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USCIS Updates Policy Guidance for International Students


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing policy guidance regarding the F and M student nonimmigrant classifications, including the agency’s role in adjudicating applications for employment authorization, change of status, extension of stay, and reinstatement of status for these students and their dependents in the United States.

This guidance consolidates existing policy. USCIS expects that this will provide welcome clarity to international students and U.S. educational institutions on a wealth of topics, including eligibility requirements, school transfers, practical training, and on- and off-campus employment.

For example, the guidance clarifies that F and M students must have a foreign residence that they do not intend to abandon, but that such students may be the beneficiary of a permanent labor certification application or immigrant visa petition and may still be able to demonstrate their intention to depart after a temporary period of stay.

In addition, the guidance specifies how F students seeking an extension of optional practical training (OPT) based on their degree in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field may be employed by startup companies, as long as the employer adheres to the training plan requirements, remains in good standing with E-Verify, and provides compensation commensurate to that provided to similarly situated U.S. workers, among other requirements.

The nonimmigrant academic student (F-1) classification allows a noncitizen to enter the United States as a full-time student at a college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution, or in a language training program. The nonimmigrant vocational student (M-1) classification includes students in established vocational or other recognized nonacademic programs, other than language training programs.

For more information about the USCIS guidance, see the Policy Alert (PDF, 312.06 KB) and Volume 2, Part F of the Policy Manual. For more information about the role of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in administering these nonimmigrant student programs, see the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS).

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Tampa Asylum Office Moving to New Location


Effective Dec. 11, 2023, the new address will be: 3924 Coconut Palm Drive Tampa, Florida 33619

The current location will close to the public on Nov. 29, and the new location will open to the public on Dec. 11. We will begin accepting mail at the new location on Nov. 29. However, the Tampa Asylum Office will not have walk-in hours until Dec. 13.

This move will not affect the Tampa Asylum Office’s jurisdiction. The Tampa Asylum Office will continue to adjudicate asylum claims filed by individuals residing in western and northern Florida as well as portions of central Florida.

If you are an asylum applicant and you have been scheduled for an asylum interview, carefully review your interview notice for important information about your asylum interview, including where to go for your interview. As a reminder, asylum interviews are by appointment only.

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Certain Renewal Applicants for Employment Authorization to Receive Automatic 180 Day Extension


Certain renewal applicants who have filed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, qualify for an automatic extension of their expiring employment authorization and/or employment authorization documents (EADs) while their renewal application is pending. Starting today, those who are eligible will receive 180-day extensions in accordance with existing regulations, including those who have applied for or have received Temporary Protected Status or asylum.

In May 2022, however, USCIS announced a temporary final rule (TFR) that increased the automatic extension period for EADs available to certain EAD renewal applicants from up to 180 days to up to 540 days. Today’s change is not retroactive; all previous up to 540-day automatic extensions will remain in place.

USCIS is in the process of determining whether there is a need for a new regulatory action similar to the May 2022 TFR, notwithstanding past and ongoing operational improvements and efforts to accelerate EAD processing more broadly.

As announced in the 2022 TFR, automatic extensions of employment authorization and EAD validity will be the original up to 180-day period for those eligible applicants who timely file a Form I-765 renewal applications on or after Oct. 27, 2023.

For individuals who received an increased automatic extension period under the TFR, the increased automatic extension will end when they receive a final decision on their renewal application or when the up to 540-day period expires (counted from the expiration date of the employment authorization and/or their EAD), whichever comes earlier.

Meanwhile, USCIS recently published a Policy Manual update increasing the maximum EAD validity period to five years for initial and renewal applications approved on or after Sept. 27, 2023, for the following categories:

  • Certain noncitizens who are employment authorized incident to status or circumstance, including those admitted as refugees, paroled as refugees, granted asylum, and recipients of withholding of removal; and
  • Certain noncitizens who must apply for employment authorization, including applicants for asylum and withholding of removal, adjustment of status, and suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal.

USCIS is making every effort to help avoid gaps in employment and/or employment authorization documentation for noncitizens with pending EAD renewal applications, and to help reduce EAD processing times, including by dedicating additional personnel and implementing processing improvements to decrease the median processing time for certain EAD applications to 30 days.

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DHS Issues Proposed Rule to Modernize the H-1B Specialty Occupation Worker Program


USCIS seeks to update regulations with proposed rulemaking to improve program efficiency and integrity

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would modernize the H-1B specialty occupation worker program by streamlining eligibility requirements, improving program efficiency, providing greater benefits and flexibilities for employers and workers, and strengthening integrity measures. The H-1B program helps U.S. employers hire the employees they need to meet their business needs and remain competitive in the global marketplace, while adhering to all U.S. worker protections under the law.

“DHS continues to develop and implement regulations that increase efficiency and improve processes for employers and workers navigating the immigration system,†said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “The Biden-Harris Administration’s priority is to attract global talent, reduce undue burdens on employers, and prevent fraud and abuse in the immigration system.â€

The H-1B nonimmigrant visa program allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, defined by statute as occupations that require highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty, or its equivalent.

The proposed rule would change how USCIS conducts the H-1B registration selection process to reduce the possibility of misuse and fraud. Under the current process, the more registrations that are submitted on behalf of an individual, the higher chance that individual will be selected in a lottery.  Under the new proposal, each unique individual who has a registration submitted on their behalf would be entered into the selection process once, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf. This would improve the chances that a legitimate registration would be selected by significantly reducing or eliminating the advantage of submitting multiple registrations for the same beneficiary solely to increase the chances of selection. Furthermore, it could also give beneficiaries more choice between legitimate job offers because each registrant who submitted a registration for a selected beneficiary would have the ability to file an H-1B petition on behalf of the beneficiary.

Among additional provisions, the proposed rule would improve the H-1B program by:

  • Streamlining eligibility requirements – criteria for specialty occupation positions would be revised to reduce confusion between the public and adjudicators and to clarify that a position may allow a range of degrees, although there must be a direct relationship between the required degree field(s) and the duties of the position;
  • Improving program efficiency –The proposed rule codifies that adjudicators generally should defer to a prior determination when no underlying facts have changed at time of a new filing;
  • Providing greater benefits and flexibilities for employers and workers – certain exemptions to the H-1B cap would be expanded for certain nonprofit entities or governmental research organizations as well as beneficiaries who are not directly employed by a qualifying organization. DHS would also extend certain flexibilities for students on an F-1 visa when students are seeking to change their status to H-1B. Additionally, DHS would establish new H-1B eligibility requirements for rising entrepreneurs; and
  • Strengthening integrity measures – in addition to changing the selection process, misuse and fraud in the H-1B registration process would be reduced by prohibiting related entities from submitting multiple registrations for the same beneficiary. The rule would also codify USCIS’ authority to conduct site visits and clarify that refusal to comply with site visits may result in denial or revocation of the petition.

The 60-day public comment period starts following publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register.

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USCIS Clarifies Policy on L-1 Petitions


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has issued policy guidance (PDF, 311.12 KB) in the USCIS Policy Manual clarifying that a sole proprietorship may not file a petition on behalf of its owner because the sole proprietorship does not exist as a distinct legal entity separate and apart from the owner.

This Policy Manual update affirms the existing guidance. The update distinguishes a sole proprietor from a self-incorporated petitioner (such as a corporation or a limited liability company with a single owner), where the corporation or the single member limited liability company is a separate and distinct legal entity from its owner, which may petition for that owner.

This update also clarifies guidance regarding blanket petitions. International organizations file blanket L-1 petitions on behalf of all individual entities named in the petition. USCIS is updating policy guidance to clarify that the failure to timely file an extension of the blanket petition does not trigger the 3-year waiting period before another blanket petition may be filed.

This guidance, contained in Volume 2 of the Policy Manual, is effective immediately. The guidance contained in the Policy Manual is controlling and supersedes any related prior guidance on the topic.

The L-1 nonimmigrant visa classification enables a U.S. employer that is part of a qualifying organization to temporarily transfer employees from one of its related foreign offices to locations in the United States. Existing USCIS policy and practice provide that a sole proprietorship may not file an L-1 petition on behalf of its owner.

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USCIS Reaches H-2B Cap for First Half of FY 2024


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has received enough petitions to reach the congressionally mandated cap on H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers for the first half of fiscal year (FY) 2024. Oct. 11, 2023 was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before April 1, 2024. USCIS will reject new cap-subject H-2B petitions received after Oct. 11, 2023 that request an employment start date before April 1, 2024.

USCIS continues to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap. This includes petitions for:

  • Current H-2B workers in the United States who extend their stay, change employers, or change the terms and conditions of their employment;
  • Fish roe processors, fish roe technicians, and/or supervisors of fish roe processing; and
  • Workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam from Nov. 28, 2009, until Dec. 31, 2029.

U.S. businesses use the H-2B program to employ foreign workers for temporary nonagricultural jobs. Currently, Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (Oct. 1 – March 31) and 33,000 (plus any unused numbers from the first half of the fiscal year) for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – Sept. 30).

For more information, visit the Cap Count for H-2B Nonimmigrants page.

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USCIS Issues New Instructions for Filing Asylum Applications with USCIS After EOIR Dismissal or Termination of Removal Proceedings


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing new instructions for asylum applications submitted by individuals whose removal proceedings were dismissed or terminated by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

Effective Oct. 16, 2023, if EOIR dismissed or terminated your removal proceedings and you choose to pursue a claim for asylum, you must submit a current version of Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, to the USCIS lockbox that has jurisdiction over your place of residence. If you had a pending asylum application when EOIR dismissed or terminated your removal proceedings, you should include in your submission any additional or updated information regarding your claim for asylum. They also recommend that you submit proof demonstrating that:

  • EOIR dismissed or terminated your removal proceedings, such as a copy of the EOIR Order of Dismissal or Termination; and
  • You had a Form I-589 pending with EOIR when your removal proceedings were dismissed or terminated.

If the evidence establishes that you filed Form I-589 before the date when EOIR dismissed or terminated your removal proceedings, they will issue a receipt notice with your original Form I-589 filing date. This is the date they will use for purposes of the one-year filing deadline, employment authorization eligibility based on a pending asylum application, asylum interview scheduling priority, and age determinations for child dependent applicants. If you did not file Form I-589 before the date when EOIR dismissed or terminated your removal proceedings, they will issue a receipt notice with your current Form I-589 filing date.

If you originally filed an asylum application with USCIS (known as an affirmative asylum application), and they referred, forwarded, or transferred your asylum application to immigration court where it remained pending until the removal proceedings were dismissed or terminated, we intend to issue a new discretionary Notice to Appear to send your application back to EOIR if you file a new asylum application.

To avoid processing delays, carefully review the “Where to File†and “Special Instructions†sections of the Form I-589 webpage before submitting your application. Use they Filing Instructions Tool to find out whether you are eligible to file Form I-589 with USCIS either by paper or online. Visit the Form I-765 webpage for information about Employment Authorization Documents for applicants with a pending application for asylum or withholding of deportation or removal under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(8).

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USCIS Provides Additional Guidance for EB-5 Required Investment Timeframe and Investors Associated with Terminated Regional Centers


USCIS is providing additional guidance on our interpretation of changes to the EB-5 program in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) made by the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA), specifically the required investment timeframe and how we treat investors who are associated with a terminated regional center.

This guidance clarifies the required investment timeframe for EB-5 investors who file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Standalone Investor, or Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, on or after March 15, 2022, as outlined in the RIA.

For investors seeking to remove conditions on their permanent resident status under INA 216A based on an EB-5 immigrant visa petition filed on or after enactment of the RIA (post-RIA investors), the RIA removed the requirement that the investor must sustain their investment throughout their conditional residence. The RIA also modified INA 203(b)(5)(A)(i) (the general requirement for classification to invest or be actively in the process of investing the requisite amount of capital in a new commercial enterprise) by adding new language that the investment required by INA 203(b)(5)(A)(i) must be expected to remain invested for at least two years.

Because of these changes made by the RIA, investors filing petitions for classification after enactment of the RIA no longer need to sustain their investment throughout their conditional residence, which may be many years in the future and dependent on factors outside the investor’s control such as visa availability.

Before enactment of the RIA, the termination of a regional center would have been considered a material change to eligibility for investors who had not yet obtained conditional permanent resident status and, consequently, would likely have resulted in denial or revocation of associated investor petitions. The RIA added a new provision at INA 203(b)(5)(M) that permits good faith investors associated with terminated regional centers to retain eligibility in certain circumstances.

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DHS Previews Federal Register Notice Extending and Separately Redesignating Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status


Redesignation Allows Additional Eligible Venezuelan Nationals Who Arrived in the U.S. on or Before July 31, 2023 to Apply for TPS and Employment Authorization Documents 

Venezuelan Nationals Who Enter After July 31, 2023 are not Eligible for TPS. Those Who Do Not Enter the U.S. via Lawful Pathways Will be Subject to Enforcement Consequences

The Department of Homeland Security is previewing a Federal Register notice for an 18-month extension of Venezuela’s 2021 Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation and a separate redesignation of Venezuela for TPS. The notice explains how to register for TPS under Venezuela’s redesignation and how to re-register for the extension. Applicants for TPS are eligible to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) during the duration of the TPS designation.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced on September 20, 2023 the extension and redesignation of Venezuela for TPS for 18 months due to extraordinary and temporary conditions in Venezuela that prevent individuals from safely returning.

Individuals may be eligible if they have continuously resided in the United States on or before July 31, 2023, and been continuously physically present in the United States on or before October 3, 2023. The redesignation of Venezuela for TPS (Venezuela 2023) will allow an estimated 472,000 additional Venezuelan nationals (or individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Venezuela) to file an initial TPS application.

Venezuelan nationals who arrived in the United States after July 31, 2023, are not eligible for TPS. Those who do not enter through one of the many lawful pathways will be subject to enforcement consequences. Since May 12, we have removed or returned over 253,000 individuals to 152 countries, including to Mexico. DHS has removed or returned more family members in the last 4 months than in any previous full fiscal year.

Under the new redesignation of Venezuela (Venezuela 2023), eligible individuals who do not have TPS may submit an initial Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, during the initial registration period that runs from October 3, 2023 through April 2, 2025. Applicants can apply for a TPS-related EAD by submitting a completed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with their Form I-821, or separately later. Applicants may also submit Form I-765 online.

The extension of TPS for Venezuelans who are already registered (Venezuela 2021) runs from March 11, 2024 through September 10, 2025 and allows approximately 243,000 current beneficiaries to retain TPS through September 10, 2025, if they re-register and continue to meet TPS eligibility requirements. Re-registration is limited to beneficiaries of TPS under Venezuela 2021. Current beneficiaries under TPS for Venezuela must re-register in a timely manner during the 60-day re-registration period from January 10, 2024, through March 10, 2024, to ensure they keep their TPS and work authorization. DHS recognizes that not all re-registrants may receive a new EAD before their current EAD expires and is automatically extending through March 10, 2025, the validity of certain EADs previously issued under Venezuela 2021.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process pending applications filed under Venezuela 2021. Both initial applicants and re-registering current beneficiaries who have a pending Form I-821 or Form I-765 as of October 3, 2023 do not need to file either application again. If USCIS approves an individual’s pending Form I-821 re-registration application, USCIS will grant them TPS through September 10, 2025.  Similarly, if USCIS approves a pending TPS-related Form I-765, USCIS will issue the individual a new EAD that will be valid through the same date.

The Federal Register notice explains the eligibility criteria, timelines, and procedures necessary for current beneficiaries to re-register and renew EADs under Venezuela 2021, and for new applicants to submit an initial application under the redesignation and apply for an EAD under Venezuela 2023.

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USCIS Continues Fee Exemptions and Expedited Processing for Afghan Nationals


Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it is extending and expanding previously announced filing fee exemptions and expedited application processing for certain Afghan nationals. These actions will help Afghan nationals resettle, and in many cases, reunite with family in the United States by enabling USCIS to more quickly process their requests for employment authorization and/or Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), long-term status, status for immediate relatives, and associated services. We encourage you to use the webpages below to learn more about the eligibility details for each type of filing you may wish to pursue.

Certain Afghan nationals are eligible for the following fee exemptions and expedited processing, through Sept. 30, 2024:

Fee Exemptions

Expedited Processing