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.
International Events Calendar
U.S. Travel Restrictions Eased for F-1 students from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, and India
On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of State expanded its National Interest Exception (NIE) eligibility to include all countries currently subject to a 14-day COVID-19 entry restriction. Under the expanded guidelines, all F-1 students traveling from or through Brazil, China, India, Iran, or South Africa to participate in an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later can travel directly to the U.S. For these students, the necessary 14-day quarantine in a third country is waived. Students who have existing F-1 entry visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel, since they will be automatically considered for it upon entry. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel when they receive their visa.
Please note: There is some ambiguity in the language published by the Department of State, and the ISSO is investigating this actively. Per a June 1st update, it seems that no students traveling from or through China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa or India will be allowed into the U.S. before August 1, 2021. After August 1, students should be allowed entry with an NIE as long as they are within 30 days of the commencement of their program. For continuing Smith students, who have an I-20 program start date prior to August 1, 2021, we do not recommend entering the U.S. more than 30 days prior to the fall semester start date this year. For students traveling from these areas who are on OPT, we recommend waiting to try to re-enter the U.S. after August 1, 2021. As we gain more clarity on this issue, we will continue to keep students up-to-date.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Charge Rule Vacated in Illinois District Court
On November 2, 2020, the district court in Cook County, Illinois, et al v. Wolf et. al. ruled to vacate immediately the DHS Public Charge Rule nationwide. The rule was found to violate the Administrative Procedure Act, in that (1) the public charge exceeds DHS’s authority under the public charge provision of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4)(A); (2) is not in accordance with law; and (3) is arbitrary and capricious.
New Fees Announced for Premium Processing
New increased fees for premium visa processing will go into effect on Monday, October 19, 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.
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
COVID-19 Viral Test Result Required on All Flights Entering U.S.
On January 12, Center for Disease Control (CDC) published an order for all international arriving flights to the U.S. As of January 26, all passengers aboard international flights will have to present a negative test result, or written proof of recovery from COVID-19 in order to board their flight to the U.S.
- The test must be administered in the three calendar days before departure. Please plan accordingly!
- The test result must show a negative result -- an inconclusive result will not suffice.
- An electronic result should suffice - but the ISSO recommends carrying a physical printed copy, if possible. The test result must show name and identification.
- Testing must be viral testing, either viral amplification or antigen. Rapid tests will be acceptable, but antibody tests will not.
- If you have a layover before your flight to the U.S., your test must be from (at most) 3 days prior to your original departure date. This ONLY applies if you have booked your travel as one continuous ticket with a final destination of the U.S. and your layover is less than 24 hours.
- There may be some countries/airlines that can receive waivers for the CDC testing requirement, based on a lack of testing available locally. If you think your flight may qualify for this sort of waiver, please be in touch with your airline directly!
Recission of Travel Restrictions for Europe and Brazil
On Monday, January 19, President Trump rescinded his Presidential Proclamation restricting travel from Brazil, Schengen Europe, Ireland, and the UK. The change will take effect on January 26, when the new requirements for testing on international flights will take effect.
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 11:59 p.m. 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 United States.
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 U.S. 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.
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 safety 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: