The International Center assists all international students from orientation to commencement. We can help with visa, immigration, or status concerns, housing, campus and community integration (including conversation partners) and much more.
New proposed rule from Department of Homeland Security to eliminate duration of status (D/S)
On September 25, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule that will adversely affect a number of aspects of F and J nonimmigrant status if it goes into effect.
The rule is lengthy and complex, so the International Center will be providing more analysis next week, along with steps you can take if you would like to voice your opinion. You can submit feedback directly to the U.S. government by October 26 - reference DHS Docket No. ICEB-2019-0006.
The University of Akron belongs to organizations such as the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and NAFSA: Association of International Educators that will be advocating strongly against the proposed rule.
This non-exhaustive list summarizes some of the changes proposed by the rule:
- Nonimmigrants in F or J status will be admitted for a length of time according to their program length indicated on the I-20 or DS-2019 (capped at 2 to 4 years, depending on various factors), rather than “D/S” (duration of status). Students that need to stay in the U.S. beyond that period of admission will need to file an extension application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- Several categories of students will be subject to an initial 2-year period of admission:
- Individuals born in or citizens of countries on the State Sponsor of Terrorism List (currently North Korea, Iran, Sudan, and Syria).
- Countries with greater than 10 percent visa overstay rate, as determined by DHS.
- Students enrolled in specific courses of study deemed to be in the U.S. national interest, as determined by DHS.
- Students at institutions that do not fully participate in E-Verify to confirm eligibility of newly hired employees.
- Applying for post-completion employment authorization will be more complicated if the student also needs to request an extension of their stay.
- The F-1 grace period will be shortened from 60 days to 30 days.
- There will be a limitation on the number of new academic programs that may be pursued by a student while in F-1 status.
Note: this is only a proposed rule at this time, so it may be changed or withdrawn in the months ahead.
USCIS Application Fee Changes
On July 31, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will charge new fees for several applications. The new fees will become effective October 2, 2020. The fee changes most relevant to F-1 students are:
|I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
|I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (also used for Reinstatement)
(includes biometrics fee)
- The U.S. State Department has indicated U.S. Embassies and Consulates are beginning a phased resumption of visa services. Please visit the individual U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website for information regarding operating status and which services it is currently offering.
- The Student and Exchange Visitor Program has confirmed that new students, transfer students currently outside the U.S., and students changing to a new educational level who are currently outside the U.S. may not obtain an F-1 visa or enter the U.S. to begin a 100% online program. This means you must enroll in at least one in-person or hybrid credit for fall 2020.
Coronavirus Travel Restrictions
- Students from (or traveling through) Brazil, China, Iran, and certain European countries may be subject to an entry ban unless they have spent 14 days outside any of those countries. Please keep these restrictions in mind when planning your travel to the U.S.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection has recently issued guidance to airlines that F-1 and F-2 visa holders from, or traveling through, the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland during the preceding 14 days may travel to the United States while these Proclamations are in effect. F visa holders subject to these Proclamations have been granted a national interest exception to travel and can be boarded without contacting CBP as long as all admissibility and document requirements are met. We encourage students traveling from these areas to contact email@example.com to request a PDF of the CBP statement to keep with them while traveling.
- If you decide to travel to the U.S. without first spending 14 days outside the areas affected by the Presidential Proclamations, we encourage you to bring along a copy of the DOS statement and be prepared to make alternative arrangements in case you are not allowed entry to the U.S.
- If you successfully enter the U.S. based on the exception, please inform firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know the port of entry at which you entered.
- Under U.S. law, all applicants for a visa, admission to the U.S., or adjustment of status are inadmissible to the U.S. if they are likely at any time to become a “public charge.”
- New rules set forth by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Department of State (DOS) require these Departments to consider the “totality of the circumstances” and make a forward-looking determination whether an applicant for a visa, admission to the U.S., or adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence are likely to become a public charge at any time in the future.
- Additionally, DHS implemented a “public benefits condition” for change of status (COS) applicants. COS applicants must demonstrate that “since obtaining the nonimmigrant status” they seek to change, until their petition is adjudicated, they have not received one or more of the listed public benefits over the designated duration threshold.
- Some of the listed public benefits include:
- Supplemental Security Income;
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families;
- Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called general assistance in the state context, but which may exist under other names);
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps);
- Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program;
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance;
- Public Housing; and
- Federally funded Medicaid (with certain exclusions).
- DHS and DOS began implementing the rules in February 2020, but on July 29, 2020, a federal district court temporarily blocked the implementation and enforcement of the public charge rules and policies during the declared national emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The matter will continue to be argued in court.
May I receive unemployment benefits if I am laid off from my job?
- Nonimmigrants are generally ineligible for unemployment benefits, but this may vary from state to state. Check with your state’s unemployment agency. If you are eligible, DHS has stated that it “would not consider federal and state . . . unemployment benefits as public benefits under the public charge inadmissibility determination as these are considered to be earned benefits through the person’s employment and specific tax deductions.” 84 FR 41292.
May I receive government-provided medical treatment or preventative services related to COVID-19?
- We encourage you to contact an experienced immigration attorney if you have specific questions about “public charge” in relation to your situation, as this is beyond the scope of our office’s ability to advise.
Social media question on visa applications
- The U.S. Department of State has added a “social media” question to Form DS-160, the online nonimmigrant visa application for identity resolution and vetting purposes. The new item requires applicants to indicate which social media platforms they have used during the past 5 years and provide usernames or handles used on those platforms. Do not provide your password. According to DOS, more updates to Form DS-160 will be added in the future. Students are encouraged to review their social media postings to see what they have conveyed.
SEVIS fee increase
- The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will be implementing changes to the I-901 SEVIS fee on June 24, 2019. The I-901 SEVIS fee for F students will increase from $200 to $350 and the I-901 SEVIS fee for J exchange visitors will increase from $180 to $220. Most students and visiting scholars who have already paid the I-901 fee are not affected by this change.
- For more information about who pays the SEVIS fee.
Notice to Appear (NTA)
A Notice to Appear (NTA) is a document instructing an individual to appear before an Immigration Court for removal proceedings. Starting October 1, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may issue an NTA on denied applications such as Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) and Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status), if the applicant no longer is in a period of authorized stay and does not depart the United States. USCIS has indicated it will post updates and information on the Notice to Appear Policy Memorandum page.
Request for Evidence (RFE) and Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) policy
- Old policy: In 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance instructing adjudicators to issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs) when evidence submitted at the time of filing an application or petition to USCIS did not establish eligibility for the benefit sought. The guidance also provided that denials should only be issued where there was no possibility the deficiency could be cured by the submission of additional evidence.
- New policy: On July 13, 2018, USCIS announced a new policy that “restores to the [USCIS] adjudicator full discretion to deny applications, petitions, and requests without first issuing an RFE or NOID, when appropriate.” This guidance becomes effective September 11, 2018. Students are strongly urged to carefully review their applications and petitions to USCIS to ensure they have provided complete applications and included all necessary supporting documents.
- On June 26, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s Proclamation 9645 (“Travel Ban 3.0”), which limits entry to the United States by certain citizens of 7 countries (Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Somalia, Venezuela, and Yemen). The travel restrictions are country-specific. In addition, on January 31, 2020, the Trump administration expanded the travel ban (“Travel Ban 4.0”) on travelers from 6 more countries (Eritrea, Kyrgzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania). Travel Ban 4.0 does not impact the ability to acquire F-1, J-1, or H-1B visas or enter the U.S. in these categories. If you have questions regarding how these Travel Bans may affect you or loved ones that wish to visit the United States, please contact Robyn Brown, Executive Director of Global Engagement.