming from the Schengen Area countries, the UK and Ireland. 

According to the announcement, students with a valid F-1 visa who intend to begin or continue an academic program commencing on or after August 1, 2021 do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. The announcement says that students may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of academic studies. The announcement instructs students seeking to apply for a new F-1 visa to check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate. Students who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.

There is some ambiguity in the announcement, specifically around the August 1, 2021 condition and what that means for students planning travel to the U.S. for the start of the Fall term. Department of State has been asked to provide clarification on this point. OVIS will update this post as new information becomes available.

March 15, 2021

U.S. Department of State expands visa interview waiver eligibility

On March 11, 2021 the U.S. Department of State announced the expansion of consular officers' ability to waive the visa interview for applicants who are applying for a visa in the same nonimmigrant classification and whose visa stamp has expired within the previous 48 months.  Previously the policy only applied to applicants whose visa expired within 24 months.  Applicants should check with the consular post to determine whether they are eligible for the interview waiver. 

March 1, 2021

USCIS provides relief for OPT applicants impacted by OPT receipt delays

On February 26, 2021 USCIS emailed an announcement to stakeholders outlining the steps it will take to address the negative impacts of the recent delays in OPT receipt processing at USCIS Lockboxes. According to the announcement, USCIS will:

  • Retain the filing date of a rejected filing if an applicant refiles the rejected application (must be received no later than May 31, 2021); and,
  • Allow the 14-month period during which the 12 months of post-completion OPT must be completed to start following approval of the EAD instead of the F-1 program end date on the Form I-20.

The full text of the announcement can be found on the USCIS website.

January 4, 2021

New Rules Impacting H-1B Program

On October 8, 2020 the Department of Homeland Security published a new Interim Final Rule in the Federal Register entitled "Strengthening the H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Classification Program."  The rule, scheduled to go into effect on December 7, 2020, calls for a stricter definition of "specialty occupation" for purposes of meeting the H-1B criteria.  On the same day, the Department of Labor published a new Interim Final Rule entitled "Strengthening Wage Protections for the Temporary and Permanent Employment of Certain Aliens in the United States."  This rule, effective immediately, changes the way prevailing wages are calculated, resulting in significant increases to prevailing wages that H-1B employers are required to pay.  This will impact new H-1B petitions and future H-1B extension petitions.  

DHS and DOL issued press releases announcing these new rules. At least three lawsuits, including one where the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, of which Dartmouth is a member, is a named plaintiff, were filed in federal courts challenging the DOL rule. On December 1, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Chamber of Commerce, et al. v. DHS, et al., set aside the DHS and DOL rules. And on December 14, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Purdue University, et al. v. Scalia, et al. granted a summary judgment against the DOL, and ordered the agency to reissue prevailing wage determinations that were issued under the October 8 rule. 

It is possible that the government will appeal one or both of these decisions, or seek to re-introduce the rules in the future. OVIS will continue to monitor this situation and will provide updated information as it becomes available. 

August 4, 2020

New SEVP Guidance Addresses Fall Term 2020

On July 24, 2020, SEVP issued new guidance for Fall 2020 and updated its FAQs.  Details regarding the implications of the guidance for new and continuing students can be found on OVIS's Coronavirus FAQs page

July 08, 2020

U.S. Dept of Homeland Security issues guidance on Fall term 2020

(Updated July 07, 2020)

On July 6, 2020 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued new guidance on procedures that will apply to international students for Fall term 2020.  The government will be publishing a Temporary Final Rule and plans to issue FAQs in stages to supplement the new guidance.  The first set of FAQs was released on July 7, 2020.  There appear to be some discrepancies between the FAQs and the initial guidance that will require clarification.   OVIS is working to interpret and analyze the guidance and how it applies to the undergraduate and graduate degree programs at Dartmouth. 

OVIS is focused on providing timely and accurate information as soon as we can in order to help new and continuing students understand the implications of the guidance.  Please continue to monitor our website and Facebook page for new information.

August 16, 2019

USCIS issues new Public Charge regulation

On August 14, 2019 the Dept of Homeland Security published a final rule governing how the government interprets the public charge grounds of inadmissibility.  The public charge determination happens during the adjustment of status application process for permanent residence (green card) and when a foreign national seeks admission based on an immigrant visa.  The rule does not apply to asylees and refugees.  The new rule, set to go into effect October 15, 2019, changes the standard for determining public charge from an individual being primarily dependent on public benefits, to an individual who received a specified public benefit for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.  The rules lists specific public benefits, including but not limited to TANF, certain Section 8 Housing and Rental Assistance, SNAP, and certain Medicaid benefits.  USCIS has a webpage with FAQs on the new Public Charge rule.  As of August 16, 2019 thirteen states have filed a lawsuit challenging the Administration’s rule. OVIS will continue to monitor the rule and provide updates.

July 22, 2019

Administration imposes ban on asylum seekers coming to the U.S. from third countries

U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Justice jointly issued an interim final rule, effective July 16, 2019, establishing a bar to asylum eligibility for individuals coming through a third country and then seeking entry to the U.S.  The rule requires individuals to apply for asylum in one of the countries they traveled on their way to the U.S., with limited exceptions.

The Press Release containing a link to the rule can be found on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website.

On July 24, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an Order granting a preliminary injunction that stops the government from continuing to implement the new asylum rule pending a final judgment or further order from the Court.