U.S. Immigration Policy & Regulatory Updates

Last Updated: March 12 at 5:15 PM

Guidance

The Office of Global Services (OGS) welcomes and supports international students and scholars at Georgetown University. The guidance below provides general advice for students and scholars concerned about the current immigration climate. OGS also provides information on legal resources, including a list of immigration attorneys in the Washington, DC area.

OGS closely monitors all policy and regulatory changes issued by the current Administration. This alert is provided for informational purposes only.

March 12, 2020: Coronavirus-related Travel Restrictions and maintaining F-1 and J-1 Status through Instructional Continuity for Spring 2020 Semester

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 Proclamation, February 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.

February 4, 2020: Travel Ban 4.0 in Effect February 21, 2020

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.

January 30, 2020: Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule to be Implemented on February 24, 2020

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

December 17, 2019: New Electronic Registration Process for H-1B Lottery

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.

November 26, 2019: Georgetown Signs Amicus Brief in Support of Temporary Employment for F-1 Students

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.

August 29, 2019: Employers Prepare for STEM OPT Worksite Inspections

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.

August 12, 2019: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Announces Final Rule Enforcing Long-Standing Public Charge Inadmissibility Law

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.

January 9, 2019: Georgetown University joins amicus brief challenging new ‘unlawful presence’ policy

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.

August 8, 2018: USCIS updates their unlawful presence and RFE/notice to deny policies

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.

June 27, 2018: Travel Ban 3.0 has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and is now in effect indefinitely.

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.

Support for Georgetown Community Members Affected by September 2017 Presidential Proclamation (Travel Ban 3.0)

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.