Voice of Immigration

F-1 Student Ban and 70% of USCIS to be Furloughed! How Will This Impact You?

Episode Summary

There have been two major updates in immigration over the past few days. Students on F-1 and M-1 visas will be banned from the US if their school offers only online classes. In other immigration news, USCIS will furlough over 13,400 employees in 30 days if Congress doesn't act.

Episode Notes

If F-1 visa holders cannot take their usual full-time, in-person classes, they will need to exit the U.S.A. and return to their home country or transfer to a school that is operating with normal in-person classes. F-1 or M-1 student visas will not be issued or permitted into the country by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Some schools will be implementing a hybrid model that will include in-person as well as online classes. These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20 and ensure that students meet the minimum requirement of in-person classes.

USCIS will furlough over 13,400 employees in 30 days if the Congress doesn't authorize any emergency medical funding asking for $1.2 billion as well as a 10% surcharge on all applications that have yet to be approved. The U.S. Immigration Agency believes it will run out of money due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also believe that the number of applications will decrease by 61% by the end of the year. If furloughed, the application processing time will be prolonged as 70% of the workforce is looking to be cut by August 3. 

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Episode Transcription

Hi, I'm Jon Velie, CEO of Online Visas. Today, we're going to talk about two things. We're going to talk about the SEVP modification. That's the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. This has to do with students on the F-1 or M-1 visa, and the new changes that are pretty rough on them. So we're going to go through that in depth. And we're also going to talk about the potential furloughs of 13,400 employees, or 70% of the workforce of USCIS, and how that could impact you in immigration. So not a good news update at all, by any means, but let's go through what these mean.

So the SEVP, the Student Exchange Visitor Program, modified their temporary exemptions for non-immigrant students while taking online courses during the fall 2020 semester. Now, what had happened with COVID-19 is that the SEVP instituted a temporary exemption regarding online courses for spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted non-immigrant students to take more online courses than normally permitted by federal regulations and maintain their non-immigrant status during the COVID 19 emergency. Now, the COVID-19 emergency is not abated. If anything, it's spiked again and gotten worse. We're right now at the date of this, over three million cases in the United States and over 130,000 deaths, and it's been a new spike.

So schools are still intending to open right now, as of really kind of the first week of July. But those things could change and change to more of an online scenario. And that could really, really impact F-1 students. Now, some F-1 students are going to have problems anyway, because they're in some of the countries that are banned right now, which is the UK and all of Europe, and Brazil, and China. And it's really difficult to get in without going to another country and sticking there for 14 days before coming in.

So notwithstanding that, here's a bigger problem, and that's not just for students outside the country, but those inside the country, too. So let's go into it. So the temporary exemptions for the 2020 fall semester include non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. So if you're attending schools that operate entirely online, you may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. So that means they will not issue visas to students trying to get into the United States for that, and for those students in the United States, they must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. And if not, they may face immigration consequences, including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings. So that's the situation here.

So if you're watching this on YouTube, please subscribe and click that you want the notifications, and we'll keep you up to speed on this kind of fluid, ever-changing situation. But right now, this is a big deal, because this is the SEVP, this is SEVIS that is saying this is how it's going to be going forward for the fall semester. So that's what's the situation there.

So number two, non-immigrant F1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F-1 students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online. So if this is a regular school that has in-person, then you can take one online class of only three hours. So that's the maximum on that. So that's really tough in those sorts of scenarios.

And third, this one's kind of the best and the most relief, this is the non-immigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model. I think we'll see a lot of this. That is a mixture of online and in-person classes. You'll be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify to SEVP, through the form I-20, certification of eligibility for the nonimmigrant student status, [inaudible 00:04:33] the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.

The above exceptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs, or M-1 students pursuing vocational degrees, who are not permitted to enroll in any online classes. So M-1s, no online at all. You cannot use the hybrid if you are taking any of your classes are the English as second language classes. Those are the ESL students. Those you cannot do online. Those have to be in person. So in the scenario where the school is a hybrid school, and I think we'll see a lot of schools, regular schools, having a hybrid model, this is the way to do it, schools, then you have to get the I-20 approved for the student to take the maximum number of online, meaning not all of them. That is the best scenario for them.

So schools should update their information in the SEVIS system within 10 days of the change, if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes, but are later required to switch to only online classes, or a non-immigrant student changes their course selection, as a result, ends up taking entirely an online course load. Non-immigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. If students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status, such as reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.

All right, so that's the scenario there. F-1 non-immigrant students pursue academic coursework and non-immigrant students pursue vocational coursework while studying in the United States. So this is the scenario right now. So if you want more information, please put a comment below or go to onlinevisas.com and set up a strategy session. Universities, if you want to talk to us, we can help you analyze this. I think the best scenario for a university is to become a hybrid model. If it is a regular school doing normal in-person classes, they're only going to be limited to one class online, and that's going to put a lot of students in a really tough situation. We don't know what's going to happen yet with schools. So this is the one thing where they're looking at the worst-case scenario, but it's going to be tough on students.

So let's move onto the second thing. All right, now in less than 30 days from today, the cash-strapped USCIS will start furloughing more than 13,400 employees, that's nearly 70% of its workforce unless Congress authorizes emergency medical funding to avoid the scenario that would cripple the nation's largest immigration system. All right, so it'd be pretty tough. So USCIS employees have already started receiving notices of their looming furlough. So that is not good, which would start on August 3rd. "If that happens, the agency would be left with a skeleton crew that would make it difficult to sustain our critical mission of administrating our nation's lawful immigration system," says Joseph Edlow, the Deputy Director for Policy at USCIS and the de facto head of the agency, which he said to CBS News.

So really, Congress needs to pass a $1.2 billion emergency funding and promise to repay these funds. USCIS will promise to repay these funds by imposing a 10% surcharge on applications. So that means filing fees will go up if Congress does that. But a standoff has emerged between Congress and the Trump administration, leaving a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the USCIS workforce and millions of immigrants who file petitions in the agency in a given year. Lots of those who are practitioners in this world think that this is the nail in the coffin, ladies and gentlemen. We've seen some really tough proclamations from the president regarding green cards and the non-immigrant visas later.

There is some meat on the bones left for those. You can file green card applications inside the United States for all of those scenarios. There are some exceptions for green cards that can be filed outside the United States. So green cards are still being filed. H-1Bs, L-1s, TNs, sorry, H-1Bs, L-1s, H-2Bs, that's it. Those four have a proclamation that stops them from outside the country, but those can all be changed of statuses in the United States still right now. So a lot of companies still filing those. That's all good, but if USCIS furloughs 70% of its workforce, you're going to see a drastic slowdown at best, and maybe some more proclamations coming after that. We don't know.

So the president's doubling down on his anti-immigration stances. A lot of those that watch this think that these are some of the types of things that were in the designs before, and COVID-19 is now being used as a reason to do these things. So COVID-19 had some nice, special exemptions to people to continue doing immigration. Now it's being used sort of as a weapon against immigration, and that's tough. And really on the students, students are not taking jobs away from Americans. And this could really have unintended circumstances of really, really hurting our universities if those are unintended circumstances. I mean, the universities have been in fights. So these are with the administration, as well. Education not at the forefront of this administration, if you watch what Secretary DeVos has been doing. So maybe this is a crippling move. These are not an opinion of mine. I'm just raising those as questions. I hope that's not the case.

But that's some pretty rough news. This is Jon Velie, CEO of Online Visas. We deliver dreams. Thanks. Take care.