ICE Begins STEM OPT Worksite Inspections

There have been an increasing number of reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun conducting workplace site visits for F-1 students employed pursuant to optional practical training (OPT) in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. While ICE has had the authority to conduct on-site inspections since 2016, it has not exercised that authority until recently. Given this new development, companies that employ STEM OPT workers are encouraged to be prepare in case ICE visits their workplaces.

Judge Orders Nationwide Preliminary Injunction Blocking Enforcement of Automatic Accrual of Unlawful Presence

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina has issued a nationwide preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the Trump administration’s August 2018 policy memorandum that changed when “unlawful presence” accrues for foreign students and exchange visitors.

Trump Administration Rumored to Be Looking at H-1B Extensions Under AC21

Recently, we have seen several news stories discussing a rumored government proposal to eliminate H-1B extensions beyond the standard six-year limit. No such action has yet been taken, and to date H-1B visa holders may continue to request extensions based on the provisions of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21). Under current law, extensions beyond the initial H-1B period of six years are available to foreign nationals with pending green card petitions.

New STEM OPT Extension Rule Brings Welcomed Relief to Employers and International Students

On March 9, 2016, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an advance copy of the final rule pertaining to optional practical training (OPT) for certain students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). The official version of the final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on March 11, 2016. The new rule will permit employers to retain the talents of certain individuals currently dependent on an F-1 nonimmigrant student visa for a longer period. USCIS will begin accepting applications under this provision on May 10, 2016. Prior to that date, USCIS will continue to accept applications per the existing 17-month STEM OPT procedures.

Libya, Somalia, and Yemen Added to the Visa Waiver Program Travel Restrictions List

Last month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began implementation of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. In addition to making several important changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the act prohibits anyone who has traveled to Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan within the past five years from participating in the program. The act also prohibits citizens of VWP-eligible countries who are also “nationals” of Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan from further participation in the program.

Changes to the Visa Waiver Program Become Law

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016” (H.R. 2029) into law. The law includes several important changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that are fundamentally identical to the VWP changes that the U.S. House of Representatives passed last month. The VWP allows eligible citizens of specified countries to enter the United States for tourism or business and remain for 90 days or less without B-1 or B-2 visitor visas.

DHS Proposes New STEM OPT Extension Rules

On October 16, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) concerning new rules for extending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for international students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The notice will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, October 19, 2015, and will likely be subject to a 30-day comment period.