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 Fragomen article.
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. For more information, please view the associated Fragomen Article.
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 Fragomen Article.
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 Fragomen 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 Fragomen website.
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 Fragomen website 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, the Fragomen law firm also posted updates 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 Fragomen 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 visit the Fragomen Website to read the full article.
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.