U.S. Immigration Policy & Regulatory Updates

Last Updated: July 14, 2020 at 6:30 PM

Guidance

The Office of Global Services (OGS) welcomes and supports international students and scholars at Georgetown University. IS Advisors are members of the NAFSA industry association, which advocates broadly for international education and specifically on the issues most relevant to international students and scholars. OGS also provides information on legal resources, including a list of immigration attorneys in the Washington, DC area. 

The U.S. immigration status of individuals within our community is affected by the determinations of the U.S. government. Monitor this page regularly for updates, which are provided for informational purposes only.

The State Department has issued new guidance regarding National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052) Suspending the Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Presenting a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak. If you have questions about how this guidance affects your immigration status, please be in touch with your advisor in the Office of Global Services.

Breaking News: In the Harvard/M.I.T. court case challenging the July 6 Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) policy directive and July 7 SEVP frequently asked questions (FAQs), the U.S. government agreed to rescind both the policy directive and the FAQs and to make conforming revisions to its March 2020 guidance

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) released an initial broadcast message, COVID-19 and Fall 2020, outlining instructional delivery models and their interaction with F-1 immigration status. The ICE COVID-19 FAQs are expected to provide additional details in the coming days.

Georgetown is carefully reviewing SEVP’s initial fall guidance in light of the University’s operating status for Fall 2020. OGS will update students on any implications for their F-1 status as soon as possible and will continue to post new information to the OGS COVID-19 FAQ as it becomes available.

The White House has issued another Proclamation “Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak” effective June 24, 2020 and remains in effect through December 31, 2020. The Proclamation has far less of an impact than was rumored in advance of the Proclamation. Although early fears were that this Proclamation would have a wide impact on H-1B visa holders in the United States, this is not what happened. It only applies to those outside of the United States on June 24, 2020, and restricts those individuals seeking to enter the United States in the following categories on new visa stamps issued after June 24, 2020: 

  1. H-1B employees and their H-4 dependents;
  2. L-1 employees and their L-2 dependents;
  3. J-1 exchange visitors, but only J-1s who work as interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, or summer work travel programs and their J-2 dependents. (Note: This does not affect the J-1 categories: Professor, Research Scholar, Short-term Scholar, Specialist, College/University Student or Student Intern which we use at Georgetown.)

It does not impact at all those already in the United States in any one of these categories and does not revoke existing visas of individuals who are inside the United States in any of these categories. They are all free to remain in the United States and continue to work.

As a result, there is no impact on the ability to:

  • Apply within the United States to change the status to H-1B, including H-1B cap cases;
  • Apply within the United States to extend H-1B status;
  • Apply within the United States to transfer H-1B status to a different employer;
  • Apply within the United States for permanent residence.

Similarly, there is no impact on the ability to:

  • Apply within the United States to change the status to L-1 or J-1;
  • Apply within the United States to change the status to H-4, L-2 or J-2;
  • Apply within the United States to extend L-1 or J-1 status;
  • Apply within the United States extend any of the H-4, L-2 or J-2 dependent categories;
  • Apply within the United States for permanent residence for L-1, J-1 or any of the dependent categories.

The primary impact will be on limiting international travel for those who do not currently hold a valid visa in any one of these categories. There will be no impact on international travel for the following individuals:

  • Permanent Resident Green Card Holders;
  • Spouse or children of U.S. citizens;
  • Those with a valid visa stamp in one of these categories (H-1B, L-1, J-1 or their dependents);
  • Those with valid advance parole travel documents; and
  • Canadian citizens, who are exempt from needing visa stamps in any of these categories.

This summary is provided by McCandlish Holton, a law firm that works closely with Georgetown University on immigration matters.

McCandlish Holton
1111 E Main Street, Suite 2100
Richmond, VA 23219
804.775.3100

In its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has temporarily allowed electronic delivery of the Form I-20* to the @georgetown.edu email address in a student’s SEVIS record. Students can now request a scanned Form I-20 when applying for off-campus authorization. Students who request a scanned Form I-20 for travel purposes should contact OGS ten days before their planned reentry to the United States. Original Form I-20s remain available via in-person pickup at GUPD or eShipGlobal. OGS will keep original Form I-20s for later distribution after reopening in the Car Barn.

Students present the Form I-20 to various U.S. authorities for several purposes; emergency adaptations to these processes are detailed below. Students should have this print-out of DHS guidance when using a scanned Form I-20 for an application or procedure.

Confirmed accommodations for scanned Form I-20:

Undetermined:

*This accommodation is only available to F-1 students. The U.S. Department of State (DoS) has indicated the Form DS-2019 may only be scanned to Exchange Visitors for informational purposes. DoS has explicitly stated that the scanned copies may not be used for the J-1 visa application or entry to the United States.
**Students never submit the original Form I-20 to USCIS, but must print, sign and date the document before making a copy. USCIS has temporarily allowed “electronically reproduced original signatures“.

Under normal conditions, F-1 students must be physically present in the United States at the time CPT is authorized. In its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has temporarily allowed F-1 students to maintain their status from outside the United States. As such, OGS will temporarily allow students to apply for CPT authorization from abroad. 

U.S. work authorization is not required for a position in which services/duties are performed by a student who is outside the United States. However, students who will perform any part of a position from within the United States must choose whether they will (A) secure authorization for the entire duration of the position, or (B) secure authorization only for the portion of the position performed while physically present in the United States. In either case, students must work closely with their Dean/academic advisor to establish CPT eligibility and enroll in the appropriate internship course (if applicable) before the registration deadline.

All students must keep detailed documentation to reconcile their work/internship experiences with their U.S. immigration record (e.g. travel history, employer/program correspondence, etc.). Because the ICE COVID-19 FAQs do not explicitly address students’ location at the time of authorization, students who receive CPT authorization while abroad should retain evidence showing how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their activities in order to respond effectively to any future inquiries about this use of U.S. work authorization. Please email an IS Advisor for further guidance on CPT.

While the OPT instructions on Form I-765 Page 4, Part 3 indicate that students must be inside the United States to apply for the employment benefit, the COVID-19 pandemic may make this impossible. Although U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not yet issued any instructions to relax this guidance, OGS acknowledges that flexibility might be granted by USCIS in the adjudication process. Given these unknowns, and because the ultimate approval for OPT authorization is at the discretion of USCIS, OGS is willing to recommend OPT for students regardless of where they are currently located. Students can elect to assume the risks associated with an OPT application from abroad after considering the following:

  • OPT applications must be received by USCIS within 30 days of when OGS issues the new Form I-20 recommending OPT and no later than the end of the 60-day grace period after the Form I-20 program end date. 
  • If an OPT application is denied, the filing fee will not be refunded, and there may not be time to reapply. F-1 students who have not applied for OPT are typically inadmissible to the United States after the program end date.
  • OPT applicants must provide a U.S. mailing address on Form I-765. The OGS address cannot be used to receive the EAD card.
  • OPT applications typically require handwritten ink signatures on Form I-20, Form I-765, and on many payment methods. USCIS’ definition of “electronically reproduced original signatures” does not include digitized signatures. USCIS will accept a scan/photocopy of a document on which a handwritten signature was provided.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has temporarily allowed schools to send scanned I-20s to students. OPT applicants should print the scanned I-20 and write their signature and the date, then make a copy. Students should plan to receive the original I-20 by either purchasing shipment or visiting OGS after normal operations resume, as USCIS can request this document in the future.
  • Form I-765 requires applicants to provide Information About Your Last Arrival in the United States (Page 3, Part 2, Items 21.a and 23-25). Students who apply for OPT from abroad should use Page 7, Part 6 of the form to explain why the pandemic prevents applying from within the United States.

F-1 students who are currently abroad and hope to access OPT currently have the following options:

  • Reenter the United States by their Form I-20 program end date and apply as normal.
  • Send the application to USCIS from abroad.
  • Send the application materials to someone in the United States who will submit to USCIS on their behalf.

OGS’ accommodation for students outside the United States is only available during the COVID-19 pandemic and comes with no guarantee that the application to USCIS will be approved. Please contact an IS Advisor for further guidance on OPT.

The White House has issued a “Proclamation” suspending travel to the United States by individuals who will seek entry to the United States using an “immigrant visa” (which is a visa issued to individuals entering the United States to become permanent residents).

The “Proclamation” has almost no impact on individuals currently inside the United States:

  • It does not revoke or otherwise limit temporary work visas such as H-1B, TN, L-1, O-1 or other temporary visa categories including F-1 students attending school in the United States or using OPT or CPT.
  • It does not prevent or limit processing of work visas such as H-1B, TN, L-1, O-1 or other temporary work visa categories. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is still processing new petitions in all categories, as well as extensions, transfers, or other actions.
  • It does not revoke or otherwise limit green cards already issued to individuals inside the United States.
  • It does not prevent or limit processing of green card applications by individuals inside the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor and the USCIS are still processing green card applications in all categories.
  • For individuals who have not yet commenced the green card process in the United States, you can proceed with your green card process.
  • For individuals who are preparing or who have filed PERM applications with the U.S. Department of Labor, this process will continue.
  • For individuals who are preparing or who have filed I-140 (employment-based immigrant petitions) or I-130 (family-based immigrant petitions) with the USCIS, those petitions will continue to be processed. 
  • For individuals who are preparing I-485 applications to adjust status in the United States, you should continue to prepare and file your applications. 
  • For individuals who have already filed I-485 applications to adjust status, those applications will continue to be processed, including applications for Employment Authorization Documents and Advance Parole.

The “Proclamation” only affects individuals seeking entry to the United States using an immigrant visa for the next 60 days (with possible extensions thereafter). Importantly, individuals who already have an immigrant visa stamp in their passport are exempted from this Proclamation. The Proclamation includes a number of other exceptions, and allows continued travel using immigrant visas by the following groups of individuals:

  • Lawful permanent residents (LPR)
  • Individuals and their spouses or children seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional to perform work essential to combatting, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak (as determined by the Secretaries of State and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or their respective designees)
  • Individuals applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program 
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens
  • Children of U.S. citizens under the age of 21 and prospective adoptees seeking to enter on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa
  • Individuals who would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives (as determined by the Secretaries of DHS and State based on the recommendation of the Attorney General (AG), or their respective designees)
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children
  • Individuals and their spouses or children eligible for Special Immigrant Visas as an Afghan or Iraqi translator/interpreter or U.S. Government Employee (SI or SQ classification)
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest (as determined by the Secretaries of State and DHS, or their respective designees)

In short, the “Proclamation” has little impact on individuals who are inside the United States. It applies to only a narrow group of individuals who are outside the United States and who will apply for entry to the United States using “immigrant visa” stamps that they do not yet have (and would not receive in any event, because embassies are not processing any visas at the present time). 

This summary is provided by McCandlish Holton, a law firm that works closely with Georgetown University on immigration matters.

McCandlish Holton
1111 E Main Street, Suite 2100
Richmond, VA 23219
804.775.3100
Visit here for more information

Since January, the United States President has issued three Coronavirus/COVID-19-related proclamations to limit travel to the United States: January 31, 2020 China Travel ProclamationFebruary 29, 2020 Iran Travel Proclamation, and March 11, 2020 European Schengen Area Proclamation. The President of Georgetown University has also announced as a precautionary measure against Coronavirus that the University will transition to online classes until further notice. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program within the Department of Homeland Security has granted the University flexibility to change the mode of instructional delivery for students in F-1 and J-1 status for a temporary period. It is essential that students continue participating in classes via the online delivery method offered by the instructor in order to maintain their immigration status. For more information, see the NAFSA COVID-19 Restrictions Resources page.

In a January 31, 2020 Presidential Proclamation, the Trump administration announced visa and entry restrictions on immigrants from six additional countries (Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania), which will become effective on February 21, 2020. The new ban (Travel Ban 4.0) does not affect nonimmigrant visas like F-1 student, J-1 exchange visitor, H-1B worker, etc., Students and scholars should still be able to obtain a new F-1, J-1, or H-1B visa and be admitted to the United States in those categories. For more information, see the NAFSA Travel Ban Resources page.

On January 27, 2020, the Supreme Court lifted a nationwide injunction blocking the implementation of DHS public charge rule (see August 12, 2019 section of the website below). While litigation against this rule continues, on January 30, 2020, USCIS announced that it will implement the public charge rule on February 24, 2020 and will apply the rule to applications postmarked or submitted on or after that date.

USCIS officers will now consider the applicant’s age, health, family size, education or skills, and financial status and will have the authority to issue public charge bonds in the context of applications for adjustment of status. Individuals seeking to extend or change their status must demonstrate that they have not received public benefits* over the designated threshold since obtaining the nonimmigrant status they seek to extend or change. To read more about the Final Rule and any updates on the litigation or its implementation see the NAFSA resources page.

*1. Any federal, state, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance, including:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI), 42 U.S.C. 1381 et seq.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), 42 U.S.C. 601 et seq.
  • Federal, state, or local cash benefits programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the State context, but which also exist under other names)

2. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), 7 U.S.C. 2011 to 2036c;
3. Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program as administered by HUD under 42 U.S.C. 1437f;
4. Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation) under Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437f);
5. Medicaid, with certain exceptions, such as benefits received by individuals under the age of 21 and pregnant women (or for a period of 60 days after the last day of pregnancy); and
6. Public housing under section 9 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937

USCIS has announced that it will implement an H-1B electronic registration process for this year’s H-1B lottery. Employers seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions will need to complete an initial electronic registration and pay a $10 registration fee for each beneficiary registered. The registration filing period will run from March 1 – March 20, 2020. The registration will require basic information about the company and each worker for whom the employer wishes to file an H-1B petition.

After completion of the registration process, USCIS will conduct its random H-1B lottery selection. USCIS will notify employers of selected beneficiaries, and they will then be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions on behalf of the selected employees. It is expected that USCIS will complete the lottery and be able to notify selected petitions by the end of March. It is anticipated that employers will then have a 90-day window to file the H-1B petition with USCIS. USCIS has indicated that it will be providing specific registration instructions and additional information regarding key deadlines before the registration period begins in March.

Last week, Georgetown University was one of 118 higher education institutions that filed an amicus brief in support of Optional Practical Training (OPT) in the ongoing WashTech litigation to demonstrate the importance of OPT as a vital component to an international student’s program of study. Read more about the brief in this Inside Higher Ed (new window) article.

DHS has begun conducting more frequent on-site inspections of F-1 STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment. The purpose of the inspections is to review employer compliance with STEM OPT regulations and with F-1 STEM OPT students’ individual training plans (on the Form I-983). F-1 students on STEM OPT should always have a copy of their Form I-983 readily available, know how to contact the employer official who signed the Form I-983, and report any material changes to the Form I-983 to their dedicated STEM Advisor in OGS. Examples of material changes to the Form I-983 can be found on the STEM OPT Reporting Requirements website. Employers and students may read more about the worksite inspections on the Fragomen and Klasko immigration law offices’ websites.

According to USCIS, “For purposes of determining inadmissibility to the United States, ‘public charge’ means an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense”.

DHS has announced a final rule that clarifies how DHS will determine whether an alien is inadmissible to the United States based on his or her likelihood of becoming a public charge at any time in the future, as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The rule also makes nonimmigrant aliens who have received certain public benefits above a specific threshold generally ineligible for extension of stay and change of status through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). With this clarification, DHS seeks to ensure that aliens seeking to enter and remain in the United States — either temporarily or permanently — are self-sufficient and rely on their own capabilities and the resources of family members, sponsors, and private organizations rather than on public resources.

Georgetown University demonstrated its ongoing commitment to its international community by signing onto an amicus brief with 64 other universities. This amicus brief supports a legal challenge to the unlawful presence policy that USCIS updated in August 2018. For more information please view the Georgetown article with further details of the amicus brief and Georgetown’s international community. For updates on the ongoing litigation, please view the NAFSA resources page.

Beginning August 9, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will change its policy on the consequences for failing to maintain valid student status while in the United States. Please carefully read the guidance from USCIS.

Unlawful Presence Policy (ULP)

What is the new ULP?

Beginning August 9, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began counting unlawful presence for F students and J exchange visitors at the moment they violate or fall out of status (rather than at the point USCIS denies a benefits application on the basis of a status violation or an immigration judge determines a status violation). Even if the violation is discovered years down the line, unlawful presence will be calculated retroactively, meaning students and exchange visitors (and any of their dependents) could unknowingly accrue unlawful presence, and be subject to 3- or 10-year bars for reentry into the United States. 

What is the impact?

This policy can have a substantial impact on those in F and J status; it could impose 3- and 10-year reentry bars on international students, researchers, medical residents, and others who inadvertently fall out-of-status. Please carefully read the USCIS Final Guidance on Unlawful Presence for Students and Exchange Visitors.

How to receive legal advice?

February 4, 2019, is the 180th day from August 9, 2018 – the beginning of the new unlawful presence accrual policy. F and J nonimmigrants who believe a status violation occurred on or before August 9, 2018 should consult with an immigration attorney.

Request for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID)

Students and scholars submitting applications for benefits from USCIS should be aware that beginning September 11, 2018, new policy guidance gives adjudicators more discretion to deny applications without first requesting additional evidence to cure an application deficiency. Students must always give careful attention to the USCIS instructions for a form. Find form instructions on the USCIS website. Read the USCIS guidance on this updated RFE and NOID policy.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators, provides the following history:

On September 24, 2017, President Trump issued Proclamation 9645 pursuant to Section 2(e) of Executive Order 13780, restricting entry to the United States for the nationals of eight countries. A Presidential Proclamation of April 10, 2018, however, removed Chad from the list of countries subject to Travel Ban 3.0, effective April 13, 2018. On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) stayed preliminary injunctions that had been issued by U.S. District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland, which allows the government to fully enforce Travel Ban 3.0 on all countries still covered by Proclamation 9645. The Proclamation 9645 restrictions are country-specific, and tailored to the situation of each individual country:

Iran

  • Entry as an immigrant is suspended
  • Entry of Iranian nationals “under valid student (F and M) and exchange visitor (J) visas is not suspended, although such individuals should be subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements.”
  • Entry under other types of nonimmigrant visas is suspended

Libya

  • Entry as an immigrant is suspended
  • Entry is suspended for nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas
  • Entry under other types of nonimmigrant visas is not suspended

North Korea

  • Entry as an immigrant is suspended
  • Entry is suspended for all nonimmigrant visa categories

Syria

  • Entry as an immigrant is suspended
  • Entry is suspended for all nonimmigrant visa categories

Venezuela

  • Entry is suspended for Venezuelan nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, but only for officials of government agencies of Venezuela involved in screening and vetting procedures – including the Ministry of the Popular Power for Interior, Justice and Peace; the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Immigration; the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigation Service Corps; the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service; and the Ministry of the Popular Power for Foreign Relations – and their immediate family members
  • Nationals of Venezuela not subject to the above suspension should nevertheless “be subject to appropriate additional measures to ensure traveler information remains current”

Yemen

  • Entry as an immigrant is suspended
  • Entry is suspended for nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas
  • Entry under other types of nonimmigrant visas is not suspended

Somalia

  • Entry as an immigrant is suspended
  • “Visa adjudications for nationals of Somalia and decisions regarding their entry as nonimmigrants should be subject to additional scrutiny to determine if applicants are connected to terrorist organizations or otherwise pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States.”

Make sure to read Exemptions and Exceptions and Waivers for exceptions to these general rules.

Georgetown faculty, staff, scholars, and students who are citizens of, or were born in Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Venezuela, and refugees from any country, who have any questions about how the Presidential Proclamation impacts them should make an appointment to meet with Rachel Rubin, Director of International Student & Scholar Services. Where appropriate, OGS can connect individuals from the impacted countries to a law firm who will provide immigration consultations at no charge to Georgetown faculty, staff, scholars, and students who are directly affected by the Proclamation.

President DeGioia issued a statement to the Georgetown community emphasizing the strength of Georgetown’s international identity in response to Travel Ban 1.0.