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F-1 OPT I-765 RFE Issue: How a DSO can change students’ 17 month OPT extensions to 24 months

The Department of Homeland Security’s website notes that subsequent to USCIS changes to STEM optional practical training (OPT) regulations, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Release 6.26 was deployed which, while not providing a fix addressing all of USCIS’ changes, will help solve some issues presented by the new regulations, including document generation for F-1 OPT students who have applied for an EAD/I-765 so they may respond to USCIS’ requests for evidence.  The update also:

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H-1B Opponents continue onslaught against Immigration of the Educated

This week, Bill Snyder, a blogger for the anti-H-1B propaganda site Infoworld posted an article attacking Immigration of the Educated.  What is especially interesting about Mr. Snyder’s position is the fact that it signals the resumption of the 2008 attack on the Optional Practical Training program (OPT).  OPT being a temporary work authorized status granted to eligible F-1 students who may thus gain professional work experience post graduation, and perhaps a portion back of 20+ billion dollars in tuition they pay into our coffers each year.

Unjustified ire towards OPT is peaking only because the program may be utilized by eligible F-1 Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM) graduates.  Apparently, for Mr. Snyder, it is only then that the program transforms into what he terms “a sleazy end run around the law”.  Mr. Snyder claims that these new STEM graduates, supported by their “tech company” employers, enter the U.S. workforce en masse to undercut IT wages.  Said wages, which he admits in the first sentence, are already “climbing to more than $87,000 a year”.

The fact that Mr. Snyder’s argument against OPT flies in the face of the concept of American Exceptionalism and two basic economic principles, or that it is entirely bereft of any unbiased and relevant data is moot.  The most significant takeaway from his article is that STEM OPT is nothing more than a scapegoat: this attack is actually and truly directed against the H-1B program itself.  Mr. Snyder and other IT protectionists seek justification to undermine the OPT program not because of any alleged misuse, but because OPT allows a post graduate STEM worker precious time to find a good employer who may agree to pay government fees of up to $5,550.00 (plus attorney fees) to file an H-1B petition on their behalf.  (There are no guarantees of approval, nor is the worker forced to even ultimately take up employment with the H-1B petitioner.  As well, in the future, the H-1B worker, for any reason, may transfer to a new H-1B employer in as little as one week.)

Our immigration policy is increasingly hobbled by protectionists who, for short term gain (or perhaps unknowingly), damage our nation’s international lead in the STEM fields.  Our insufficient H-1B cap that does the same: tens of thousands of highly qualified, valuable STEM professionals were rejected in last year’s random selection process (H-1B lottery), and sadly the scene is set be repeated again this year in April.

Our repeated rejection of STEM professionals is untenable and is certain to diminish our ability to attract the worlds best and brightest, unless we make drastic changes.  Already, other nations are eagerly recruiting STEM workers (sometimes from within our own borders).  The bottom line: the yearly H-1B cap must be increased to an amount commensurate to demand, or at the very least, to a level that isn’t exhausted in one week.

Read Bill Snyder’s Article

Can I re-enter the U.S. with a valid I-94 and expired visa? – Automatic revalidation for certain temporary visitors

Canadian visa for single entry

Canadian visa for single entry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

VIA CBP.GOV

Under the automatic revalidation provision of immigration law, certain temporary visitors holding expired nonimmigrant visas who seek to return to the U.S. may be admitted at a U.S. port of entry by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), if they meet certain requirements, including, but not limited to the following:

A nonimmigrant who departed the U.S. for brief travel to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent islands (for F and J nonimmigrant) for thirty days or less;

Nonimmigrant who have changed their nonimmigrant status (for F and J nonimmigrant) to another nonimmigrant status through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and has a valid (unexpired) Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, endorsed by DHS can travel to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island for thirty days or less.
Nonimmigrant who is eligible to re-enter the U.S. pursuant to the authority of automatic revalidation is not able to benefit from the automatic revalidation process if the passport of the nonimmigrant reflects evidence that while in a contiguous territory or on an adjacent island the nonimmigrant applied for a new visa and is pending a decision or has been denied a new visa application.

For more information about automatic revalidation provisions and reentry to the U.S. visit the Automatic Revalidation Fact Sheet on page 18 of the Carrier Information Guide on CBP.gov. Note: Carrier Information Guide is currently being updated to accurately reflect the countries listed below.

Nationals of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are not eligible for automatic revalidation of an expired visa.

Overview of the the STEM Jobs Act

STEM Jobs Act of 2012 Press Conference

STEM Jobs Act of 2012 Press Conference (Photo credit: republicanconference)

Via The House Committee on the Judiciary

Graduates of American universities in science, technology, engineering, and math – or “STEM” fields – are behind many of the innovations and new businesses that are part of our present and future economic growth. Talented students from around the world contribute to the graduate STEM programs of our universities. Foreign students receive nearly four out of every 10 master’s degrees awarded in STEM fields and about the same percentage of all doctorates.

But our immigration system does not always put American interests first. We have the most generous level of legal immigration in the world but we select only 5% of our immigrants based on the skills and education they bring to America. Although these foreign graduates of U.S. universities in STEM fields are in great demand by American employers, many of them end up on years-long green card waiting lists. And as a result, many of them give up and go to work for one of our global competitors.

In an ever-competitive global economy, we must keep our country as the world’s greatest source of innovation and creativity. The STEM Jobs Act allows employers to fill their talent needs with foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in STEM so that they can continue creating jobs and growing our economy.”

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Smith: Senate Democrats Block Jobs Bill

Smith: Senate Democrats Block Jobs Bill

Washington, D.C. – Senate Republicans today asked that the STEM Jobs Act (H.R. 6429) be brought up and passed by Unanimous Consent but Senate Democrats blocked the bill’s consideration.  The STEM Jobs Act eliminates the diversity visa program and reallocates up to 55,000 new green cards to the most highly qualified foreign graduates of American universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.  The bill also contains a provision to put families first, allowing the spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents to come to the U.S. after waiting one year for their green cards.  Last week, the House of Representatives today approved the STEM Jobs Act by a vote of 245-139.

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How to Apply to and Study in the United States

Pics from Hyderabad Education Fair-Nov. 7th

Pics from Hyderabad Education Fair-Nov. 7th (Photo credit: EducationUSA International Virtual College Fair)

Via studyinthestates.dhs.gov

The application process in the United States may be very different from applying to a school in your home country. Be sure to read about the process before you begin. To ensure that you properly complete all required application materials, follow the steps below:

1. Choose a schoolEducationUSA can help you with information on the process of selecting a school and a program of study in the United States. With over 400 advising centers in 170 countries, EducationUSA represents the largest group of advisers committed to promoting accredited United States higher education institutions to over 14 million students and parents with whom they have contact each year.

All schools that accept F and M students must be certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). With almost 10,000 SEVP-certified schools in the United States, you likely can find a college or university in the state and city of your choice.

2. Receive Acceptance and get a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”: When you find a school you would like to attend, apply to the school as an international student. Contact school officials directly or visit the school’s website for more information on required application materials. When you have received acceptance into an SEVP-certified school, the designated school official will issue you a Form I-20, which is a paper record of your information stored in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

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Controversial STEM Jobs Act Proposes to transfer 55,000 visas from Diversity Visa Lottery to Masters and Ph.D. Graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Regions and eligible countries for the Diversi...

Eligible countries for the Diversity Visa Lottery (Credit: Wikipedia)

The controversial H.R. 6429, otherwise known as the “STEM Jobs Act” (Rep. Smith, R-TX & 68 cosponsors) proposes to create new “V” visa categories for families awaiting reunification as well as visas for Ph.D and Masters graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.  The Act would, however, eliminate the (poorly implementedDiversity Visa Lottery program that makes green cards available to certain individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.  The STEM Jobs Act has made it through the House, but will be almost certainly defeated in the Senate, where Democrats hold both a majority and a soft spot for the Lottery.

The White House, despite having repeatedly highlighted the substantial deficiency the nation faces in the STEM fields,  has quickly declared its opposition to the STEM Jobs Act, indicating that it “does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the President’s long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.”  In other words, the Administration wants immigration reform on an ‘all or nothing’ basis.  This is more than a little puzzling given that during the latest election cycle, President Obama repeatedly raised the issue of the many difficult decisions necessitated in the short-term so as to invigorate the U.S. economy.  This is not one of those difficult decisions.

Basic Facts about In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrant Students

Via The National Immigration Law Center

Twelve states currently have laws permitting certain undocumented students who have attended and graduated from their primary and secondary schools to pay the same tuition as their classmates at public institutions of higher education. The states are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington. In addition, Rhode Island’s Board of Governors for Higher Education voted unanimously to provide access to in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities to certain students, regardless of their immigration status, beginning in 2012.

 Continue reading article

CBP Discontinues Stamping Form I-20 At Ports of Entry

NAFSA has issued an alert that Customs and Border Protection will no longer stamp I-20s at ports of entry (POEs). USCIS is reaching out to other agencies, such as the DMV, to inform them of the change, since many agencies require the I-20 stamp prior to granting benefits.

CBP Discontinues Stamping Form I-20 At Ports of Entry

NAFSA has issued an alert that Customs and Border Protection will no longer stamp I-20s at ports of entry (POEs). USCIS is reaching out to other agencies, such as the DMV, to inform them of the change, since many agencies require the I-20 stamp prior to granting benefits.

Information on Consulates’ use of 221(g) refusals

Section 221(g) of the INA allows consular officers to issue a temporary refusal of a visa petition in cases where an otherwise eligible visa applicant is missing a specific document, or in case where a consular officer concludes that additional security clearance measures are warranted. Consular officers utilize 221(g) to allow applicants the opportunity to supplement their applications to overcome a visa denial.  Once the deficiency is satisfied, or the concern resolved, 221(g) refusal is “overcome” and the visa may be issued.  
In practice, the following are some situations that often give rise to a 221(g) refusal: 
1. Additional support documents are required, such as proof of local employment; 
2. An applicant is employed in a field listed on the Technology Alert List and the consular officer requests a Visas Mantis Security Advisory 
Opinion (“SAO”). (Common in India, China and elsewhere where applicants are advised that their applications require “administrative processing.”) 
3. The consular officer requests an Advisory Opinion from the Visa Office on the applicability of one of the statutory grounds of inadmissibility. 
4. There are no empty visa pages in the applicant’s passport, or the applicant’s photograph is of bad quality.
5. Applicant’s PIMS profile has not been updated.
A consular officer, upon refusing an application under 221(g), will commonly provide the applicant with a refusal letter.  However, it is possible that an applicant may be temporarily refused under 221(g) and not know it.  
The use of 221(g) is growing extremely common; the US Department of State has suggested that such refusals are overused by consular officers.  According to the Report of the Visa Office, in FY 2008 a staggering 589,000 221(g) refusals were issued against nonimmigrant visa applications.  About 87% of these were eventually overcome and visas were issued.
221(g) impacts subsequent visa applications because a client must indicate yes to the DS form question, “Have you ever been refused a US Visa?”.  Even a 221(g) that was caused by something as insignificant as a PIMS database issue is still considered, technically, a refusal.

DOS indicates no changes in student visa policy or adjudication with regards to Indian students

Despite some educational initiatives carried out recently between India and the U.S., State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland indicated this week that there will be no changes in student visa policy or adjudication with regards to Indian students.
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