Recent Immigration News

USCIS Announces Inflation Adjustment to Premium Processing Fees

December 27, 2023

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that they will increase the filing fee for form I-907, Request for Premium Processing, to adjust for inflation. The fee will be increasing from $1,500 to $1,685. This fee change will go into effect on February 26, 2024.
Diversity Lottery-DV-2025

October 2, 2023

The Diversity Visa Program or "green card lottery" is a U.S. government program that allows up to 55,00 people from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. to qualify for immigrant visas or green cards. The program is a free lottery that individuals can enter to apply for permanent residency.

Applicants who are selected in the program (selectees) must meet simple but strict eligibility requirements to qualify for a DV.  The Department of State determines selectees through a randomized computer drawing.  The Department of State 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-2025, natives of the following countries and areas 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, The People’s Republic of China (including mainland and Hong Kong-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Venezuela, and Vietnam. Natives of Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.  

With the exception of the United Kingdom and its dependent territories, which are now eligible for DV-2025, there were no changes in eligibility from the previous fiscal year.

The online registration period for the Diversity Lottery DV-2025 Program begins on Wednesday, October 4, 2023, at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4) and concludes on Tuesday, November 7, 2023, at 12:00 noon, Eastern Standard Time (EST) (GMT-5).  Submission of more than one entry for a person during the registration period will disqualify all entries for that person. For detailed instructions on who is eligible to apply and how to apply go to Travel.State.Gov.

Electronic Signatures on Form I-983

September 18, 2023

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated Form I-983, "Training Plan for STEM OPT Students," to remove language requiring wet signatures. Students and employers may continue to physically sign Form I-983 or input their own electronic signature. For more information on this new SEVP guidance review Study in the States web page.

Nonimmigrant Fee Increases

July 17, 2023

As of June 17, 2023, the nonimmigrant visa (NIV) application processing fee for visitor visas for business or tourism (B1/B2s and BCCs), and other non-petition based NIVs such as student and exchange visitor visas (F, M, and J visas), will increase from $160 to $185. The fee for certain petition-based NIVs for temporary workers (H, L, O, P, Q, and R categories) will increase from $190 to $205. The fee for a treaty trader, treaty investor, and treaty applicants in a specialty occupation (nonimmigrant E category) visa will increase from $205 to $315. NIV fees paid prior to June 17, 2023, will remain valid through the expiration date on the fee receipt. This rule did not change any other fees, including the fee for a waiver of the two-year home residency requirement for certain exchange visitors.

Department of State Fee List

Work and Family Mobility Act (WFMA)

July 1, 2023

Starting July 2023, eligible residents in Massachusetts can obtain a Standard (Class D or M) driver's license, regardless of immigration status, under the Work and Family Mobility Act. The Work and Family Mobility Act removes the requirement that customers provide proof of lawful presence for a Standard driver’s license.

To obtain a license, the RMV will require all applicants to prove their identity and date of birth, social security status, and Massachusetts residency. Drivers will also be required to pass a learner's permit exam, vision screening, and road test. To learn more about this Act go to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Website. 
U.S. Department of State Guidance on Exchange Visitors Remote Policies and Enrollment

June 8, 2023

U.S. Department of State Guidance Directive 2023-01:  Clarifying Guidance Regarding J-1 Exchange Visitor Participation in Host Organizations’ Remote Policies or Enrollment in Online Classes.

This Guidance Directive addresses the types of exchange visitor programming permitted to satisfy the  Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) requirements under 22 CFR Part 62. ECA recognizes that the joint resolution terminating the COVID-19 national emergency was signed into law by President Biden on April 10, 2023, and the federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 expired on May 11, 2023.1 While the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated shifting some programs temporarily to virtual programming, ECA reminds sponsors that the Exchange Visitor Program is designed to increase mutual understanding by means of educational and cultural exchange. ECA is ending its policy permitting the temporary modifications of exchange visitor programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective  July 1, 2023. As of this date, all ECA exchange programs are expected to comply with category regulations of 22 CFR Part 62, as explained herein, and to return to predominantly in-person program activities. This Guidance Directive supersedes any prior guidance on this topic.

As established in 22 CFR 62.1(b), “The purpose of the [Exchange Visitor] Program is to provide foreign  nationals with opportunities to participate in educational and cultural programs in the United States . . . .” The Department uses this opportunity to remind sponsors that program activities, regardless of in-person or virtual participation, must be conducted in the United States, apart from when the exchange  visitors are on an official break (e.g., academic calendar summer break) or in “Out of Country” status  applicable to professors and research scholars in active status. 

The regulations define “site of activity” as the physical, geographic location(s) where an exchange visitor participates in his or her exchange program. Additionally, several categories refer to the participation of an exchange visitor “at” their site of activity. 22 CFR 62.20(f), 22 CFR 62.21(f), 22  CFR 62.23(f)(3)(ii), 22 CFR 62.23(h)(1)(i), 22 CFR 62.23(h)(2)(i), 22 CFR 62.23(i)(1)(iii), 22 CFR  62.26(h), 22 CFR 62.31(f)(3). Other category regulations are ambiguous on the topic of virtual programming and have created uncertainty as to whether any virtual program activities are allowed. The  Department uses this opportunity to clarify how it will interpret the regulations in the context of hybrid or virtual work and learning.

ECA acknowledges that most of the current EVP regulations were promulgated prior to the widespread availability of remote learning or work. ECA recognizes that some host entities in recent years have shifted to hybrid work/school environments that are based on telework or virtual participation I  addition to in-person activities. 

Beginning July 1, 2023, ECA will consider exchange visitor programs in the following categories as operating consistent with the purpose and requirements of the EVP if the exchange visitor participates remotely no more than 40% of the time (e.g., two days out of five) when their host organizations have instituted partial remote policies and their sponsor has approved their hybrid program participation: Professors and Research Scholars, Short-term Scholars, Trainees and Interns, College and University  Students who are participating in Academic Training or the Student Intern subcategory, and Specialists.2 To achieve the objectives of the program categories, exchange visitors in the Government Visitor,  International Visitor, Alien Physician, Summer Work Travel, Camp Counselor, Teacher, Secondary  School Student, and Au Pair categories are required to report in-person full-time to their site(s) of activity. ECA notes that the environments of these categories typically do not involve regular hybrid schedules. Secondary school students and exchange teachers are expected to participate in full-time in-person exchange programs unless the host school authorizes hybrid activities due to a temporary emergency. Sponsors should report such situations to the Department under 22 CFR 62.13(d). 

College and university students and au pairs may engage in a maximum of one online course per semester. Further, college and university students may take in-person classes with virtual components.  Hybrid classes that predominantly require in-person student attendance would be considered in-person courses.

As established in 22 CFR 62.10(d), sponsors are expected to monitor their exchange visitors’ progress to ensure they have the resources they need, adequate supervision, and that the objectives and educational and cultural requirements of the programs are being met in any hybrid environment. 

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. 


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.