OPT Filing Deadlines Alert
USCIS has taken a more restrictive approach to filing deadlines for F-1 (Student Visa) Optional Practical Training (OPT) applications.
For a post completion OPT, the student must properly file his/her Form I-765 up to 90 days prior to his/her program end-date and no later than 60 days after his/her program end-date. The student must also file Form I-765 with USCIS within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation of OPT into his/her SEVIS record.
Until recently, when USCIS received an OPT application more than 30 days after the DSO entered the OPT recommendation in SEVIS, it would often send the applicant a Request for Evidence requiring a new Form I-20 signed by the DSO. The DSO could simply reprint the Form I-20 from SEVIS (without entering a new OPT recommendation in SEVIS) and sign it, and the student could submit it to USCIS. However, USCIS has recently taken the position that the phase “within 30 days of the date the DSO enters the recommendation of OPT into his/her SEVIS record”, does not allow this approach and applications submitted more than 30 days after the DSO’s recommendation of OPT in SEVIS are now being denied.
To avoid a denial of an OPT application, the student must file it with USCIS within 30 days of the OPT recommendation in SEVIS. If a student is unable to submit the Form I-765 and supporting I-20 to USCIS within 30 days of the OPT recommendation in SEVIS, the DSO should cancel the original OPT recommendation in SEVIS and enter a new recommendation. Simply issuing a new Form I-20, which was acceptable until recently, will no longer suffice.
Employment Based Immigrant Visa Numbers for November 2012
On October 12, 2012, the U.S. State Department released the November 2012 Visa Bulletin. The most surprising is that the Second Preference Employment category for India has not moved - the cut off date remains on September 1, 2004. First Preference Employment for all countries remains current. As predicted, Second Preference Employment based visa numbers for ALL countries has become current. Visa numbers Second Preference Employment based for China has moved from July 15, 2007 to September 1, 2007. There is some movement forward for other employment based visa categories. Third Preference Employment for the World and Mexico moves forward approximately four weeks from October 22, 2006 to November 22, 2006. China also moves forward by nine weeks from February 8, 2006 to April 15, 2006. Third Preference India moves one week from October 15 2002 to October 22, 2002. The Philippines moves one week from August 1, 2006 to August 8, 2006.
New Filing Option for Canadian TN visas
On October 1, 2012, USCIS began accepting TN visa petitions at the Vermont Service Center on behalf of Canadian citizens who are outside of the United States .
Previously, all initial TN visa requests were submitted at the border or port of entry to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Unit. Whereas applications to change status to a TN visa and/or subsequent TN extensions could be filed at the Vermont Service Center. Premium Processing is available for TN requests through the Vermont Service Center.
Canadian citizens continue to have the option of applying for a TN visa at the time of entry to the U.S.
2014 Diversity Visa Program Registration
The 2014 Diversity Visa Program (DV-2014) will open at noon, eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4) on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 and will close at noon EDT, Saturday, November 3, 2012. Applicants must submit entries electronically during this registration period using the electronic DV entry form (E-DV) at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov. Paper entries will not be accepted. No entries will be accepted after noon, EDT on November 3, 2012.
The annual DV program makes visas available to persons meeting the simple, but strict eligibility requirements. A computer generated random drawing chooses selectees for Diversity Visas. The visas are distributed among six geographic regions, with a greater number of visas to regions with lower rates of immigration. No single country may receive more than seven percent of the available Diversity Visas in any one year.
For DV-2014, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply because the countries sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous five years:
Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
A “native” ordinary means someone born within a particular country, regardless of the individual’s current country of residence or nationality. Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.
Beginning May 1, 2013, DV-2014 entrants will be able to use their unique confirmation number provided at registration to check online through Entry Status Check at https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/ to see if their entry was selected. Successful entrants will receive instructions for how to apply for immigrant visas for themselves and their eligible family members. Confirmation of visa interview appointments will also be made through Entry Status check.
For detailed information about entry requirements, along with frequently asked questions about the DV program, please see the instructions for the DV-2014 Diversity Visa program available at http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1318.html.
U.S. Embassy in India Announces a New Visa Processing System
On September 5, 2012, the U.S. Embassy in India announced that it is implementing a new visa processing system that will further standardize procedures and simplify fee payment and appointment scheduling through a new website at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in
Beginning September 26, 2012, U.S. visa applicants will be able to pay application fees via Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) or with their mobile phones. They may also pay in cash at more than 1,800 Axis bank branches. For the first time, applicants will be able to schedule their appointments online or by phone.
One important change under the new system is that first time applicants will have to make two appointments: one for fingerprint collection and photo submission, and one for a consulate interview. Fingerprints will be collected at an Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) prior to the visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. For many first-time applicants, this will mean two appointments on two separate days.
Presently, applicants wait fewer than ten days for visa interview appointments and spend less than one hour at U.S. consular facilities in India.
Under the new system, passports, visas, immigrant visa packets and other documents will be delivered to 33 document pick up locations across India within a week at no charge. Applicants will be asked to choose a delivery location when they schedule their appointments.
Visa Agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation
On September 9, 2012, a historic U.S. – Russia agreement entered into force. The agreement facilitates travel between the two countries. Among other benefits, the agreement provides for longer visa validity. Below are the key provisions:
· Three-year, multiple entry visas will be issued as the standard “default” visa for U.S. citizens visiting Russia and Russian citizens visiting the United States;
· The agreement streamlines the visa issuance process by reducing the documentation required. For example, the Russian government will no longer require U.S. citizens to provide formal, “registered” invitation letter when applying for Russian business visas or visas for private visits, although applicants seeking Russian tourist visas must continue to hold advance lodging reservations and arrangements with a tour operator;
· Both sides have committed to keeping standard visa processing times under 15 days; and
· The $100.00 issuance – or reciprocity - fee for Russians issued U.S. visas for business or tourism (visa types B1/B2) will decrease to $20.00.
USCIS Approvals and Denials of L-1B visa Petitions
USCIS has published data relating to L-1B visa approvals and denials from 2003 to 2011. In 2003, the approval rate was at 91% with 19, 161 L-1B visa petitions approved and 1,867 denied. Whereas in 2011, the approval rate was 73% with 14,246 L-1B visa petitions approved and 5,353 denied.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) no longer stamps Form I-20
CBP has unofficially confirmed that it no longer stamps Form I-20 at Ports of Entry.
Recognizing that certain government agencies (DMV, etc.) look for a stamp on this document to grant a benefit, USCIS is conducting an extensive outreach to ensure that these agencies are aware of this change.
If specific issues arise with a DMV/other government agency rejecting a student’s unstamped I-20, the student/their designated school official (DSO) should email USCIS at Public.Engagement@uscis.dhs.gov, so that USCIS can contact the government agency to clarify the benefit.
On August 7, 2012, CBP also announced delays of 30 days or more in entering Form I-94 data into DHS systems, while CBP works to streamline entry data processes.