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Annual Vacation for F-1 Students

Posted August 23, 2019Articles
 
Students on F-1 status are eligible for an annual vacation once they complete an academic year with a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school and were enrolled in a full course of study during all prior academic terms. F-1 students are also eligible for one annual vacation a year thereafter so long as they maintain their full course of study for another academic year. The annual vacation typically lasts as long as an academic term and is often taken during the summer. 
 
The annual vacation differs from from a school break in that school breaks occur when the school is briefly closed, such as for a holiday, winter break, or spring break. These short breaks do not count toward the annual vacation.
 
For more information about qualifying for an annual vacation or to obtain an international travel endorsement while on F-1 status, students should speak with their school's designated school official (DSO).

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USCIS to Reduce International Field Offices

Posted August 15, 2019Kyle RobyArticles

On August 9, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced plans to reduce the number of international field offices with the intent of allowing more effective allocation of USCIS resources, including backlog reduction efforts.

As part of this reduction, USCIS plans to close thirteen international field offices and three district offices between now and August 2020. The first planned closures are the field offices in Monterrey, Mexico and Seoul, South Korea at the end of September. 

USCIS plans to maintain operations at seven international field offices in Beijing and Guangzhou, China; Nairobi, Kenya; New Delhi, India; Guatemala City, Guatemala; Mexico City, Mexico, and San Salvador, El Salvador.

USCIS international field offices function separately from U.S. Embassies or Consulates. These international offices provide a variety of immigration services such as family-based green cards, international adoptions, inadmissibility waivers, and lost green cards. They also provide fraud detection and deterrence efforts, and act as an inter- and intra-government liaison.

Functions currently performed at international offices will be handled domestically or by USCIS domestic staff on temporary assignments abroad. The Department of State (DOS) will assume responsibility for certain in-person services that USCIS currently provides at international field offices. Clients receiving services at international offices should experience minimal issues or delays as these services are transitioned to USCIS domestically. For most business clients, these closures will not have any impact on how cases are processed.

Please contact your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney for any additional information.

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USCIS Announces Final Rule Enforcing Long-Standing Public Charge Inadmissibility Law

Posted August 13, 2019Stephanie WedelArticles

U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the final rule that clearly defines the “public charge” inadmissibility law. The final rule will take effect on October 15, 2019 but will not apply to applications for adjustment of status, changes of status, or extensions of status filed prior to that date.  

The final rule expands the groups of applicants subject to the public charge review to include not only adjustment of status applicants, but also applicants applying for changes and extensions of status.  In addition, the final rule also allows officers to assess whether an adjustment of status applicant is likely to become a public charge in the future.  

Public Benefits Included in the Public Charge Final Rule

  • Cash benefits for income maintenance, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Most forms of Medicaid (exceptions below)
  • Certain housing programs, including Section-8 and public housing  

Public Benefits Excluded from the Public Charge Final Rule

  • Federal or state retirement benefits, including Social Security retirement benefits
  • Social Security disability benefits
  • Unemployment benefits, and other benefits that an individual earns through payroll tax and other tax deductions
  • Medicare benefits
  • Medicaid benefits received by applicants under 21 years of age and pregnant women during pregnancy and during the 60-day period after pregnancy
  • Medicaid Part D Low-Income subsidy
  • Medicaid for school-based services (including services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
  • Medicaid benefits for emergency medical services
  • Benefits received by military service members and their spouses and children  
  • Housing programs that provide mortgage assistance or credits. Having a mortgage is not indicative of becoming a public charge.

Effect of Rule on Nonimmigrants

Nonimmigrants (individuals who are in the U.S. in a temporary status including H-1B, L-1, E-3, TN, etc.) who have utilized the public benefits included in the Public Charge Final Rule after their admission to the United States may be denied a change of status or extension of status. If a nonimmigrant, including an employee in H-1B and L-1 status, has received one or more of the included public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within 36 month period since obtaining current status, the applications can be denied.  However, nonimmigrant applications will not be reviewed for the likelihood of becoming a public charge in the future.  

Effect of Rule on Adjustment of Status Applicants

Adjustment of status applicants will need to demonstrate that they have not utilized the public programs for more than 12 months in the aggregate in the last 36 months, but the adjudicating officer will also be looking to determine if the applicant is likely to become a public charge in the future.  Adjudicating officers will be looking at a totality of the circumstances to determine future likelihood of becoming a public charge, including age, health, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills, among others. If an adjustment of status applicant is found to be inadmissible under the public charge final rule, they may be able to post a bond of at least $8,100 to overcome this finding.  

If you have received any public benefit and are applying for an extension or change of your nonimmigrant status, or will be applying for adjustment of status, please reach out to your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney.

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EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Rule Changes To Become Effective November 2019

Posted July 29, 2019Kyle RobyArticles

 

On July 24, 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published a final rule that makes a number of changes to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The final rule will become effective November 21, 2019.

The EB-5 program allows eligible individuals to apply for conditional lawful permanent residence in the U.S. if they make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the U.S. and create or, in certain circumstances, preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.

Under the final rule, new developments will include:

Raising minimum investment amounts: As of the effective date of the final rule, the standard minimum investment level will increase from $1 million to $1.8 million, to account for inflation since the initial investment amount set by Congress in 1990. The rule also keeps the 50% minimum investment differential between a TEA (Targeted Employment Area) and a non-TEA, thereby increasing the minimum investment amount in a TEA from $500,000 to $900,000. The final rule also provides that the minimum investment amounts will automatically adjust for inflation every five years.

By definition, a TEA is a rural area or an area that has experienced high unemployment. A rural area is any area not within a metropolitan statistical area and the outer boundary of a city or town having a population of 20,000 or more. A high unemployment area is an area that has experienced unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average rate.

TEA designation reforms: The final rule outlines changes to the EB-5 program to address manipulation of high-unemployment areas. As of the effective date of the final rule, the DHS will eliminate a state’s ability to designate certain geographic and political subdivisions as high-unemployment areas; instead, DHS would make such designations directly based on revised requirements in the regulation limiting the composition of census tract-based TEAs. This is an attempt to ensure that investments truly are in high unemployment areas, and limits investor and state strategies to link high and low unemployment areas together for TEA designation purposes.

Clarifying USCIS procedures for removing conditions on permanent residence: The rule revises regulations to make clear that certain derivative family members who are lawful permanent residents must independently file to remove conditions on their permanent residence. The requirement would not apply to those family members who were included in a principal investor’s petition to remove conditions. The rule improves the adjudication process for removing conditions by providing flexibility in interview locations and to adopt the current USCIS process for issuing Green Cards.

Allowing EB-5 petitioners to keep their priority date: The final rule also offers greater flexibility to immigrant investors who have a previously approved EB-5 immigrant petition. When they need to file a new EB-5 petition, they generally now will be able to retain the priority date of the previously approved petition, subject to certain exceptions.

Additional information about the EB-5 program can be found here.

Please contact your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney for additional information.  

 

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STEM OPT Worksite Inspections

Posted July 25, 2019Stephanie WedelArticles

As an update to the previous post regarding Increased Immigration Enforcement Activities, The Department of Homeland Security has announced that  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be conducting on-site inspections for individuals on STEM OPT employment to ensure compliance with the STEM OPT regulations and the individual training plans for the foreign national employees or trainees. They will also visit third-party client sites as well.

Notification of a Site Visit

Typically, ICE is required to provide 48 hours’ advanced notice before conducting a random STEM OPT site visit.  However, no notice is required where there has been a complaint made with ICE, or where there is evidence indicating noncompliance with program rules. Best practices Your organization should have a designated point of contact to meet with ICE officials. Any STEM OPT employees or trainees, as well as their managers should also be aware of the potential for a site visit, as well as what to expect during a site visit.

When an ICE officer arrives, you should request to see the officer’s credentials and business card. You should also keep record of the officer’s name, title, and contact information. The officer will likely request to speak to the employee or trainee as well as the manager. The designated point of contact should accompany the officer and document the visit.

You should report any site visits to your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney.

What to expect

The officer will likely request a copy of the I-983 training plan, as well as to speak with the employee or trainee and their manager.  Typically, the officer will ask questions relating to the following:

  • The information provided on the I-983 training plan
  • The work/training the trainee is performing
  • How the trainee’s degree program relates to the position
  • Types of supervision provided

The officer may request to see the worksite and may take photographs.  If this occurs, the designated point of contact should request copies of the photos that are taken. Once the visit is complete, if the officer has additional questions or determines updated information is needed, the request should be issued in writing.  If the officer was not able to obtain all the information they need, they may follow up with the organization either by email or phone.  They may also request an additional visit.

Please contact your designated Meltzer Hellrung attorney with any questions.    

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