Biden Administration to Suspend COVID Testing Requirement for International Travelers
6/13/2022 Beginning Sunday, June 12, international air travelers will no longer be required to show a negative COVID test result to board flights to the United States. However, nonimmigrant travelers remain subject to U.S. COVID vaccination requirements. For more information, please view the associated legal summary and CDC website.
Travel Tips for Foreign Students on OPT or Planning a Change of Status to H-1B
3/21/2022 If you are an F-1 student who has applied for or is working on optional practical training (OPT) or who will be the beneficiary of a petition to change status to H-1B in this year's H-1B cap filing season, make sure you understand the risks and requirements of international travel. Several critical factors continue to impact travel this year, including COVID-19 policies worldwide and reduced operations at U.S. consulates. Traveling abroad while awaiting a change of status to H-1B could affect your F-1 status, your ability to change status, and your ability to reenter the United States. For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
DHS Expands Opportunities in U.S. for STEM Professionals
1/25/2022 The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that 22 new fields of study have been added to the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program to enhance the contributions of nonimmigrant students studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and support the growth of the U.S. economy and innovation. For more information, please see the associated DHS announcement.
USCIS Extends and Revises COVID-19 Accommodations on RFEs, NOIDs, Appeals, and Other Responses Through March 26, 2022
1/11/2022 Due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, USCIS is extending its deadline extension policy through March 26, 2022, and revising the policy with respect to certain motion, appeals and requests. Petitioner and applicants will continue to have an additional 60 days to respond to requests for evidence, notices of intent to deny or revoke, and certain other notices dated between March 1, 2020 and March 26, 2022. Employers and foreign nationals will now have 90 days to file a Form I-290B appeal or motion or Form N-336 hearing request to reopen a USCIS decision that was issued between November 1, 2021 and March 26, 2022. Under the prior accommodation, 60 days were granted for adverse decisions issued earlier in the COVID emergency. For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
Current CDC Guidance for International Students
1/4/2022 For current CDC guidance on travel requirements for international students, please review the CDC website.
With limited exceptions, international students must show proof of vaccination and show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the United States.
International students who meet an exception to arrive to the US unvaccinated are still required to follow CDC guidance after arrival in the United States, and may be required to attest to some or all of the measures below.
1. Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after arrival, unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days
2. Stay at home or in your hotel room and self-quarantine for a full 7 days, even if you test negative, unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
4. If you intend to stay in the United States for 60 days or longer, you must become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States or as soon as medically appropriate, unless you have a medical contraindication or are too young to be vaccinated.
For more information, review requirements for proof of COVID-19 vaccination for air passengers.
United States: Proclamation Confirms Southern Africa Travel Ban Terminated on December 31
1/4/2022 President Biden has issued a proclamation, effective on December 31, 2021, lifting the travel ban for foreign nationals recently present in on of eight Southern African countries. Foreign nationals with recent physical presence in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe will remain subject to the U.S. COVID vaccination and testing requirements applicable to all international air travelers. Foreign nationals whose visa applications were refused solely due to the Southern African ban are advised to contact their local embassy or consulate to request reconsideration. However, due to COVID restrictions and consular resource issues, consulates may not be able to schedule affected applicants immediately. For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
United States: Starting December 6, One-Day COVID Test Requirement for all International Air Travelers
12/6/2021 In response to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the Biden Administration will require all inbound international airline passengers ages 2 and older - regardless of citizenship or vaccination status - to submit a negative COVID test taken within 1 calendar day of travel in order to board their flight.
The new requirement will replace the existing policy that requires fully vaccinated passengers to submit a pre-departure COVID test taken within 3 days of travel to the United States.
As under the current policy, passengers may submit evidence of recovery from COVID within 90 days in place of the COVID test.
The policy will take effect for flights departing at or after 12:01 am EST on December 6, 2021.
For more information, please review the associated legal summary.
Additionally, COVID-19 Regional Travel Bans are still in place for 8 African Counties. For details, visit the CDC website.
A Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019
11/29/2021 President Biden has issued a proclamation imposing a new COVID-19 public health travel ban on foreign nationals with recent physical presence in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
Starting at 12:01 am EST on November 29, 2021, foreign nationals who have been physically present in any of these countries within 14 days of travel to the United States will be barred from entry unless they qualify for an exemption.
Those who qualify for exceptions to the new ban will still be required to comply with new vaccination and testing requirements that became effective for international air travel on November 8.
It is not yet known what specific standards will be imposed for the discretionary "national interest exception" and whether the new standard will resemble those applicable to the prior now rescinded, regional COVID travel ban.
For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
Effective November 8, Regional Travel Bans Rescinded, Replaced with COVID Vaccination Requirement for All Nonimmigrant International Air Travel
10/28/2021 A presidential proclamation issued today and effective November 8, 2021, rescinds the current regional COVID-19 travel bans and imposes a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on nonimmigrants traveling by air from any country to the United States.
Exceptions to the vaccine requirement will apply to children under 18 and to most foreign nationals of countries with less than a 10 percent total vaccination rate, among others.
Existing COVID test requirements will remain the same for all fully vaccinated air travelers. The new policy requires that all unvaccinated travelers - including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and nonimmigrants eligible for exceptions to the vaccine requirement - will be subject to stricter pre-travel COVID testing protocols.
These policy changes are expected to ease travel for many foreign nationals, but processing backlogs at U.S. consulates - already lengthy - are expected to increase further, which will impede travel for those who need a U.S. visa.
For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
White House to Replace Regional COVID Travel Bans with Vaccination Requirement for All Foreign Nationals on November 8, According to Reports
10/21/2021 It is being reported that a White House official has confirmed that on November 8, the White House will rescind existing regional COVID-19 travel bans and instead implement a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for foreign national international air travel. The new vaccination requirements would apply to adult foreign nationals entering the United States from anywhere abroad.
The forthcoming policy adds an additional requirement to international travel; they will need to provide proof of vaccination in addition to COVID testing.
Recently, a CDC official stated to news outlets that the U.S. government will accept vaccines approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO); however, this information has not been confirmed officially.
Official confirmation of the implementation date and details concerning acceptable vaccines and documentation are expected but have not yet been released.
For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
Starting in November, DHS to Replace Current Canada/Mexico Border Restrictions with COVID Vaccination Requirements
10/13/2021 In November 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will allow foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated to enter the United States from Canada or Mexico by land or ferry for "non-essential" activities such as tourism and personal visits. The COVID vaccine requirement will replace the current border ban on "non-essential" travel for these foreign nationals. In January 2022, the agency will expand the vaccination requirement to include both "non-essential" and "essential" travel, meaning foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States for business and work purposes will need to be fully vaccinated in order to enter. DHS has not yet announced specific implementation dates or full details for its new two-phase policy. For more information, please see the associated legal summary.
USCIS Extends Existing COVID-19 Accommodations on RFEs, NOIDs, Appeals and Other Responses Through January 15, 2022
10/11/2021 Due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, USCIS is extending its 60-day deadline extension policy through January 15, 2022. Petitioners and applicants will have an additional 60 days to respond to requests for evidence, notices of intent to deny or revoke, and certain other notices dated between March 1, 2020 and January 15, 2022. For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
White House to Replace Regional COVID Travel Bans with Vaccination Requirement for All Foreign Nationals
10/7/2021 The White House announced today that, starting in early November 2021, it will rescind the existing regional COVID-19 travel bans and instead implement a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for foreign national international air travel.
The new vaccine requirement will be in addition to - not instead of - the existing COVID test requirements for international air travelers. These travelers must already provide either a negative COVID test taken within 3 days, or documentation of recent COVID recovery, in order to board a flight bound for the United States.
For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
Federal District Court vacates DHS regulation to Replace H-1B Cap Lottery
9/21/2021 A Federal District Court vacated a Trump-era H-1B cap selection regulation which sought to supplant the H-1B cap lottery with a selection process based on the Department of Labor's wage level system. It is not yet known whether the Biden Administration will appeal the decision. The H-1B cap lottery remains in place at this time. For details, please view the associated legal summary.
US Department of State announces that certain F and J students and scholars who apply for a visa may be eligible to waive the in-person interview per the below
9/16/2021 Consular officers may, if they so choose, and pursuant to the local conditions, now waive the visa interview requirement for F, M, and academic J visa applicants who:
1. Were previously issues 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 eligibility; or
2. 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. This applies only to non-U.S. citizens who are nationals of eligible countries.
Details about country of eligibility and necessary procedures will be available on the website of the relevant embassy or consulate.
A full list of consulates is found here: https://usembassy.gov
For more details on eligibility, please see: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/important-announcement-on-F-M-and-academic-J-Visas.html and ECA's FAQs page at: https://j1visa.state.gov/covid-19/
WMU Vaccination and Traveling from International Locations Protocol
8/5/2021 The health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff are paramount at Western Michigan University, requiring protocols and procedures that safeguard our campus community, including procedures for entry to campus after international travel. The University is currently following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for international travelers, which are tied to COVID-19 vaccination status.
WMU has implemented a badging and screening system for on-campus activities. A part of this badging system required documentation of COVID-19 vaccination, which needs to be verified and reviewed by Sindecuse Health Center staff. Only people who have received all recommended doses of an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine or WHO-listed COVID-19 vaccine are considered fully vaccinated for the purpose of public health guidance.
Process and responsibilities for students who have been fully vaccinated prior to their departure to the U.S.
- Three weeks prior to departure to the U.S., fully vaccinated students upload vaccination information into the Sindecuse Health Center Patient Portal.
- Sindecuse staff will review and send a secure message through the portal indicating review of vaccination information and if vaccination information is sufficient to consider the student as "fully vaccinated."
- Three to five days after having arrived in the U.S., fully vaccinated students should take a COVID-19 antigen test at Sindecuse Health Center. There is no need for fully vaccinated students to quarantine after arriving in the U.S.
- Fully vaccinated students should self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if symptoms develop.
Review full protocol and stay up-to-date at wmich.edu/covid-19/international
Process and responsibilities for unvaccinated students
- Unvaccinated students must take a COVID-19 antigen test at Sindecuse Health Center three to five days after having arrived in the U.S. and should also self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel.
- Even if you test negative, self-quarantine for the full seven days.
- If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
- If you don't get tested, self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
- Unvaccinated students should also avoid being around people who are at an increased risk for severe illness for 14 days - whether you get tested or not.
- Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
Review full protocol and stay up-to-date at wmich.edu/covid-19/international
USCIS Extends Accommodations to F-1 Optional Practical Training Applicants Affected by Processing Delays
8/2/2021 As a result of a recent court order, USCIS is extending some flexibilities to F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) who have been negatively affected by agency delays in receipting and processing Form I-765, Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications. The flexibilities only applied to filings received by May 1, 2021 and now applying to those received by October 31.
F-1 students whose OPT applications were received between October 1, 2020 and October 31, 2021 will be permitted to complete their 12-month practical training period within 14 months of the date of their Form I-765 approval, instead of 14 months from the date of their F-1 program completion.
F-1 students who timely filed Form I-765 but had their applications rejected due to the lengthy USCIS delays may re-file by November 30, 2021 as long as USCIS received the initial filing between October 1, 2020 and October 31, 2021.
The court also includes an important new accommodation, that applications received through October 31, 2021 may be filed up to 120 days before the F-1 program end date, extended from 90 days under the standard rules.
For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
State Department Expands Validity of National Interest Exceptions to Regional COVID Travel Bans
7/13/2021 The State Department has expanded the validity of its national interest exceptions (NIEs) to the regional COVID-19 travel bans to a 12-month, multiple-entry validity, effective immediately. Previously, these NIEs were valid for 30 days and a single entry only. The policy change affects NIEs issued under all of the existing travel bans- for those present in the following countries within 14 days of trying to enter the United States: Brazil, China, India, Iran, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.
This new State Department policy is effective immediately and also applies to NIEs issued in the last 12 months as long as the foreign national's purpose of travel remains the same as when the NIE was initially issued. Existing NIEs can be used for 12 months from their approval date for the same purpose under which they were granted.
For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
Fraud Advisory: Scammers Using SEVP and HSI Phone Numbers to Target International Students
6/04/2021 The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has been made aware of a spoofing scam involving individuals using an SEVP Response Center (SRC) phone number (703-603-3400) or a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office phone number (757-441-6533) to target nonimmigrant students. Fraudulent callers are claiming to be SEVP representatives and asking student to provide their immigration information, such as their Alien Registration Number or Form I-94, "Arrival/Departure Record," information, or face deportation.
We are cautioning you not to fall victim to this dangerous scam. If you are a victim of this spoof call, you are encouraged to report the incident to the HSI tip line.
Things to remember:
SEVP officials will NEVER ask stakeholders to provide credit/debit card/gift card numbers, wire transfers, or bank routing numbers, or to make bitcoin deposits for any purpose.
- Never divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers. Report all suspicious calls to the HSI tip line.
- If you are unsure about the validity of a call from SEVP officials, reach out to your designated school officials at WMU International Student and Scholar Services (I3S) for further assistance at https://wmich.edu/internationaladmissions/directory.
If you have any additional questions regarding this matter, students may also contact the SEVP Response Center directly at 703-603-3400 or 800-892-4829, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, except for federal holidays.
Homeland Security Extends March 2020 Guidance for International Students Through the 2021-22 Academic Year
5/03/2021 The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will extend the guidance originally issued in March 2020 for the 2021-22 academic year. This guidance enables schools and students to engage in distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the continuing public health concerns created by COVID-19. The March 2020 guidance applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, and are otherwise complying with the terms of their nonimmigrant status, whether from inside the United States or abroad. A summary of the March 2020 guidance is available below. Significantly, there are no changes to the original guidance, which will remain in effect during the 2021-22 academic year. Please view the associated legal summary for further information.
President Biden Adds India to the List of COVID-19 Public Health Travel Ban Countries
4/30/2021 President Biden has issued a presidential proclamation imposing an entry ban (travel restriction) on foreign nationals who have been physically present in India within 14 days of travel to the United States, unless they qualify for an exemption. Please view the associated legal summary for further information.
Travel Restrictions Lifted for International Students Fall 2021
4/28/2021 The State Department announced this week that travel restrictions will be officially lifted for students and academics previously restricted from travel to the U.S. under COVID-19 rules as of August 1, 2021. Travelers coming from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland are now eligible for the National Interest Exception (NIE) to COVID-19 restrictions. To note, students and academics subject to these restrictions due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for and NIE only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later. Please view the associated legal summary for further information.
DOL Proposes Extending Delay of Regulation Increasing PERM and H-1B Wage Minimums
3/30/2021 The Department of Labor is proposing to defer the effective date of its prevailing wage regulation by 18 months, or until November 14, 2022, and the beginning of its transition to new wage levels set forth in the rule until January 1, 2023. Written comments on the proposed delay will be accepted for 30 days. The proposal follows the agency's recent postponement of the rule from March 15, 2021 to May 14, 2021. DOL is planning to issue a future request for public feedback on the wage rule, opening the way for possible further changes to the substance and/or implementation schedule of the rule. Please view the associated legal summary for further information.
DHS Public Charge Rule Invalidated as Biden Administration Drops Lawsuit Appeals
3/26/2021 As of March 9, 2021 the DHS public charge rule is no longer in effect. Applications for nonimmigrant changes and extensions of status are not required to respond to questions about receipt of public benefits on Forms I-129, I-539 and I-539A. For affected applications and petitions pending on March 9, USCIS will not consider information solely required by the 2019 public charge regulation in adjudicating the case. Please view the associated legal summary for further information.
On March 4, 2021 USCIS Announced Flexibilities for Certain Foreign Student Applicants Affected by Delayed Receipt Notices for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
3/8/2021 After completion of the academic program, the F-1 student may be granted up to 12 months of OPT. This OPT must be completed within 14 months of the end of the academic program. Delays at USCIS lockbox facilities may have prevented some applicants from accessing their entire OPT allowance within that 14-month period. Therefore, USCIS announced it will allow the 14-month period to commence from the date of approval of the Form I-765 as opposed to completion of the academic program. Within that 14 month window, USCIS will approve Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for OPT for the length of time originally recommended by the Designated School Official (DSO) on the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. F-1 students requesting OPT who receive approval for less than the full amount of OPT time requested (not to exceed 12 months) may request a correction of the EAD due to USCIS error. USCIS said it will then issue a corrected EAD with a new end date to cover the full amount of OPT time recommended by the DSO on Form I-20.
Refiling Following Rejection
Due to delays at the USCIS lockbox facilities, some applicants who filed Form I-765 for OPT in a timely manner, but had their applications rejected, were unable to refile within the required application timeframes. USCIS announced it will accept a refiled From I-765 for post-completion OPT, or a re-filed I-765 for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) OPT, if the original application was timely filed between October 1, 2020 and May 1, 2021. Refiled applications must be received by May 31, 2021 for USCIS to treat the application as if it was filed on the original received date. Applicants refiling Form I-765 should include a copy of the USCIS rejection notice. Applicants do not need to obtain a new Form I-20 with an updated OPT recommendation from the DSO, as long as they originally submitted an application for post-completion OPT within 30 days of the DSO's recommendation, or an application for STEM OPT within 60 days of the DSO's recommendation, as required by the regulations.
President Biden Revokes Immigrant Visa Ban Effective Immediately, But Hurdles Remain
3/1/2021 President Biden has revoked a Trump-era presidential proclamation that suspended the entry of certain immigrants into the United States. The nonimmigrant proclamation suspending the entry of foreign nationals in the H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and certain J-1 visa categories (J-1 interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs and Summer Work Travel participants), as well as related categories for dependents, to March 31, 2021 remains in effect and is set to expire March 31, 2021. For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
DHS Delays Rule that Replaces Random H-1B Cap Lottery with Wage Level Selection Process
2/10/2021 On February 8, 2021, USCIS published a final rule delaying the effective date of the rule creating a wage-based selection process for H-1Bs to December 31, 2021. Comments regarding the delay of the effective date will be accepted until March 10, 2021. For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
Strengthening Wage Protections for the Temporary and Permanent Employment of Certain Aliens in the United States: Proposed Delay of Effective Date
2/10/2021 On February 1, 2021, DOL published a document in the Federal Register proposing to delay the effective date of the final rule on computation of prevailing wage levels until May 14, 2021. The current effective date of the rule is March 15, 2021. Comments on the proposed delayed effective date must be received by February 16, 2021. The DOL document was published at 86 FR 3608.
President Biden Reinstates Regional COVID-19 Travel Bans
1/27/2021 President Biden has issued a proclamation reinstating and renewing without interruption regional COVID-19 travel bans. These bans restrict travel for foreign nationals who have been physically present in an identified country within 14 days of seeking entry to the United States and who do not qualify for a ban exception. These restrictions were set to expire on January 26 per an order by President Trump in his final days in office, but now are in place indefinitely.
Countries currently affected by these orders include: Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Schengen area countries, which include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
South Africa will be added to this list on January 30, 2021.
In addition to the restrictions outlined in the proclamation, starting January 26, all international travelers over the age of two will be required to take a COVID-19 test prior to flying to the United States.
Please view the associated legal summary for further information.
President Biden Says Travelers Arriving in the US Will Have to Quarantine
1/25/2021 On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order related to international travel and COVID-19 safety, 'Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel' requiring a recent negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure and quarantine on arrival, consistent with CDC guidelines." Further details are expected by the administration.
Ninth Circuit Delays Its Decision to Bar Application of DHS Public Charge Rule for Several States
1/25/2021 The DHS public charge rule remains in effect nationwide at this time. The rule has been subject to a string of judicial rulings, which have resulted in a back and forth of DHS's authority to enforce it.
This means that since the rule continues to be in effect nationwide, adjustment of status applications and nonimmigrant extension and change of status applications should continue to be submitted with public charge forms and documentation.
Please view the associated legal summary for further information.
President Biden Revokes Two Nationality-Based Travel Bans & Requests a Freeze on Federal Agency Regulatory Activity
1/22/2021 In his first days in office, President Biden has initiated numerous actions affecting immigration.
- He revoked two nationality-based travel bans issued in the Trump-era that affect primarily Muslim-majority and African countries and announced his intention to send an immigration reform bill to Congress.
- President Biden also requested a freeze on federal agency regulatory activity so that the new Administration may review Trump Administration agency rules and guidance documents either not yet in effect or not yet finalized.
Travel Update Regarding COVID-19
1/21/2021 The White House lifts regional COVID-19 bans for Europe and Brazil, but Biden Team says bans will remain in place. Please view the associated legal summary for further details.
DOL Issues Revised Rule Increasing PERM and H-1B Wage Minimums
1/21/2021 On January 12, 2021 the US Department of Labor issued a revised rule increasing PERM and H-1B wage minimums.
- The regulation will restructure the prevailing wage system for the H-1B, E-3, H-1B1 and PERM Programs, imposing higher government wage minimums, though not as high as those initially sought by DOL.
- Entry-level wages for H-1B and PERM cases, for example, will increase to the 35th percentile of wages for the occupation and geographic location, from the 17th percentile- just above the current wage minimum for Level II.
- Though the rule is to take effect 60 days from publication, increased wage minimums will not be imposed until July 1, 2021 and will be coupled with a multi-year phase-in period.
Please view the associated legal summary for further information.
CDC Imposes COVID Testing Requirement for All International Travel to the US
1/14/2021 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ordered that starting January 26, 2021, airline passengers departing from any foreign country to the United States must first provide either a negative COVID test or documentation of COVID recovery in order to be permitted to board an aircraft. The new requirement applies to airline passengers two years and older, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Please view the associated legal summary and CDC article for further information.
USCIS Changes Filing Addresses for Student I-765 Filings
1/11/2021 On January 8, 2020, USCIS changed the filing addresses for F-1 student I-765 filings, including F-1 OPT (pre-completion, post completion and STEM OPT), off-campus employment with an international organization, off-campus employment due to severe economic necessity, J-2 dependent work authorization, and other categories. The USCIS Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 page, with a Last Reviewed/Updated date of 01/08/2021, now instructs filers to submit these application to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox, at:
US Postal Service (USPS):
PO Box 805373
Chicago, IL 60680
FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
Attn: I-765 C03
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
Prior to this change, such applications were filed either at the Phoenix or Dallas lockboxes, depending on where the student resided. These changes were made by USCIS without advance notice and which appeared on its website late Friday January 8, 2021.
If you are filing Form I-765 with another USCIS form, file both forms at the location specified by the other form. For example, if you are filing Form I-765 with a Form I-539, file both forms according to the Form I-539 Instructions. Use addresses below only when you are NOT submitting Form I-765 with another form.
Please visit the USCIS website for Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 for further information.
Extended Proclamation on Non-immigrant and Immigrant Entries & Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021
1/05/2021 Two additional updates are described below.
- President Trump has extended the nonimmigrant proclamation suspending the entry of foreign nationals in the H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and limited J-1 categories (J-1 interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs and Summer Work Travel participants), as well as related categories for dependents, to March 31, 2021. The proclamation also immediately extends until that same date the existing ban on certain immigrant entries. Both entry bans were scheduled to expire on December 31, 2020.
- President Trump has signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The legislation also creates a second stimulus check program for U.S. taxpayers, including eligible nonimmigrants. Nonimmigrants who pay U.S. income taxes as resident aliens and who are not listed as dependents on another's income tax return are likely to be eligible for the recovery rebate, provided they meet the income criteria and U.S. Social Security Number requirements. Because it is structured as an advanced tax credit, the recovery rebate is not a cash public benefit for purposes of public charge bans to admissibility.
Recently Issued Major Federal Court Decisions: OPT, Public Charge, & H-1B Eligibility Criteria
1/05/2021 Three major federal court decisions were issued recently.
- A federal district court upheld the Department of Homeland Security's post-graduate Optional Practical Training (OPT) ensuring the OPT and STEM OPT programs remain in place for now.
- The Ninth Circuit Court of appeals barred the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing the public charge rule in almost 20 states, including Michigan.
- A federal district court invalidated the fast-tracked Departments of Labor and Homeland Security rules that significantly increased prevailing wage levels and tightened H-1B eligibility criteria.
Spring Guidance to International Students
12/14/2020 WMU is sharing the following immigration guidance for Spring 2021 semester:
The US Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Program has indicated that the current 2020 Spring and Fall COVID-19 guidance is being extended to the Spring 2021 term. Information related to this has already been shared from DHS through some media outlets. It is unclear at this time if SEVP will be able to send out a Broadcast Message to that effect or if the FAQ will be updated. Any updates that SEVP is able to provide will likely be posted at www.ice.gov/coronavirus.
We hope this helps put some of your concerns at ease as you plan for Spring.
Fraud Advisory: Scammers Using SEVP Phone Number to Target International Students
12/10/2020 The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has been made aware of a spoofing scam involving individuals using the SEVP Response Center (SRC) phone numbers (703-603-3400 and 800-892-4829) and claiming to be SRC representatives. The fraudulent callers are inquiring about Form I-94 documents and asking students to provide information regarding monetary transactions.
We are cautioning you not to fall victim to this dangerous scam. If you are a victim of this spoof call, you are encouraged to report the incident to the HSI tip line https://www.ice.gov/webform/ice-tip-form.
Things to remember:
- SEVP officials will NEVER as stakeholders to provide credit/debit card/gift card numbers, wire transfers, or bank routing numbers, or to make bitcoin deposits for any purpose.
- NEVER divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers. Report all suspicious calls to the HSI tip line.
- If you are unsure about the validity of a call from SEVP officials reach out to your designated school officials at WMU International Admissions and Services for further assistance https://wmich.edu.internationaladmissions/directory.
Additionally, if you have any additional questions regarding this matter, students may also contact the SEVP Response Center directly at 703-603-3400 or 800-892-4829, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.p. ET, except for federal holidays.
Spring 2021 Guidance to International Students
12/09/2020 WMU is sharing the following immigration guidance for the Spring 2021 semester: Following a liaison call with SEVP, F-1 students may continue to rely on current school guidance based on the "SEVP Fall guidance" until further notice. In summary, SEVP indicated it is not likely to issue new guidance before Spring 2021 due to the changing US administrations. Therefore, WMU will continue relying on the SEVP Fall guidance posted until further notice. This means:
Initial F-1 Students
- Initial students cannot enroll in a program that is 100% online.
- Must enroll for at least one in-person or hybrid course per semester full time course of study.
- US border officials will expect to see printed I-20 and in-person class for initial entry.
Continuing F-1 Students
- Students who were active in SEVIS on March 9, 2020 and maintaining status since that date may continue to engage in fully online academic programs in the US until further notice.
- These continuing F-1 students may seek reentry to the U.S. continuing online, or may continue enrollment SEVIS Active from abroad. Expect to show I-20 and proof of enrollment at reentry
- US border officials will expect to see a printed I-20 in-person class for initial entry.
WMU will still apply the COVID-19 exceptions in the SEVP FAQ found at the resources below:
- SEVP Guidance: https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus and scroll to the Nonimmigrant Students and SEVP Certified Schools section.
- WMU resources: https://wmich.edu/immigration
J-1 Student Exchange Visitors
- New initial J-1 students cannot enter the US for a program that has no in-person courses. These students must enroll for at least one in-person or hybrid course per semester of full time course of study.
- Continuing J-1 students with active SEVIS may continue with online adaptations during COVID.
- Department of State resources: https://j1visa.state.gov/
- WMU resources: https://wmich.edu/immigration
Public Charge Remains in Place After Seventh Circuit Stays Lower Court Decision
11/04/2020 Due to a recent Court of Appeals decision, public charge forms and documentation will be required for adjustment of status applications and nonimmigrant extension and change of status applications until further notice. Please view the associated legal summary for further details.
Federal District Court Vacates Public Charge Regulation Nationwide
11/03/2020 Today a federal district court in Illinois vacated the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public charge regulation on the basis that the rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The court order takes effect nationwide immediately, and prevents U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from enforcing the public charge rule starting today. Please view the associated legal summary for further details.
Federal District Court Blocks Enforcement of DHS Fee Rule
10/01/2020 A federal district court has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing a regulation that was set to increase USCIS filing fees as of October 2, 2020. Until further notice, petitioners and applicants will not be subject to the higher fees or forms outlined in the regulation. Please view the associated legal summary for further details.
New Homeland Security Proposed Rule
9/29/2020 As you may have heard recently in the news, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule to change Duration of Status “D/S” to a fixed period of stay. The rule, if finalized, would apply to F, J, and I status holders. The rule is NOT presently in effect. It is a notice of proposed rule dated Sept. 25, 2020 which provides a 30-day period for public comment before a final rule could be published. Also, it is possible the proposed rule could change.
WMU and its leadership are reviewing this concerning proposed rule with peer institutions and affiliates for comment and advocacy efforts. We will update you with further information as it becomes available as soon as possible.
• Find a summary of the proposed rule on the NAFSA website
• Find the proposed rule on the Federal Register
USCIS Extends Existing COVID-19 Accommodations on RFSs, NOIDs, Appeals and Other Responses Through January 1, 2021
9/23/2020 Due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, USCIS is extending its 60-day deadline extension policy to January 1, 2021. Petitioners and applicants will have an additional 60 days to respond to requests for evidence, notices of intent to deny or revoke and certain other notices dated between March 1 and January 1, 2021. Employers and foreign nationals will also have 60, rather than 30, days to file any appeal or motion to reopen a USCIS decision that was issued between March 1 and January 1, 2021.
SEVP Announces Review of SEVIS Records for OPT Participants
9/8/2020 On August 28, 2020 SEVP announced it is conducting a review of SEVIS records for OPT participants and is mailing notices directly to students who have not reported employer information and have exceeded 90 days of unemployment. The notice informs students of their lack of employer/employment information and provides an opportunity for them to update their records either through their DSO or directly through the SEVP Portal. If the student's SEVIS record is not updated, SEVP will set the record to "terminated" to reflect the lack of employer information and the potential that the student may have violated their status either by failing to timely report OPT employment or by exceeding the permissible period of unemployment while on OPT. For questions, please contact your IAS advisor at WMU.
Department of Homeland Security to Implement Public Charge Rule
8/28/2020 The Second Circuit Court has recently voted to allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement a new public charge rule in most States, including Michigan (Vermont, Connecticut, and New York are exempt from this rule). This means that in the State of Michigan, students who file the I-539 for reinstatement or extension of status will now again be required to answer questions about their receipt of public benefits. USCIS has not yet issued guidance on implementing differing public charge standards among the States. For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
USCIS Filing Fee Increases
8/7/2020 USCIS announced that on October 2, 2020 various forms and filing fees will be increasing, including the USCIS filing fee for Optional Practical Training Employment Authorization Document applications which will increase to $550. The Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status filing fee will increase $400 for paper applications and $390 for online filings. Students are encouraged to apply early before the fee increases.
USCIS Provided Guidance on Public Charge Requirements in the Wake of a Federal Court Injunction
8/7/2020 USCIS will not apply its 2019 public charge regulation to applications for adjustment of status or nonimmigrant changes or extensions of status that are adjudicated on or after July 29, 2020, the date of a federal court order blocking the agency from applying the regulation during the COVID-19 emergency. While the court order is in place, students who file the I-539 for reinstatement or extension of status will not be required to answer questions about their receipt of public benefits. For more information, please view the associated legal summary.
Dismissal of Homeland Security Litigation on Unlawful Presence Policy
8/7/2020 On August 3, 2020 the litigation surrounding Homeland Security's Aug 9, 2018 Unlawful Presence Policy regarding F, M, and J students was formally dismissed in federal court. F, M, and J students are not subject to the Aug 9, 2018 policy which was stopped by previous injunctions. The case is now formally dismissed after Homeland Security voluntarily withdrew it.
Guidance for F-1 International Students at WMU for Fall 2020
7/29/2020 Homeland Security announced guidance for F-1 students for Fall 2020. It states that it will continue its March guidance and FAQs for temporary adaptations for Fall School term. It also posted clarifying guidance for Fall 2020 found at https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus, then scroll down to "Nonimmigrant Students and SEVP-Certified Schools."
Continuing F-1 students:
Students who were active SEVIS status on March 9, 2020 and who have been maintaining status since that date may engage in fully online academic programs in the United States in Fall 2020, in line with SEVP's March 2020 guidance. This is the case even if the F-1 students was engaged in online study outside the United States on March 9, since the March policy permitted fully online study from either inside or outside the United States.
Students who have been active, lawful student status since March 9 may also remain in the United States in order to being a new online course of study, engage in a hybrid in-person/online course of study, or switch between hybrid and online-only programs. These continuing F-1 students may seek reentry to U.S. for entirely online, or may continue enrollment SEVIS Active from abroad.
Initial F-1 Students:
The new rule for new or initial students is that they cannot enroll in a program that is 100% online. These students must be enrolled for at least one hybrid or in-person course toward a full course of study. The remainder of their courses can be online courses and count towards their full time enrollment requirement.
State Department Addresses Some Entry Ban Exemptions
7/22/2020 Certain international students and business travelers present in the Schengen Area, the UK or Ireland within 14 days of attempted entry to the United States are now exempt from the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 travel bans. Exempted travelers include students traveling in F and M status. J-1 students must seek a national interest waiver at a US consular post before traveling. For more information, please view the article.
Students No Longer Required to Receive New I-20 with Certifying Remarks about School Not Online
7/17/2020 International students will no longer need a new I-20 with the certifying remarks that WMU and their program are not entirely online. After the Harvard, MIT v. DHS hearing on July 14, ICE withdrew its Fall guidance on July 15 and therefore international students do not need to receive a new I-20 with those certification remarks as that specific guidance is obsolete. Therefore, international students do not need to email email@example.com for this anymore.
ICE Rescinds Restrictive F-1 Student Visa Policy
7/14/2020 Please see the latest update regarding the Harvard, MIT lawsuit against Department of Homeland Security challenging the recent July 6 ICE policy regarding online classes. On July 13, the State of Michigan joined the coalition of state attorneys general of 17 other states in a lawsuit challenging the policy. Read more here.
During a hearing on July 14 before a presiding federal judge, DHS announced that it is withdrawing its July 6 policy. This means that students and schools can continue to benefit from the March 2020 current COVID guidance and temporary adaptations until further notice. We will continue to update you on this development and provide further details from your school officials soon.
The link to the summary can be read here.
Legal Challenges Mount Against F-1 Student Visa Restrictions
7/14/2020 On July 13, 2020 the State of Massachusetts and 17 other U.S. states filed a lawsuit to invalidate a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy that would require F-1 students to depart the United States or transfer to a different institution if their U.S. school will not provide in-person learning during the Fall 2020 semester.
The lawsuit by the states joins two other challenges filed by the University of California and by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A federal district judge is set to rule later this week on Harvard and MIT's motion to temporarily block the new student visa rules.
New Development regarding Fall Guidance
We are sharing the SEVP updated guidance in a new FAQ which now states the following:
Can continuing F and M students study online outside the United States and remain in Active status in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)? Are designated school officials (DSOs) responsible for maintaining these records?
A. Yes, continuing F and M students may remain in Active SEVIS status while studying online, outside the United States. As these students remain Active in SEVIS, DSOs are responsible for maintaining these student records.
Please be assured that all of the staff at International Admissions and Services and Immigration Compliance are happy to maintain your SEVIS records Active during these challenging times and we stand ready to assist you when you wish to return to WMU.
Homeland Security Reduces Online Learning Adaptations for F-1 Students for Fall 2020 Semester
7/7/2020 July 6, 2020, Homeland Security issued new Fall Guidance and send an email broadcast directly to the F-1 students, thereafter to school officials.
In summary, students at schools operating All Online for Fall cannot maintain status. DHS is stating they must depart the US or transfer to another school that is operating in hybrid or in-person mode. Students will not be able to reenter the US or receive visas to attend schools operating all online in the US. Since WMU announced a return to campus for a hybrid type Fall semester, then the following will apply:
- WMU F-1 academic students in the US need to enroll in at least one hybrid or traditional course to maintain immigration status in a full course of study; and they may take more that one class or three credit hours online with an updated I-20 from their school. This does not apply to F-1 CELCIS students as DHS is requiring ESL students to take in-person classes full time to maintain status.
- By August 4, for all students attending schools in the US this Fall 2020, schools must issue new Forms I-20 to each student certifying that the school is not operating entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. DSOs must indicated this information in the Form I-20 Remarks field in SEVIS.
- Students may still apply for medical RCL where eligible under normal procedures.
- J-1 visa exchange students are not impacted by this DHS rule.
Students outside the US enrolled in distance education do not need an I-20 to continue in distance education from abroad. However, for return the the US, students will need to contact IAS for an I-20 meeting these new requirements.
Homeland Security rules will govern accordingly based on school mode.
Developing Issues: Fall 2020 Semester
6/26/2020 Department of Homeland Security announced it will be issuing Fall Guidance soon through the following statement: SEVP has not issued guidance to international students and schools for the fall semester. We understand international students and schools have questions, and SEVP is actively working to issue guidance. In the meantime, the temporary procedural adaptations that permit international students to engage in remote learning are still in place through the summer session. As soon as SEVP finalized guidance for the fall term, the academic community will be updated. Stakeholders will receive information through a variety of communication channels, and information will be updated on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) COVID-19 resource page under the Nonimmigrant Students and SEVP-Certified School's section. For these updates and more visit the page Nonimmigrant Students and SEVP Certified Schools found at: https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus
Virtual Advising Available
In-person instruction begins with fall classes on Sept. 2. Information on instructional methods for courses can be reviewed at WMU Course Offerings. Services from the Haenicke Institute for Global Education are available virtually, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Keep up-to-date on the University's response to COVID-19 at wmich.edu/covid-19.
Immigration Compliance and International Admissions and Services will continue to offer advising services to support international students and exchange visitors, faculty and staff, visiting scholars and international visitors. Advising services will be offered VIRTUALLY Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We encourage you to review the Frequently Asked Questions related to immigration and COVID-19.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates & Resources
For additional international student and scholar resources visit: Fragomen Worldwide immigration law firm (which lists travel advisories around the world), current emergency alerts posted by DOS and CDC situation summary, and the WHO. WMU International students and scholars may contact WMU International Admissions and Services for further information on travel delays, deferment, and recent Homeland Security guidance.
Federal District Courts Enjoins USCIS from Enforcing Unlawful Presence Rules for Students and Exchange Visitors
2/25/2020 A federal district judge has issued a permanent injunction to prevent USCIS from implementing a policy that would have penalized students in F, J and M status for status violations starting on the day after the violation occurred. The agency must continue to follow its previous, longstanding guidance related to unlawful presence, under which F, J and M nonimmigrants are penalized only after USCIS or an immigration judge makes a specific finding of a status violation. The government is expected to appeal the court's decision. For more information, visit the associated legal summary.
United States: Supreme Court Allows Public Charge Rule to Apply
2/25/2020 DHS's new public charge regulation is set to take effect on February 24, 2020. Adjustment of status applicants will be required to provide detailed financial and credit documentation to support their applications. Nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status will be required to disclose certain public benefits they receive or are certified to receive on or after February 24, 2020. For more information, please visit the website linked here and here.
2/21/2020 The novel (new) coronavirus (now named coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19) is still declared a public health emergency by the WHO. In addition to reading about the emergency alert posted by DOS and situation summary posted by the CDC, an associate legal summary is also posted here.
Coronavirus Update: U.S. Imposes Travel Restrictions and Quarantines on Individuals Traveling from China
2/03/2020 Restrictions to take effect on Sunday, February 2. Foreign nationals who have visited China within 14 days will be denied entry, with limited exceptions. U.S. citizens who have visited China's Hubei Province within 14 days will face mandatory quarantine. For further information regarding this presidential proclamation and read about exemptions, please visit the linked website. Additionally, WMU News posted that WMU is following the CDC's recommendation to avoid non-essential travel to China. WMU travel to China is prohibited, effective immediately and until further notice. The university is also encouraging faculty, staff, and students to avoid personal travel to China at this time. WMU will follow CDC and Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services guidance for containing the spread of the respiratory illness.
1/31/2020 The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new coronavirus outbreak a Global Health Emergency. Currently, the Department of State (DoS) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have raised travel advisory levels for all of China. WMU Sindecuse Health Center has additional resources on their website. WMU International students and scholars may contact WMU International Admissions and Services for further information on travel delays, deferment, and recent Homeland Security guidance.
2020 International Student Employment Seminar
1/29/2020 WMU's Career and Student Employment Services office is hosting the 2020 International Student Employment Seminar, this Friday, January 31st, 12pm-3pm Room 158-159 Bernhard Center. Lee Ryder, Director of Immigration Compliance and John Koryto, Attorney with Miller Johnson will be presenting on US employment for international students, including CPT, OPT, work visas and green cards. A Q&A session will follow. Due to the busy nature of this event, all participants must RSVP online by following the link listed in the event flyer, or by contacting Wayne Bond, Career Development Specialist.
Federal District Court Blocks Enforcement of DHS Public Charge Regulation
10/11/2019 A federal district court has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing a regulation that sought to apply strict new standards for determining whether a foreign national could be considered a "public charge". For further information, please view the associated legal summary.
Beware of Common Scams
9/25/2019 Be careful of common scams. USCIS has a dedicated portion of their website that describes various scams such false calls regarding winning the visa lottery or requiring money to be sent to USCIS. Please visit the common scam section of USCIS and familiarize yourself to be safe. Also, the IRS has a dedication website to discuss IRS scams, as well.
Reminder to International Community That Marijuana Remains an Illegal Drug Under Federal Law
5/8/2019 International students, scholars, exchange visitors, dependents, permanent residents, or anyone with immigrant or nonimmigrant status should avoid marijuana use, possession and all association with it because despite laws in Michigan, it remains illegal as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under U.S. Federal Law and may lead to negative immigration consequences. Even using marijuana medically, growing marijuana, and working in the marijuana industry may lead to negative immigration consequences.
Violations of federal law, such as marijuana use and possession, can adversely affect your immigration status, your ability to obtain or renew a visa, your ability to enter or re-enter the United States, and your ability to apply for U.S. permanent residency or citizenship.
Please also be reminded that marijuana in all its forms is prohibited on Western Michigan University's campus.
Related policies for students can be found in the Student Code of Conduct, Section B.6.
Related policies for faculty and staff can be found in the Employee Handbook, Section 8.
Additional links and information can be found here:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services link: USCIS Policy Guidance
U.S. Customs and Border Protection link: CBP Statement
Inadmissibility bar: 8 USC 1182: Inadmissibility
Resources for DACA Students
Although WMU Immigration Compliance cannot advise DACA students on their personal immigration matters, as it is outside our scope, there are outside resources in the community. You may find the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) website to be helpful.