Legal Updates & Advisories
The information presented here is intended to provide guidance and resources to all members of the Rutgers community regarding immigration policies, executive orders on immigration, and other regulatory updates that impact international students and scholars as well as Rutgers’ ability to host them. As we learn more information, we will continue to update this page.
During the year, ISSS sends out periodic emails to international students at Rutgers - New Brunswick and RBHS. All international students in F-1 and J-1 status are automatically signed up for these emails. If you work at Rutgers and want to be added to our email list so that you can stay aware of issues affecting international students, email firstname.lastname@example.org. These messages are archived under the Deadlines and Alerts section of the Rutgers Global website.
Coronavirus Impacts Travel To/From China and Consular Processing in China - FEBRUARY 7, 2020
Consular Posts in China Temporarily Closed
In light of the outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the U.S. Embassy and all consulates in China have been closed in accordance with Chinese government guidance. The Mission China website reports that the consular posts will be closed through at least February 7, 2020. Visa processing services will likely be unavailable in China until the consular posts reopen.
Presidential Proclamation Coronavirus Travel Ban
The Administration has also issued a Presidential Proclamation suspending entry of certain immigrants and nonimmigrants who were physically present within China, excluding Hong Kong and Macau, 14 days prior to their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
- In general, foreign nationals (other than immediate family of U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and flight crew) who have traveled in China within 14 days of their arrival, will be denied entry into the United States.
- U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei province within 14 days of their return will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
- U.S. citizens who have been in other areas of mainland China within 14 days of their return will undergo proactive entry health screening and up to 14 days of self-quarantine with health monitoring.
Inbound flights with individuals who have been in China will also be diverted to one (1) of eleven (11) airports where enhanced health protocols have been implemented.
Airlines Temporarily Cancelling Flights to China
Many U.S. airlines have announced that they have temporarily cancelled flights to China in response to the Department of State’s issuance of a Level 4: Do Not Travel Advisory.
Guidance from Department of State for J-1 Exchange Visitors
The Department of State has issued the following guidance for J-1 Exchange Visitors who may be impacted by these recent developments.
- Exchange visitors who are currently outside of the U.S. and are in China - The Department of State recommends delaying program start dates beyond at least April 1, 2020.
- Chinese Exchange visitors who are currently inside the U.S. – Wherever needed, the Department of State recommends that Chinese exchange visitors with upcoming end dates extend their programs until at least April 1, 2020. If this is not possible, the Department of State notes that there are flights from the U.S. to China on foreign airlines and code-shares with U.S.-flagged airlines for exchange visitors who prefer to return to China.
The Department of State has acknowledged that a significant number of exchange visitors currently in the U.S. are at the maximum duration of their current J-1 category and their programs cannot be extended. The Department of State has suggested that USCIS may allow a change of visa status in light of this special situation. However, USCIS has not provided guidance on this. Exchange visitors who are in this situation are encouraged to contact advisers at the International Faculty and Scholar Services office by sending an inquiry to email@example.com. You may also contact us by phone at (848) 932-7800.
USCIS ISSUES POLICY GUIDANCE ON NEW PUBLIC CHARGE RULES - FEBRUARY 7, 2020
Effective February 24, 2020, USCIS will implement a new rule concerning “Public Charge” as a ground of inadmissibility. Under the INA, an individual who is likely at any time to become a “public charge” is inadmissible to the United States and ineligible to become a legal permanent resident. The new rule changes how government agencies will determine whether someone is likely to become a “public charge.”
Under the new rule, an individual seeking an extension of status or change of status after February 24, 2020 must demonstrate that s/he has not received one or more public benefits (listed below) for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period since obtaining the nonimmigrant status he or she is seeking to extend or from which he or she seeks to change. USCIS will only consider public benefits received on or after February 24, 2020.
Similarly, those applying for a visa, admission to the U.S., or Legal Permanent Residence (“Green Card”) may be deemed inadmissible if given the totality of the circumstances, he or she will receive, at any time in the future, one or more of the following public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.
The following publicly funded benefits may now be considered for public charge purposes:
- Any Federal, State, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance (other than tax credits), including:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); or
- Federal, State or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called "General Assistance" in the State context, but which also exist under other names);
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (commonly known as "food stamps");
- Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, as administered by HUD;
- Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation) under Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937;
- Public Housing under section 9 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937; or
- Federally-funded Medicaid (with certain exemptions for certain services).
See https://www.uscis.gov/greencard/public-charge for more information about the types of public benefits that will be considered.
USCIS POLICY GUIDANCE ON OPT - SEPTEMBER 30, 2019
Practical Training: Determining a Direct Relationship Between Employment and a Student’s Major Area of Study
F-1 visa regulations allow you to engage in employment on OPT/STEM Extension OPT in jobs that are directly related to your field of study. The new guidance explains that students are responsible for providing a description of how their job duties relate to their major area of study, which DSOs then must review and report to SEVIS or retain in the student's file. The guidance also provides examples of how this coursework relevance can be explained.
Learn about the guidance in detail here.
VISA DELAYS AND DENIALS - JUNE 2019
In recent times, students and scholars have been known to face extra scrutiny and delays during international travel and in the process of obtaining a new visa, or even renewing a visa for continued study or research. ISSS recommends that any international students or scholars who will need to apply for a U.S. visa to follow our travel recommendations, stay abreast of changing policies and current news, keep up with government advisories, and plan in advance:
U.S. Department of State Resources
travel.state.gov is the primary source of information regarding travel delays, alerts, and warnings. Please refer to:
DELAYS IN PROCESSING OPT FOR F-1 STUDENTS -- JUNE 2019
F-1 students who have applied for OPT are facing unprecedented delays in receiving their EADs (employment authorization documents). These delays are being experienced across the country and can affect all recent graduates or those looking to receive their degrees in the near future. F-1 students are not permitted to begin working until they get their EADs. They cannot travel outside the US and reenter without their EAD and a job offer. Therefore these delays can result in loss of opportunities or jeopardize a student’s legal status in the U.S. While in previous years, OPT applications have taken an average of 2-3 months to be processed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), processing times this year are much longer than in previous years. Recent estimates are that OPT processing times could take as long as 5+ months.
Follow these links for more information on these delays:
SEVIS FEE INCREASES - EFFECTIVE JUNE 24, 2019
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is increasing the SEVIS fee for F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors. The new fees will be $350 for F-1 students and $220 for J-1 exchange visitors. This fee is paid before students apply for their visa, and evidence of the fee payment is required at the visa interview. The fee is paid online at fmjfee.com. There is further information about this SEVIS fee at https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/faq. For information about which F-1 students are required to pay the SEVIS fee, go to https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/paying-the-i-901-sevis-fee
USCIS UPDATES POLICIES RELATED TO REQUESTS FOR MORE INFORMATION FOR APPLICATIONS – EFFECTIVE SEPTEMBER 2018
The USCIS has updated their policies related to issuance of the Request for Evidence (RFE) and the Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) for immigration applications. These new policies are effective for applications filed on or after September 11, 2018. In the past, the USCIS would only deny an application without first issuing an RFE or a NOID if the documentation showed evidence that violated laws or if there was deemed to be no possibility of approval.
The new guidance gives the USCIS adjudicators the discretion to deny an application without issuance of an RFE or NOID if the required documents are not submitted with the application. Thus, it is important to provide the documentation requested for immigration applications. Also, if someone has violated their status, such as working without authorization, that may result in a NOID. Experience has shown that there are more issues with applications submitted at the last minute, so it is important to begin the application process as early as possible, to allow for more options in case an application is denied.
USCIS CHANGES POLICY RELATING TO UNLAWFUL PRESENCE FOR F AND J VISA HOLDERS – EFFECTIVE AUGUST 2018
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed how their agency will calculate unlawful presence for F, J, and M nonimmigrants, including dependent family members, who fail to maintain their status in the United States. This USCIS policy memorandum explains the change, effective August 9, 2018.
This change will affect students who stay in the U.S. after their status ends or who violate their status by not following the F-1 or J-1 regulations. Sometimes students might not even realize the problem.
Examples of when unlawful presence could start counting:
I-20 expires before graduation and student forgets to request an I-20 extension
Failure to enroll in full-time classes without qualifying for a part-time exception and notifying ISSS
Withdrawal from school without notifying ISSS first
Working off campus without ISSS and government permission
Working on campus for more hours than allowed
OPT application denied after 60-day grace period ends
Staying in the U.S. after the 60-day grace period expires (for F-1 students)
Staying in the U.S. after the 30-day grace period expires (for J-1 students)
This change is significant as it could affect students’ and exchange visitors’ eligibility to change to a different nonimmigrant status, seek permanent resident status, and/or return to the United States if they travel abroad after accruing a certain number of days of unlawful presence.
TRAVEL BAN: SUPREME COURT RULING ALLOWS FOR RESTRICTIONS ON TRAVEL – JUNE 2018
On June 26, 2018, the US Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s Presidential Proclamation of September 24, 2017 which restricted travel to the United States for those from specified countries (citizens, "nationals" of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen). This proclamation is commonly referred to as the “travel ban” and does not affect students or scholars who are currently in the United States, but places restrictions on those who are applying to enter the country. Because of the Supreme Court decision, the restrictions are in place are expected to be enforced indefinitely as of now.
The Department of State (DOS) has posted an announcement summarizing instructions to consular officers on the implementation of the travel ban. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement and FAQ on June 29, 2018.
Students and scholars from the affected countries should contact ISSS before making any overseas travel plans.
NEW GUIDANCE FROM USCIS REGARDING CHANGE OF STATUS TO F-1
USCIS updated their guidance on Changing to a Nonimmigrant F Student Status on February 6, 2018. This change could have major consequences if your change of status request is denied and you failed to maintain your current legal status throughout the change process. Students considering applying for a change to F-1 status while remaining in the United States are strongly encouraged to consult with an immigration attorney, especially if their current legal status will expire within less than one year.
For more information regarding applying for change of status, review the following links