Read Smith’s UPDATED plans as of August 5, 2020,
for an entirely remote fall 2020 semester.
News & Announcements
The ISSO regularly holds information sessions and programming throughout the year. Please check out our Facebook page and subscribe to our e-newsletter to follow our events and receive updates throughout the year. As always, the ISSO is here to help understand new policies as they emerge. If you have any questions, please contact our office.
IS Week 2020!
To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the International Students Organization, we’re excited to invite international students and alumni to submit their recipes for Virtual IS Week 2020. Submit your recipe via our IS Week form, and photos/videos can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than November 2. Let’s get cooking together, all over the world!
Continuity of F-1 Student Visa Status During COVID-19 Crisis
The ISSO is continually monitoring guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Guidance from SEVP for non-immigrant students states that new F-1 students cannot enter the US for a fully remote program of study. Since Smith has elected a remote semester for Fall 2020, all initial status F-1 students must postpone their entry to the US. Any student who was an active F-1 visa holder during March 2020 can continue to maintain status during the Fall 2020 semester, regardless of physical location. For those students transferring their visa status to Smith this semester who are no longer in the US, the ISSO will work closely with you upon your future entry to the US.
Any questions about specific situations should be directed to email@example.com.
New Fees Announced for Premium Processing
New increased fees for premium visa processing will go into effect on Monday, October 19th, as directed by the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act, which was made into law on October 1. Premium processing allows application filers to pay an additional fee in order to expedite their application processing in certain categories. This act also gives USCIS the ability to allow premium processing for additional forms and application, though it's not taking that action yet. Among such forms is the I-765, which students utilize to apply for OPT. If and when there is a lawmaking process to determine premium processing fees for this form, we will continue to keep our community apprised.
DHS Proposal to End Duration of Status
On September 25, 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security published a proposal to end duration of status for the F, J, and I visa categories. The proposal is in a 30-day public comment period, and comments can be submitted via regulations.gov until October 26th.
Some major implications of this proposal include:
- End of duration of status. Students and scholars admitted to the US would no longer be admitted for "duration of status." Instead they would be admitted for the length of their program, not to exceen four years (plus a 30-day grace period). To stay longer, a student or scholar would have to travel and re-enter the US, or apply for an extension of status through USCIS before their admission expires.
- Limited admission for some groups. Some groups of students and scholars would be limited to a maximum of 2 years of admission, regardless of the length of their program. These groups include, but are not limited to, countries where the recorded overstay rate exceeds 10%, and student and scholars affiliated with institutions that do not participate fully in the eVerify program.
- Shortened F-1 grace period. The current 60-day grace period following a student's program would be shortened to 30 days. This would allow less time for a student to apply for extension of status, and any benefits for which they are eligible.
To learn more about the proposal, we recommend visiting NAFSA's resource page or reading the proposal in its entirety on regulations.gov. Check out the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration's template for comment as well.
Injunction for New USCIS Fee Schedule
Fees for many services offered by US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) were set to rise on October 2, 2020. As of September 29, 2020, the US District Court for the Northern California District has preliminarily enjoined the Department of Homeland Security from implementing the new fee schedule. For Smith students, this is particularly relevant for OPT filings. Until further notice, USCIS will continue to accept the current I-765 version (not the new October 2, 2020 version) and will continue to charge $410, rather than the new $550 fee scheduled.
COVID-19 Immigration & Travel Updates
May 2020 Restriction for Travelers from Brazil
On May 24, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order restricting travel for individuals who have been present in the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14 days prior to US entry. This restriction will once again be limited to non-US citizens who are not immediate family member of US citizens. The restriction will take effect Tuesday, May 26th at 11:59pm. To read more about the Proclamation and those individuals whom it affects, please visit the White House's announcement site.
April 2020 Presidential Proclamation
On April 22, 2020 President Trump signed an executive order to limit visas issued to certain immigrant-based categories. It suspends entry for 60 days for certain new immigrants who have not yet been approved for a visa. The order goes into effect at 11:59pm on April 23, 2020.
This proclamation does not affect non-immigrant visas, like F-1, J-1, and H-1B visas. It also does not affect adjustment of status cases, where a candidate is applying for permanent residency from within the US.
For more detailed information about this executive order, please visit NAFSA's information page: Coronavirus Proclamation of April 22, 2020 Limits Entry of Certain Immigrants.
Suspension of Routine US Visa Services Worldwide
As of March 20, 2020, the US Department of State announced that it would suspend all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services at all U.S. consulates and embassies until further notice. Find more information on the Department of State website.
Joint Travel Restrictions with Canada & Mexico
As of March 21, 2020, the US and Canada agreed upon a joint restriction in travel. Non-essential travel (i.e. tourism and recreation) has been suspended between the two countries. The measure was put into place for 30 days for the US-Canadian land border, and it was then renewed on April 20, 2020 for another 30 days.
Similarly, the US and Mexico agreed to restrict non-essential travel as well. This went into effect on March 21, 2020, to be reviewed in 30 days.
More information about these travel restrictions, as well as classifications for "essential travel" can be found on the US Department of Homeland Security Fact Sheet site.
COVID-19 Travel Bans
Other Travel Restrictions
Two travel restriction policies were announced by the Trump Administration. Proclamation 9983 is an expansion of Travel Ban 3.0, which restricted certain visa issuance to seven countries: Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. In the new expansion, commonly known as Travel Ban 4.0, immigrant visas will now be restricted in six new countries: Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan and Tanzania. This new restriction went live at 12:01 a.m. on February 21, 2020. Please note: this ban does not affect non-immigrant categories (such as tourist visas and F-1 student visas). For more information visit NAFSA’s resource website.
Public Charge Rule Change
USCIS and the US Department of State will implement a new “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” rule beginning on February 24, 2020. The new rule will mean that international students and scholars may be deemed inadmissible to the U.S. if they use, or are deemed likely to use, a specific list of public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period. If someone uses two benefits simultaneously, they will both count individually toward this 12 month limit. This new rule is expected to specifically affect low-income international students and scholars making immigration filings such as adjustment and change of status applications, entry visa applications through the US Department of State, and reinstatement applications for a terminated F-1 record. More details regarding specific benefits, and additional applications/applicants affected by this new rule, as well as parameters for enforcement of this rule, can be found on NAFSA’s summary website.
Unlawful Presence Memo Update
On February 6, 2020 the US District Court issued a nationwide permanent injuction for the August 8, 2018 policy from USCIS looking to change the way that Unlawful Presence would be counted for F, J and M status. More details about the policy, and its history in the US District Court, can be found on NAFSA’s update site.
Beware of Phone Scams
Every year college students in the US are the target of a variety of fraudulent phone and email scams. All students should remain cautious and wary of suspicious communications. Remember that no U.S. government agency will contact you by phone regarding money you owe or problems with your visa. The same is true for most international governments as well. If you receive such a request, contact Campus Police and/or an office on campus you trust, and we can help you follow up to make sure that everything is OK. Report any Social Security scam directly to the Social Security Administration.
Here are some other helpful resources in identifying phone scams: