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Announcements

Immigration regulations and procedures are in an unprecedented state of ongoing review and change. The following is intended to provide you with information on developments that may impact your travel and/or nonimmigrant status.

COVID Travel Restrictions Reinstated for 8 African Countries

On November 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of State announced that it will introduce travel restrictions for the following eight countries: South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Beginning November 29, 2021, reentry to the United States will be restricted to individuals who have been specifically exempted. Travelers to these countries are strongly encouraged to review the full text of the proclamation before making any definitive travel plans. While these restrictions have been authorized for 30 days, they may be extended based on the progression of the new omicron variant.

2023 Diversity Visa Lottery (DVL) Now Open

The online registration period for the 2023 Diversity Visa Lottery opens on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 at 12:00 noon and will conclude on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 at 12:00 noon. Anyone who wishes to submit an online application may do so by visiting the Department of State’s website

Travel Restrictions Will End in November 8,2021

On September 20, 2021, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator announced that the Biden administration planned on lifting travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers who also can show results of a negative coronavirus test performed on a specimen taken during the three days preceding their flight’s departure to the United States. The geographic areas impacted by easing of these travel restrictions are:

  • Brazil
  • China
  • India
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • Schengen area
  • South Africa
  • United Kingdom

National Interest Exemption Validity Extended to One Year

The Department of State announced on July 6, 2021 that National Interest Exemptions (NIEs) will  now be valid for 12 months from the date of approval and for multiple entries to the United States as long as they are used for the purpose under which they were granted. This extension applies to travelers subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, United Kingdom, Ireland, and India who currently have approved NIEs or who were granted NIEs in conjunction with a visa application.

Department of State Update on National Interest Exemptions

On June 1, 2021, the Department of State updated their guidance on national interest exemptions (NIEs). For F-1 students and academic J-1s,  NIES will no longer be required for individuals in those classifications reentering the United States on or after August 1, 2021. F-1 and J-1 nonimmigrants seeking admission to the United States prior to that date will still be required to first obtain an NIE. Please note that this update does not apply to all classes of nonimmigrants and should you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Office of Immigration and Academic Appointments. For the full text of the update, please visit the Department of State website.

Travel Restrictions for Nonimmigrant Travelers Physically Present in India

On April 30, 2021, President Biden signed a proclamation that prohibits travel to the United States for nonimmigrant travelers who have been physically present in India. The proclamation will go into effect on May 4, 2021 and, as with previous executive orders, exempts U.S. citizens and permanent residents as well as travelers whose entry to the United States is deemed to be in the national interest. Proclamation details may be found here. We strongly encourage anyone considering travel to India at this time to consider rescheduling until travel restrictions are lifted. If travel to India is absolutely necessary, please be sure to contact our office prior to anticipated departure and discuss your travel plans with your Head of Laboratory.

Department of State Expands National Interest Exemptions

On April 26, 2021, The Secretary of State expanded national interest exemptions for travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, South Africa, and Ireland. As a result of this determination, academics and students who had previously been subject to presidential proclamations may now qualify for national interest exemptions (NIE). Furthermore, F-1 students whose program begins on or after August 1, 2021, will automatically be considered for an NIE in order to travel. For more information or to read the entire statement, please visit the Department of State’s website.

I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, Available to File Online

On April 12, 2021, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services announced the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, may now be filed online. This option is currently only available in the following eligibility categories:

(c)(3)(A)- Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training;

(c)(3)(B)- Post-Completion Optional Practical Training; and,

(c)(3)(C)- 24 month Optional Practical Training STEM extension.

For more information and to access the online application system, please visit the USCIS webiste

Department of State Visa Services Update

On April 6, 2021, the Department of State provided an update on worldwide visa processing. The update explains that consulates and embassies are working to reduce severe backlogs in visa applications and continue to prioritize nonimmigrants applying for student visas, exchange visitor visas, and some temporary employment visas. Travel restrictions continue to remain in force for citizens of China, Iran, Brazil, United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and the Schengen States.

COVID Travel Restrictions Reinstated

In order to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect against new variants of the disease, effective January 26, 2021, President Biden has reimplemented travel restrictions suspending entry to the United States of all non exempt foreign nationals who were physically present within the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, or South Africa during the14 day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Here is the full text of the proclamation and a complete list of those exempted.  For any related questions, please contact the Office of Immigration & Academic Appointments.

CDC Updates International Travel Guidance

On January 12, 2021, the CDC update its international travel guidance. Effective January 26, 2021, all international travelers will be required to be tested for COVD-19 no more than 3 days prior to their flight and provide proof of a negative result. For further details, please see the CDC Guidance before making any international travel plans.

2022 Diversity Visa Lottery Opens

The Department of State has announced that the Diversity Visa Lottery is now open and that individuals who wish to apply have until November 10th at 12:00 p.m. (eastern standard time) to file their applications.

Please visit the Department of State’s Diversity Visa Lottery Application site and please find detailed instructions on the process here.

USCIS Announces Premium Processing Fee Increase

On October 16, 2020, USCIS announced that it will increase the I-907 Premium Processing Fee from $1,440 to $2,500. This new amount will apply to all I-907 eligible petitions and is effective October 19, 2020.

Brazilian Travel Ban

Effective May 25, 2020, Proclamation of May 24, 2020, suspends entry to the United States of all immigrants, nonimmigrants and any non U.S. citizens who were physically present in the Republic of Brazil 14 days preceding their entry to the United States. The order does not apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

European Schengen Area Travel Ban

Proclamation 9993 of March 11, 2020 suspends the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not subject to this ban.

New SEVIS Release Affects Initial STEM OPT Applications

F-1 students applying for OPT STEM extensions are required to complete Form I-983 (Training Plan for STEM OPT Students) and submit it to their Designated School Official (DSO). Beginning November 17, 2019 with the new SEVIS release, DSOs must first receive a completed I-983, which will then need to be uploaded to the SEVIS system before an initial STEM OPT recommendation may be made.

USCIS Announces Increase in Premium Processing Fee

On October 30, 2019, USCIS announced that it will be increasing the I-907 Request for Premium Processing Fee to $1,440 from the current fee of $1,410. This increase, according to USCIS, reflects the amount of inflation from the implementation of the fee in June 2001 through August 2019.

The increase will go into effect on December 2, 2019.

Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Announces SEVIS Fee Increase

On May 22, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced that I-901 fees will be increased for F-1 & M-1 students from $200 to $350. I-901 fees for J-1 Exchange Visitors will increase from $180 to $220. According to SEVP, the increased fees are needed to fund operations as they receive no Congressional appropriations.

The new fees will go into effect on June 24, 2019.

Investigation of USCIS Backlog Called For

Eighty-two members of Congress have called on the “GAO to thoroughly examine the backlog of immigration cases at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and work with the agency to fulfill its mission of processing immigration cases”:

https://congressionalhispaniccaucus-castro.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/chc-chair-castro-and-81-democrats-demand-gao-investigate-uscis-record

Department of State announces 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery

The Department of State announced that it will be opening the 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery. Individuals who wish to enter may apply starting from noon (EST) on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 through noon (EST) Tuesday, November 6, 2018. All applications must be submitted electronically using Form DS-5501 at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov  Please note that paper entries will not be accepted and applicants are encouraged to submit as early as possible.

For more information and to see if you qualify for entry, please visit: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/diversity-visa-program-entry.html

USCIS to Expand In-Person Interview Requirements for Certain Permanent Residence Applications

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin expanding in-person interviews for certain immigration benefit applicants whose benefit, if granted, would allow them to permanently reside in the United States. This change complies with Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” and is part of the agency’s comprehensive strategy to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and further enhance the integrity of the immigration system.

Effective Oct. 1, USCIS will begin to phase-in interviews for the following:

• Adjustment of status applications based on employment (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).

• Refugee/asylee relative petitions (Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition) for beneficiaries who are in the United States and are petitioning to join a principal asylee/refugee applicant.

Previously, applicants in these categories did not require an in-person interview with USCIS officers in order for their application for permanent residency to be adjudicated. Beyond these categories, USCIS is planning an incremental expansion of interviews to other benefit types.

Conducting in-person interviews will provide USCIS officers with the opportunity to verify the information provided in an individual’s application, to discover new information that may be relevant to the adjudication process, and to determine the credibility of the individual seeking permanent residence in the United States.  USCIS will meet the additional interview requirement through enhancements in training and technology as well as transitions in some aspects of case management.

Executive Order 13780-Enahncing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists and Other Public Safety Threats.

On September 24, the Trump administration released its latest version of Executive Order 13780 in the form of a Presidential Proclamation “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists and Other Public-Safety Threats”. The order discusses the results of a 90 day review regarding individual screening and information sharing policies. Eight counties were found to be deficient and each was listed separately as to the restrictions its citizens would face. Two countries were found to require only additional scrutiny, and one was eliminated from the list.

  1. Chad-No immigrant, DV visas; no temporary visitors or business or tourist visas (B-1/B-2)
  2. Iran-No immigrant or DV visas; and no nonimmigrants, except F-1 students, M-1 vocational students and J-1 exchange visitors who will be subject to enhanced screening
  3. Iraq- All nonimmigrant and immigrant visas are still available with enhanced screening
  4. Libya- No immigrant or DV visas; no temporary visitors or business or tourist visas (B-1/B-2)
  5. North Korea-No immigrant, nonimmigrant or DV visas
  6. Somalia-No immigrant visas and all nonimmigrants will be subject to enhanced screening
  7. Syria-No immigrant, nonimmigrant or DV visas
  8. Venezuela-Certain government officials and their family members will be suspended from entry on business or tourist visas (B-1/B-2); no other restrictions
  9. Yemen-No immigrant, nonimmigrant or DV visas

No visas will be revoked and all valid visas may still be used for entry to the United States. Green card holders are exempt from this ban as are dual nationals traveling on third country passports. Waivers may be granted at consulates for undue hardship, students, workers or other long-term activities or for significant business or professional contacts or obligations or medical needs.

Seeking legal counsel

Individuals who may be subject to the ban are advised to get advice from an experienced immigration lawyer if they have questions about the Executive Order, or for questions about any possible relief from the consequences of the Executive Order.

Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants Seeking Employment-Based Lawful Permanent Residence

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez announced today that, effective May 26, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. DHS amended the regulations to allow these H-4 dependent spouses to accept employment in the United States.

To learn more, visit our site.

FORM I-94 (ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE RECORD) ISSUANCE AUTOMATED at U.S. AIR AND SEA PORTS

In order to increase efficiency, reduce costs and streamline the admissions process, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) has announced that it will be automating the Form I-94 card at air and sea ports of entry.  The paper form will no longer be provided to a traveler upon arrival, except in limited circumstances.  The traveler will be provided with a CPB admission stamp on their travel document.  If a traveler needs a copy of their I-94 card (record of admission) for verification of alien registration, immigration status or employment authorization, it can be obtained from:  www.cpb.gov/I94.   Additional information is available at:  http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/national/03212013.xml

This change, which is already in effect at several ports of entry, is expected to take effect at New York air and sea ports of entry on May 7, 2013.

Online Address Change Notification to DHS now Available for Form AR-11
All non-US citizens in the US for more than 29 days are required to report changes of addess to the Department of Homeland Security within 10 days of moving using form AR-11.

DHS Extends Eligibility for Employment Authorization to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants Seeking Employment-Based Lawful Permanent Residence

CPB Announces Discontinuance of Admission Stamps on Forms I-20 and DS-2019

SANTA Holiday Tips for Traveling Students