Immigration News

Form DS-2019 Now Issued Electronically

April 27, 2023

The U.S. Department of State announced that it permits designated sponsors for the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) to digitally sign and electronically transmit the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (J-Nonimmigrant) (Form DS-2019), effective April 27, 2023.  Sponsors may print and physically sign paper forms in ink, scan and save them (e.g., as portable document format (PDF) files), and electronically transmit them (e.g., via email). The new rule eliminates the requirement that sponsors sign Form DS-2019 in blue ink. Sponsors may also use digital signature software to sign Forms DS-2019 and then electronically transmit them.

Responses to Frequently Asked Questions on the new regulation can be found on the BridgeUSA website.

No More Passport Entry Stamps

April 11, 2023

As of April 2022, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) implemented “Simplified Arrival” at 238 arriving airports, 34 seaports, and all southern pedestrian and most northern secondary land ports. The goal is to streamline and digitize the legal entry process. As part of that program, CBP implemented in August 2022, a pilot program called “Stampless Entry” to eliminate ink stamps in passports at entry.

Stampless entry may actually be challenging for students since these entry stamps served as proof of entry and immigration status in the past. For this reason, the ISSO recommends that students check and save their Form I-94 and travel history each time they enter the U.S. and promptly take action if there are errors in the entry data. 

USCIS Expands Premium Processing for Certain F-1 OPT and STEM OPT Applications

March 6, 2023

On March 6, 2023, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the expansion of premium processing for certain F-1 students applying for OPT or STEM OPT. The premium processing fee is $1500 with a 30 calendar day processing time.  Premium Processing requires a Form I-907 application form.

USCIS will accept Form I-907 premium processing requests for F-1 students in two phases:
  • Starting now, USCIS will accept requests for Premium Processing on pending Form I-765, for Pre-Completion OPT, Post-Completion OPT, or STEM OPT. 
  • Starting April 3, 2023, USCIS will accept requests for Premium Processing on new Pre-Completion OPT, Post-Completion OPT, or STEM OPT when Form I-907 is filed concurrently with Form I-765. Please note that USCIS will reject any premium processing request for an initial or concurrently filed Form I-765 received before April 3. 


Extension of Interview Waivers for Certain Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants

January 12, 2023

The Secretary of State has made a determination extending the authority of consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa categories through December 31, 2023. Consular officers are authorized, through December 31, 2023, to continue to waive in-person interviews on a case-by-case basis for certain first-time and/or renewing applicants. These categories of visas are for Temporary Agricultural and Non-Agricultural Workers (H-2 visas), Students (F and M visas), and Academic Exchange Visitors (academic J visas), and certain beneficiaries of approved individual petitions for nonimmigrant temporary worker visas in the following categories: Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas), Trainee or Special Education Visitors (H-3 visas), Intracompany Transferees (L visas), Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (O visas), Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers (P visas), and Participants in International Cultural Exchange Programs (Q visas); and qualifying derivatives.

For the complete media note go to Extension of Interviews Waivers for Certain Nonimigrant Visa Applicants. 


Diversity Lottery 2024

September 30, 2022

The Department of State (DOS) released instructions on how to apply for the 2024 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program -

The DOS annually administers the statutorily-mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. For Fiscal Year 2024, up to 55,000 Diversity Visas (DVs) will be available. There is no cost to register for the DV program and it is safe for non-immigrant only visa holders to apply (i.e., F, J, etc.).

Applicants who are selected in the program (selectees) must meet simple but strict eligibility requirements to qualify for a diversity visa. The DOS determines selectees through a randomized computer drawing. The DOS distributes diversity visas among six geographic regions, and no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year.

For DV-2024, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply, because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, Venezuela and Vietnam. Persons born in Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.

Applicants must submit entries for the DV-2024 program electronically at between noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4), Wednesday, October 5, 2022 and noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-5), Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Do not wait until the last week of the registration period to enter, as heavy demand may result in website delays. No late entries or paper entries will be accepted. The law allows only one entry per person during each registration period. The DOS uses sophisticated technology to detect multiple entries. Individuals with more than one entry will be disqualified. Please visit the DOS website for instructions.


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