Immigration News

Updates to STEM OPT

January 27, 2022

The ISSO would like to share with you some updates regarding the New Biden-Harris Administration Immigration Policies to Attract New Talent in STEM Fields. Although the new policy does not directly influence current students and scholars at Brandeis, a summary of changes can be found below.

DHS Adds 22 Fields to STEM Designated Degree Program List:

The Department of Homeland Security has added22 new fields/CIPs to theSTEM-eligible program list, but based on the current programs of study at Brandeis, this will not expand the current number of STEM eligible CIP codes at Brandeis. The original STEM eligible fields are still on the list, so current STEM eligible students are not affected.

Up to 36 Months of J-1 Academic Training for Pre-Doctoral STEM Students (through academic year 2022-2023:

College and university students on J-1 visas pursuing STEM undergraduate or pre-doctoral degrees and recent graduates to request STEM-related academic training for up to 36 months. This update will only influence undergraduate and master’s level students who are J-1 visa holders, which at Brandeis, is rare.

By following the links provided, you can also learn more about changes to the O-1 visa and National Interest Waivers (NIWs).

On the whole, this is a positive step for US immigration policy affecting international students and scholars, even if the impact of these new policies will be minimal at Brandeis. It acknowledges the tremendous impact, and potential for impact, our students can have on the US. Please see NAFSA’s full statement here.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

SEVP & DOS Announcements

April 30, 2021

Dear International Students and Alumni,

We are writing to share with you two important updates that were released on April 26, 2021, by the U.S. government.

First, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) released an update to their temporary guidance for COVID-19. As anticipated, due to the continuing pandemic, the spring 2020 guidance remains in place for summer and fall 2021. Please note, students who entered the U.S. in F-1 status after March 9, 2020 may not maintain their F-1 status if they are enrolled 100% remotely. You can review the updated SEVP FAQs (pdf) for details.

Also, the U.S. Department of State released this announcement:

Students and academics subject to (Proclamations 9984, 9992, and 10143 related to the spread of COVID-19) due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for an NIE [National Interest Exception] only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later. 

Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-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 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.

Students whose program at Brandeis starts on or after August 1, 2021 will no longer be required to quarantine for 14 days in a third country prior to entering the U.S., which was a very burdensome requirement affecting our students from China, Brazil, and other countries. Under the updated policy, no F-1 student will be required to request a National Interest Exception to enter the U.S.

Best regards,

The ISSO Team

Letter from President Ron Liebowitz

February 3, 2021

Many of our students have experienced delays when submitting applications to USCIS for OPT and STEM OPT. We are happy to share that, on January 27th, Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz sent a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security asking for action to be taken on this matter. Please find the text of the letter below:

Dear Secretary Mayorkas,

I am writing today regarding the current delays in receipting and adjusting Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT work authorization applications, as part of the COVID-19 issues affecting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) lockbox. We have heard from many of our alumni who are at risk of missing employment start dates or losing job opportunities due to these significant delays. 

As you know, F-1 students contribute greatly to our society and economy, both as enrolled students and alumni with specialized training. Because of the value that these students bring to our nation, we ask that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) take action to resolve these delays and ensure that international students across the U.S. receive the support they need during the COVID-19 crisis. 

In particular, we join our colleagues across higher education in asking that UCIS: 

  1. Grant conditional approval for I-765 OPT applications that have been delayed due to the lockbox situation, so students and graduates do not miss their start date for employment or risk falling out of status;
  2. Grant conditional extension for STEM OPT applicants to extend their existing work authorization if their applications have been delayed and clarify that employers can use a receipt or other confirmation of timely filing for I-9 purposes, so STEM OPT students who have not yet received a receipt notice can continue working for 180 days beyond the expiration of their standard OPT as their application is being processed;
  3. Do not penalize OPT applicants if they submitted applications to the wrong address because the lockbox address suddenly changed;
  4. Coordinate with DHS’ Student and Exchange Visitor Program to ensure that Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records and pending STEM OPT requests are not improperly canceled or terminated, and to quickly and efficiently apply relevant data fixes to SEVIS records if needed;
  5. If an OPT or STEM OPT application is rejected, but because of receipt notice and processing delays the student is beyond regular filing timeframes by the time the student is made aware of the rejection, accept a refiled application that cures the deficiency, despite being outside the regulatory filing windows; and
  6. Given the ongoing delays for OPT processing, allow applicants to submit I-765 applications up to 180 days (rather than 90 days) before the I-20 program end date (standard post-completion OPT applicants) or the expiration date of the student’s current OPT employment authorization (STEM OPT extension applicants), given that processing time is closer to five months rather than a standard 90 days.

 Thank you for your attention to this important matter. 


Ronald D. Liebowitz