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Between June and August 2016, the U.S. consulate in Toronto will suspend nonimmigrant visa appointments for third-country nationals (TCN) other than those residing in Canada, a consular official has confirmed.  Although a limited number of summer TCN appointments in Toronto remain, these are expected to be exhausted quickly. Emergency appointments may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Foreign nationals who have already scheduled a nonimmigrant visa appointment in Toronto should be able to appear as scheduled. 

Toronto is currently the only U.S. consulate in Canada that has announced plans to suspend TCN processing this summer. The embassy in Ottawa and the consulates in Calgary, Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver intend to keep appointments open for TCNs, though, as in years past, they could impose a suspension at a later date if appointment wait times lengthen for Canadian residents. 

What This Means for Foreign Nationals 

The suspension will primarily affect U.S.-based foreign nationals who wish to renew a nonimmigrant visa in Toronto rather than travel significant distances to their home countries to process visa renewals. 

Third-country nationals who want to visa process in Canada but have not yet scheduled an appointment may wish to check other consular posts for availability. Appointments should be scheduled as soon as possible given the possibility of further TCN suspensions at U.S. consulates in Canada.

Source: Fragomen Worldwide

The Department of Homeland Security released the new regulations on STEM OPT, the extension of OPT allowed for students in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  As this 80+ page rule has just been released to the public, we will be unable to answer individual student questions about the new regulations until we have had time to analyze the changes completely.   Please read the rest of this message for information on the effective date of the rule and our upcoming webinar.

NEW RULE TAKES EFFECT MAY 10, 2016

The new regulations are not in effect until May 10, 2016 and until that time, STEM extensions will be processed under the prior regulations.  If your OPT is ending before May 10, 2016 and you are requesting a STEM extension, please follow the existing instructions on our website.  Provisions have been made in the new regulations that will allow some current holder of 17 month STEM OPT to request an extension to the new 24 month STEM period.  The details on this eligibility and process are not yet known.

OIS STEM OPT WEBINAR ON MARCH 24

To provide information about and answer questions on the STEM OPT regulations, the Office of International Services will offer a webinar via Adobe Connect on Thursday, March 24, 2016 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  If you wish to participate, you may do so through the website:  https://connect.johnshopkins.edu/OPT-STEM.   You do not need to register ahead of time for this webinar, as it is open to the public.  The webinar will be recorded and accessible shortly thereafter via the OIS website, http://ois.jhu.edu.

We ask that you defer any questions until after the webinar is held, and accordingly we are sending this standard response to all inquiries at this time.  We will respond to most individual inquiries only after we have provided information via the webinar.

If you would like to read the new regulation, it is available online at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-03-11/pdf/2016-04828.pdf    We caution you not to take any independent actions based upon reading the regulations without discussing them with an OIS advisor.

On January 23, 2016, the federal district judge that ruled on STEM OPT in August of 2015, granted the Department of Homeland Security an additional 3 months to prepare a final regulation for STEM OPT.  The decision to vacate the existing STEM OPT rule has thus been delayed until May 10, 2016.  This ruling means that:

  • Students with existing STEM OPT authorization can work beyond February 12, 2016, as long as they have a valid EAD and continue to abide by existing STEM OPT rules (employment with a E-Verify employer, updating employer and address information with their schools, etc.)
  • USCIS can continue to accept new applications for STEM OPT extensions and may approve them under the existing regulations which allow 17 month extensions

This ruling does not constitute an approval of the proposed replacement rule, which was published in October, 2015 and which received more than 50,000 public comments.  The Department of Homeland Security is expected to publish the final rule on STEM OPT this spring. 

Students are reminded that there could be significant differences between the proposed and final rules on STEM OPT.  Use caution when making decisions based upon assumptions on what might be contained in the final rule.  OIS will provide more information as we receive it but we also remind you that we do not receive information on government regulations before they are made public.

In the meantime…be sure that you have kept the Office of International Services informed of your current employer and address, and that if you are on an existing STEM extension you have made your required 6 and 12 month reports.  This may be done via an eform in iHopkins (www.ihopkins.edu).  You can access iHopkins with your JHED ID and password, if still active, or through “limited services” with your alpha-numeric university ID, date of birth, and iHopkins PIN.  (If you have forgotten your iHopkins PIN, you can obtain this through a link on iHopkins.)  If you have troubles with reporting your information in iHopkins, send an email to ois@jhu.edu including “OPT Reporting” in the subject line.

We realize the H-1B filing season will be coming soon and with that, requests for Cap Gap extensions.  We will be in touch with you on that process when details are available.

 

Please review the following changes to the usual OIS schedule for the upcoming holidays and the winter break.

The OIS will be closed December 24, 25, 31, January 1 and 18.  

The OIS@Harbor East and the OIS@Peabody will not have on-site advising hours between December 21 and January 19.  To see an advisor, please visit the OIS@Homewood.

The OIS@Medical Institutions will not have walk-in advising hours between December 21 and 30.  During this time, if you need a travel signature, please stop by during regular office hours, 8:30am to 4:30pm.  If you need to speak with an advisor, please call 667-208-7012 or email internationalservices@jhmi.edu.   

The OIS@DC will operate on a normal schedule.

A court decision on Wednesday, August 12, found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made procedural errors in its processing of a rule that established the 17 month STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension, making that rule invalid.  The court decided, however, that enforcing this decision immediately would cause substantial hardship for F-1 STEM students and would create a major labor disruption for technology companies, so the court has delayed the enforcement of this decision until February 12, 2016. This allows DHS to submit the OPT STEM rule for proper notice and comment period.

 

As this court decision has just been released, DHS has not been able to determine its impact on current and future OPT applications and has not communicated any changes to international student offices.  While we understand that students are anxious to have details on the validity of any current OPT that has been granted and the possibility of receiving future STEM extensions, OIS cannot provide answers to these questions until we receive guidance from DHS.

 

What we can tell you now:

  • It appears that this ruling will have no impact on the initial 12-month OPT for which all students, regardless of major, are eligible, but this has not been confirmed.
  • Until we are informed otherwise by DHS, we will produce I-20 forms for STEM extensions.  Unless we receive clarification of whether DHS will continue to accept applications for STEM extensions, it will be your decision whether to pay the application fee and file an application.
  • Until otherwise informed, current EAD cards for STEM extensions should be considered valid.
  • You should continue to make the required employment and address reports, and ensure that you do not exceed the unemployment limits of OPT.

We suggest students do not panic and await further information from DHS and/or OIS.  Do not trust information that comes from any unofficial source, rely only on guidance from DHS/OIS.   DHS may publish a new ruling on STEM OPT that satisfies the court’s objections and reinstates STEM OPT; if that happens we will notify students.