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Past Articles


2016 ()


Studying in the U.S. can be as fun and exciting as it can be complicated for foreign students. Here are the answers to five common questions students have about studying in the U.S. on an F-1 visa. While these speak to the generalities of the rules, whenever in doubt consult the Designated School Official (DSO) or foreign student advisor.  
 
1. Can I work in the U.S.? Even though the intention of an F-1 visa is to enable foreign students to study in the U.S., students with F-1 visas are typically allowed to work up to 20 hours a week on the campus of the university in which they are enrolled. Employment off campus may be permitted with prior authorization from the DSO and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for severe economic circumstances, or in the form of Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and/or Optional Practical Training (OPT). CPT does not require USCIS authorization, but OPT does. Before seeking employment, foreign students should always seek counsel from the DSO or a foreign student advisor.  
 
2. Can I transfer to a different school? International students may transfer to another school, as long as it has been certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Foreign students will have to work with the DSOs of both schools to maintain legal immigration status and ensure the proper transfer of their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record. Once transferred, foreign students should work closely with the DSO of their new school to create a new I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status). It is important to note that foreign students should not enter the U.S. with the intention of transferring to another school. Students are required to enter the U.S. using the F-1 visa annotated with / I-20 issued by the school they actually plan to attend.
 
3. Can I travel outside of the U.S.? Whether it's a trip home over break or exploring a new country, international students on F-1 visas are allowed to travel outside of the U.S. Prior to leaving the country, students should make sure that their I-20 reflects their current educational situation, will not expire over the course of their travels, and has a valid travel signature from their DSO. Additionally, students should ensure that their F-1 visa will still be valid upon their return to the U.S.
 
4. How long can I stay? Foreign students are generally allowed to stay in the U.S. as long as they are enrolled in a SEVP certified school and working toward completing their academic program. Students may arrive up to 30 days prior to the start of their program and have 60 days to depart the U.S. at the completion of their program. Some students may stay in the U.S. longer after the conclusion of their program if they qualify and are approved for OPT or STEM OPT work authorization.
 
5. Are spouses and children welcome? An international student does not necessarily need to leave their immediate family behind as they may be allowed to accompany them to the U.S. However, spouses and children will need to apply for and be granted F-2 visas before being allowed into the U.S., and international students will need to prove they are able to financially support their dependents while here. 


As one of the largest and most respected Immigration Law Practices in New England, GoffWilson has provided services in every facet of the immigration process. With a history of helping employees, employers, and individuals obtain temporary and permanent employment visas since 1982, and a stellar domestic and international reputation, GoffWilson is considered an expert in fields of immigration and nationality law.
 
One of the more critical roles GoffWilson is asked to fill is that of an expert witness. Expert witnesses are often critical to an immigration case, and having an expert witness can be the difference in success. Having received top rankings in the Immigration Law Category of Best Lawyers in America (the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession), GoffWilson’s credentials are undeniable and sure to build your credibility in court.
 
GoffWilson has a history of representing all types of businesses operating in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and extensive experience in Asia–from China and India to Indonesia and the Philippines. This worldly knowledge and experience qualifies GoffWilson to lobby on behalf of the conditions in your country, but it's the personalization of our service that will speak to your individual situation. The personalized service that GoffWilson prides itself on will not simply produce general testimony, but rather specific, relevant testimony that speaks directly to you and your claim.
 
When it’s time to go to court, surround yourself with the best team possible–including the most reputable, well-credentialed, and experienced expert witness possible. The right expert witness is respected by the court, has a deep knowledge of the law, and can speak to the specifics of your case. For over thirty years GoffWilson has been solidifying its reputation as not only a leader in immigration and nationality law, but as an expert in the field.
 
If you have any questions about your case or would like to learn more about GoffWilson’s expert witness service, contact us here.
On January 23, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order relating to the August 2015 case, Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As reported in our prior bLAWg post, the mentioned case vacated (i.e. cancelled) the 2008 immigration rule allowing Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) individuals to request a 17-month extension of their OPT status based on having a degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (“STEM”) field. However, in order to allow time for the passage of a replacement rule, the court stayed (i.e. postponed) the vacatur until February 12, 2016.

In its newly-issued order, the court grants an extension of the vacatur stay for 90 days. This means that F-1 students currently possessing OPT STEM work authorization will now be permitted to continue employment until May 10, 2016. Additionally, those students eligible to apply for an OPT STEM extension can continue submitting their applications during the extended timeframe. This is exciting news for students and employers alike.

The fact that the OPT STEM vacatur has been further stayed for 90 days will allow the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to complete the federal rulemaking process on its proposed rule, “Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students With STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students.” For more information on DHS’ proposed rule, please refer to our October 20, 2015 bLAWg post.

We will continue to monitor the progress on the proposed rule, so stay tuned for updates.

GoffWilson is your source for immigration updates! Contact our office today with any questions.

In mid December, the US Congress voted to increase restrictions on the visa waiver program for those persons who have, in the last five years, visited Iran, Syria, Iraq or Sudan and the President signed it into law. Visitors who are otherwise eligible to travel to the US without a visa (called visa waiver) will now be denied entry if they have visited any of these 4 countries since March 1, 2011. This includes people from France, Italy, UK, Ireland and many other countries who frequently travel to the US without a visa. This broad language will exclude those persons who are doctors, journalists, or business people who have traveled for legitimate purposes to engage in humanitarian work. These individuals will now need to apply for a B Visa at the US Consulate to travel to the US. Supporters hailed the new law as a way to control foreign terrorists from entering the country. However, others point out the law is overbroad in that those who use the visa waiver program are low risk individuals to begin with. This is seen as a direct response to the Paris France and San Bernardino, CA attacks.

Have questions about your family or relatives traveling to the US with or without a visa? Contact us! It’s all we do.

Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced enhanced travel security initiatives involving the use of biometrics (i.e. personal identification through finger, face, and iris). CBP is currently deploying new technology designed to verify travelers’ identities during entry to and exit from the U.S.

One such technology, “Biometric Exit (BE) Mobile,” is a handheld mobile device designed to collect biometric exit data in the form of 2 fingerprints from limited foreign air travelers during their departure from the U.S. The biometrics collected will be compared to biometric data from the traveler’s initial entry into the U.S. The BE Mobile device is currently being tested in the field.

At the Otay Mesa, CA Port of Entry, CBP is working to test additional biometric technologies and procedures that will compare travel documents to the traveler presenting them. The test is being referred to as “The Pedestrian Field Test.” The new technologies and procedures will be used by CBP during both entry and exit processes.

The goals of the new initiatives are to enhance national security and protect traveler identity. By collecting biometric information from travelers, CBP claims it will increase the accuracy of its internal entry/exit records, as well as its ability to identify foreign nationals who have overstayed their period of admission.

Questions on international travel or other immigration issues? Contact GoffWilson today for assistance! Immigration is all we do.


Do you employ Refugees?

I-94 Record Automation for Refugees


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on November 20, 2015 that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has automated I-94 records for refugees. A paper Form I-94 (i.e. I-94 card) will no longer be provided to a refugee upon their arrival to the U.S. In order for a refugee to obtain a copy of their I-94 record, s/he must visit the CBP I-94 information website and print the record.

Due to their immigration status in the U.S., refugees are permitted to work in the country. For Form I-9 purposes, an employer can accept the new I-94 record as a receipt establishing both identity and employment authorization. The employer will need to re-verify the employee within 90 days, upon which the employee will need to present either an Employment Authorization Document (i.e. EAD card) or other List A document, or a combination of one document from each List B and List C.

Not quite sure how to properly complete Form I-9 for your employees? GoffWilson is here to help! We specialize in a variety of I-9 services for employers, including individualized tutorials and internal audits. Contact our office for more information. It’s all we do!
On November 30, 2015, The White House published a Fact Sheet detailing new enhancements to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).  DHS is immediately taking steps to modify ESTA applications in order to capture data from potential travelers as to any past travel to terrorist safe-haven countries.  The VWP allows travelers from 38 countries to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visitor’s visa.  Using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pre-screens potential travelers prior to permitting travel under the VWP. 
 
In addition to the new ESTA fields, DHS will also be reviewing VWP countries in order to identify any countries that are deficient in their current VWP operations.  The President, along with the Directors of the FBI and National Intelligence, as well as the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, will be identifying options to mitigate any deficiencies discovered.  DHS is also working to identify possible pilot programs for the capturing of VWP biometrics (i.e. fingerprints and/or photographs).
 
The Secretary of Homeland Security is going to work with Congress to possibly increase fines to air carriers that fail to verify traveler passport data.  The fine amount is currently $5,000 and the Secretary is hoping to increase the fine to $50,000.  The Obama administration will work alongside Congress to potentially implement further changes, such as cooperating with Interpol on VWP issues and lost documents, expanding the U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance program, and mandating that security chip passports be used by all VWP travelers.
 
These enhancements come in the wake of the November 2015 terrorist attacks on Paris.
 
Questions on the VWP program or other immigration issues? Contact our office today for assistance.  Immigration is all we do!

In our recent bLAWg post on August 20, 2015, we discussed the cancellation of the 2008 federal rule allowing for 17-month Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) extensions for individuals with a degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (“STEM”) field. We also explained how the cancellation does not go into effect until February 12, 2016, and mentioned the expectation of a remedy through the passing of a new administrative rule for continued OPT STEM Extensions. In line with our prediction, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has published a proposed rule in the Federal Register: “Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students With STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students.” The proposed rule, published October 19, 2015, expands upon the 2008 rule in many ways. Some highlights include:
  • OPT STEM Extension period lengthened to 24 months
  • Eligibility to use prior STEM degree from U.S. institution
  • Additional 60 days of unemployment for students in an OPT STEM Extension period
  • More clearly-defined STEM fields of study
  • Qualifying degree required to be from an accredited institution
  • Implementation of mentoring and training programs by U.S. employers In addition, the proposed rule maintains some aspects of the 2008 rule, such as the requirement for OPT STEM Extension employers to utilize the federal E-Verify system, and the “Cap Gap” provision (i.e. allowing for an automatic extension of an individual’s F-1 status and employment authorization through October 1st pursuant to a timely-filed H-1B petition).

    The proposed rule is currently open for notice and comment and has not yet been formalized. Stay tuned for continued updates on the proposed rule. GoffWilson is your source for immigration updates! Contact our office today with any questions.

 

EB5-Visa December On September 30, 2015, Congress passed a bill temporarily funding the government through December 11, 2015 that included a provision to allow the EB-5 Regional Center Program to continue operating until a final resolution is passed, or until December 11, whichever comes first.

EB-5 Regional Center Program

The EB-5 Regional Center Program was first enacted in 1992, with regular renewals up to the present. Under the Program, investors can apply for permanent residency (i.e. a green card) in the U.S. if they:

1) Make an investment of $1,000,000 (sometimes $500,000 depending on the location of investment), in a U.S. based commercial enterprise, and

2) Plan to create at least 10 permanent, full-time jobs for U.S. workers. As opposed to the standard EB-5 Investment Program, in which investors can create their own commercial enterprise, the Regional Center Program allows investors to invest their funds in opportunities (i.e. Regional Centers) approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) based on proposals promoting economic growth in the U.S. Currently, there are 732 USCIS-approved Regional Centers for EB-5 investors to choose from.

Many investors choose the EB-5 Regional Center Program over creating their own commercial enterprise, as the economic forecasts and job creation documentation are prepared by the Regional Center rather than the foreigner having to do all the work. Therefore, the responsibility for the investor is limited  to evidencing his/her investment. Additionally, Regional Centers provide assistance to the EB-5 investor throughout the process, which, in conjunction with a knowledgeable immigration attorney, can simplify and streamline the process for the investor.

Those interested in filing EB-5 petitions under the Regional Center Program should act fast to apply before December 11, 2015. Although another extension of the Program is expected, it is always possible that it will include modifications, such as increased investment thresholds, or be discontinued.

Questions on the EB-5 process or interested in applying? GoffWilson is here to help! Contact our office today for assistance. Immigration is all we do!


Revised-Visa-Changes-October-2015

On September 25, 2015, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) published a revised Visa Bulletin for October 2015. The revised Bulletin replaces the prior-released version, previously issued on September 9, 2015 (discussed in our recent bLAWg post). The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will only be accepting Adjustment of Status (i.e. green card) applications based upon the revised Bulletin.

As with the prior version, the updated Visa Bulletin contains two charts each for employment- and family-based preference categories. The first chart, Application Final Action Dates, which provides the dates when green card applications are eligible for decision, remains unchanged for each category. The second chart, Dates for Filing Applications, which provides the earliest dates when green card applications can be filed, contains changes for both the employment- and family-based categories. An excerpt of the changes is included below:

DATES FOR FILING APPLICATIONS

Revised-Visa-Changes-October-2015

Many categories have retrogressed (i.e. moved backwards) several years.  For example, if you were born in India and have an employment-based third preference (EB-2) I-140 petition approved, pending, or eligible for filing, with a priority date of July 1, 2009 or earlier, you will be eligible to file your green card application as of October 1, 2015.  Those with priority dates between July 1, 2011 and July 2, 2009 are no longer eligible to submit applications under the revised Bulletin.

Due to the late-breaking nature of this announcement, many affected individuals are contemplating a lawsuit, which may bring about additional changes to the situation.  GoffWilson will continue to keep you informed of any changes that arise.

Also stay tuned for the November 2015 Visa Bulletin, which will be released in approximately 2 weeks and could include increased forward movement.

Contact our office today with any questions.


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