Articles Posted in Student Visa

Mayor John Cranley cited several new initiatives he expects Cincinnati to take in making the South-west Ohio city the “most immigrant friendly city in the United States.” Cranley hopes to oversee an immigration Task Force, which Cranley started in 2014, to help create international attraction.

Among the initiatives the Task Force looks to bring forward are creating a center for new Cincinnatians that helps connect immigrants to services and other residents, launching a training program to help companies recruit international job candidates, providing immigrants with financial literacy training to help them navigate money management and home buying and marketing Cincinnati as an ideal location for manufacturing.

Another angle the Task Force looks to take is training police officers in cultural sensitivity, which could have something to do with the recent happenings in Cincinnati involving violence among the police force. Cincinnati is trying very hard to re-brand the local police force.

Given that the primary goals are creating jobs and spurring local growth, Cranley could be looking to primarily attract immigrants in the EB-5 program; where entrepreneurs and investors from overseas will come to the United States to invest in a commercial enterprise to help create jobs. The process is mutually beneficial to the Targeted Employment Area and immigrant alike, as the immigrant looks to attain Green Card Status through the program. There is also a Regional Center located in Cincinnati. Cranley may see that is the greatest opportunity fund several projects around the growing city.

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Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed several changes to its F-1 non-immigrant student visa regulations on optional practical training (OPT) for those working on degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The proposed extension would increase the OPT period to 24 months, which would allow STEM students to apply for a longer work authorization extension than before. The OPT program used to only last 17 months. The OPT period would start after the F-1 student completes his or her initial OPT period, which lasts 12 months. The proposal favors F-1 STEM students in several other ways.
Ideally, the longer amount of time for F-1 students would allow them to apply for several different H-1B job opportunities. H-1B visa could be a first step for F-1 students to begin a career and apply for their green card. In recent years, it has been difficult for F-1 graduates to apply for employment opportunities through an H-1B visa, given that the number of H-1B applicants has increased several years in a row. Last year saw almost two-thirds too many H-1B applications, as over 240,000 applied for a limit of 85,000 H-1B’s available.
Also, those STEM graduates who would leave the U.S. after completing the initial one-year OPT program can return and receive the same extension if they choose to return for a Master’s degree. Any F-1 student on a seventeen month extension can apply for the additional extension if the proposed ruling passes. If a graduated F-1 student with a STEM degree goes through an unemployment period, the proposal would increase that period to fill out a form I-765 from 30 to 60 days.
Several things must be completed before an F-1 student receives the extension, however. The Mentoring and Training Program (MTP) requires certain authorizations for those looking to extend their OPT program. The MTP requires the employers of F-1 students to prove that the students remains committed to work that has to do with their previous STEM education. The employer of an F-1 student using the STEM OPT program must be prepared to prove all facets of employment, including salary, hours, services, and benefits to show that the employee is being compensated properly. For the MTP, employers must show how the F-1 student will learn while on the job by stating their job description and goals to show it is a useful training opportunity. They will need to explain, in detail, the necessary skills that the student will learn while working for them. They will need to show how the training is directly related to STEM courses. They will also need to keep track of the student’s performance and evaluate them properly to show that the training is proving to be fruitful. Basically, employers have to be prepared to work for their STEM OPT workers to be employed and also show that they have helped train the student to help them in their future endeavors.
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Indian nationals currently living in India who wish to receive an immigrant or non-immigrant visa to travel to the United States typically must attend an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. These interviews are conducted in order to determine applicant’s eligibility to receive a visa prior to traveling to the United States. As such, being prepared to answer whatever questions are posed by the Immigration Officer in addition to presenting documentation to support any answers provided by the applicant are the keys to a successful interview.

Immigration Officers have indicated that they are typically more interested in what the applicants say over what is reported on the documents that are submitted in support of their applications. Despite this emphasis on applicant responses during the interview, it is essential that the applicant has documentation to support what is said during the interview to corroborate the statements made. Applicants should be completely prepared to answer any questions posed by an Immigration Officer in a clear and articulate manner and be able to put forth evidence to substantiate a claim.

General Interviewing Tips

In general, applicants must be able to confidently answer questions about why they are traveling to the United States, their intent to abide by the terms of the visa and their overall plans while in the United States. For nonimmigrant visas, Immigration Officers will likely ask questions that will evoke from the applicant any intent to permanently reside in the United States. If the Immigration Officer believes you intend to permanently remain in the United States, the nonimmigrant visa will be denied. For immigrant visa applicants, Immigration Officers will ask questions to verify the truthfulness of applicant statements.

Some questions asked by the Immigration Officer might be: “What are your ties to India” (social, economic, family)?”; “Why did you choose the particular university?”; and “How did you and your spouse meet?” In addition, Immigration Officers may pose hypothetical “what if” questions, such as: “What would you do if you won the lottery in the United States?” or even “What if a U.S. citizen proposes marriage to you?” Finally, applicants for work visas should be able to talk about the specifics of job duties in the United States. The applicant’s ability to clearly, confidently and consistently answer these types of questions will be the ultimate deciding factor in the approval or denial of a visa.

Although these questions might begin to feel uncomfortable and accusatorial, the U.S. Embassy and consular offices in India have indicated that they are working on making the interview process less adversarial in nature.
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computer-room-751288-m.pngF-1 students who are currently in post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) may obtain a 17-month STEM extension even if they have not yet fulfilled the thesis or equivalent requirement for their STEM degrees. A restricted reading of the regulations may lead to the erroneous conclusion that F-1 students must first have completed all course requirements including any thesis requirement or equivalent. A careful reading of the regulation proves that a thesis requirement or equivalent is not required. This is according to a recent Policy Memorandum issued October 6, 2013 by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Regulations specifically state that a completed thesis or equivalent is not required
According to 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(A)(3), a student is eligible to apply for OPT temporary employment if the employment is directly related to the student’s major area of study provided that all course requirements for the degree have been completed, excluding a thesis requirement or equivalent.
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844824_globe_usa.jpgUnder certain circumstances, a foreign national with an expired nonimmigrant visa may travel outside of the United States and reenter without first obtaining a new visa stamp from the consulate abroad. Normally, foreign nationals are not permitted to enter the US with expired nonimmigrant visas. However, many non-immigrants who are in valid visa status do not have a current visa stamp in their passport because a visa stamp is not necessary unless one seeks to travel abroad and reenter the US.

This provision of the immigration law is known as automatic revalidation, which presumes a visa to be automatically revalidated on that date the foreign national crossed the US border provided that the person’s non-immigrant status is still valid. Foreign national visitors holding non-immigrant visas that have expired may travel abroad and return to the US under the automatic revalidation provision if they meet certain criteria.
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1184809_six_books.jpgA Department of Homeland Security press release just announced it has expanded the list of STEM college and university degree programs. STEM degrees are bachelor degrees and above in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. These degrees qualify eligible graduates who are in the US on student visas to obtain extensions of optional practical training. The OPT program allows international students who graduate from colleges and universities in the United States to remain in the US in F-1 student status and receive training through work experience for up to 12 months. Students who graduate from a designated STEM degree program can remain for an additional 17 months on an OPT STEM extension.

Some fields of study the DHS added to the STEM list include pharmaceutical sciences, econometrics, and quantitative economics. DHS hopes this will help bring the best and most qualified international students to the US. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said, “Attracting the best and brightest international talent to our colleges and universities and enabling them to contribute to their professional growth is an important part of our nation’s economic, scientific and technological competitiveness.”
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320px-Usdepartmentofjustice_05142012.jpgThe U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division, in a letter dated May 1, 2012, expressed concern to Alabama’s Superintendent of Education over the impact the state’s controversial immigration law, HB 56, has had on Hispanic children’s school attendance and overall educational opportunities. HB 56, which Alabama’s Legislature passed in June 2011, has generated much controversy and multiple legal challenges. Much of the controversy comes from the law’s insertion of immigration enforcement into numerous aspects of Alabamans’ daily lives and its focus on people whom law enforcement suspects, on sight, of being undocumented. Federal courts have blocked some portions of the law, and the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the bill’s constitutionality later this year. In the meantime, the DOJ is investigating how the law has affected immigrant populations and populations often associated with immigrants, particularly Hispanic communities. The dispute demonstrates how immigration reform efforts can have far-reaching consequences.

The Alabama immigration law requires law enforcement to inquire about a person’s immigration status if, in the course of a lawful stop, the officer has reason to suspect that the person might be undocumented. The law does not necessarily provide guidance on what constitutes “reasonable suspicion,” so critics contend that this is an invitation to profiling of Hispanic Alabama residents, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. One part of the law struck down by a federal appeals court, identified as § 28, would have required public schools to gather data on their students; immigration status. That section was only in effect between September 29 and October 14, 2011. A 1982 Supreme Court case guarantees children the right to attend school, but the law would have required them to disclose immigration information to the school, who would then turn it over to state officials.
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U.S. flags - Washington Monument baseImmigration reform that benefits students and other youths who came to the United States as children has made its way around the U.S. Congress recently, but it remains a dream for many. Youths who arrived here without documentation, or who overstayed a visa, frequently did so while under the care of parents or guardians. Many of them have no memory of their “home” country and do not speak the language. Sending them to a country they do not know strikes a fundamental chord of injustice for many people. As the country moves towards this year’s presidential election, this may become an ever-more frequent subject of debate, and more than a few politicians may present proposals. A new proposal from Senator Marco Rubio of Florida offers a possible alternative set of reforms, but it has its critics.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, but it did not pass the Senate. It would have given a path to legal permanent residence for people who arrived in the U.S. as minors and who completed a degree at a four-year college or higher, or who served at least four years in the military without dishonorable discharge. The law would therefore encourage undocumented immigrants to attend school or serve in the Armed Forces. Several states now offer in-state tuition to undocumented youths who want to attend state colleges or universities, but those students still have no specific path the legal residence or citizenship.
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hour glass.jpgThe USCIS began accepting H-1B visa petitions for the 2013 fiscal year on April 2, 2012. To date, more than 17,400 cap subject H-1B visa petitions have been received by the USCIS, filed on behalf of temporary workers in a specially occupation. In addition, more than 8,200 petitions for persons holding a master’s degree from a college or university in the United States have been receipted into the USCIS processing system.

When will the cap be reached?
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483px-Syria_2004_CIA_map_04052012.jpgImmigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency that investigates and enforces immigration laws and regulations, announced on April 3 that it will allow certain Syrian students present in the United States to obtain employment authorization for a limited time. The agency will suspend the usual regulatory limitations for qualifying students. The suspension will apply to students who were legally present in the U.S. on a F-1 visa on April 3, 2012. Eligible students must be enrolled in an educational institution certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program maintained by ICE. ICE estimates that 514 Syrian students are enrolled in U.S. schools at present. ICE’s announcement is separate from, but closely related to, the announcement by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that Syrians in the U.S. may obtain Temporary Protected Status.

Students who qualify for employment authorization under this suspension may maintain their F-1 status while working a heightened number of hours during school sessions. Students normally authorized to work only twenty hours per week in an on-campus job may be able to expand their work hours. Students may also reduce their load of classes to allow for additional work time. Undergraduate students must maintain at least six semester hours per term to maintain their F-1 status. Graduate students must maintain three semester hours. F-1 students in high school or below may obtain employment authorization, but must maintain the regular course load. F-2 dependents, including spouses and children, will not receive any employment eligibility under this suspension.
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