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USCIS announced in the Federal Register that the fees for some USCIS forms will increase on October 2nd, including the fee for Form I-129 [Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker]. When filed in connection with an H-1B application, the I-129 fee will increase from $460 to $555. The fee increase is expected* to go into effect on October 2, 2020*. H-1B petitions filed on or after October 2, 2020 must be accompanied by the new fee. In addition to the increased fee, USCIS also announced Premium Processing will take up to 15 business days, instead of the previous 15 calendar days. There is no increase in the Premium Processing fee at this time.

New H-1B requests will be subject to the new I-129 fee. Cases already in process with an OIS advisor may be subject to the new fee if the case is not complete and ready to file with USCIS by 09/30/2020. If your Department has submitted USCIS filing fees to the OIS in connection with an H-1B case, the OIS advisor assigned to the case will notify you if the new I-129 fee will be required. While we expect* the fee to increase on October 2nd, the American Immigration Lawyers Association [AILA] filed suit against USCIS challenging the fee increase. The OIS will provide further updates if USCIS announces a delay or suspension of this planned fee increase.

This message was sent on 9/1/2020 to all students in F-1 status who have a requested, pending or approved OPT authorization.

 

On Friday, August 28, SEVP notified schools that it will be mailing notices to OPT students who do not have employer information in SEVIS. The notice states:

Nonimmigrant students and designated school officials (DSOs) must remember to report employer information related to Optional Practical Training (OPT) in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Without this information, students could be viewed as having failed to obtain employment and potentially be considered out of status for exceeding permissible periods of unemployment while participating in OPT.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is conducting a review of SEVIS records for OPT participants and is mailing notices directly to students who have not reported employer information and have exceeded 90 days of unemployment. The notice informs students of their lack of employer/employment information and provides an opportunity for them to update their records either through their DSO or directly through the SEVP Portal. If the student’s SEVIS record is not updated, SEVP will set the record to “terminated” to reflect the lack of employer information and the potential that the student may have violated their status either by failing to timely report OPT employment or by exceeding the permissible period of unemployment while on OPT.

 

Click here to view a copy of the draft notice. We do not know if the notice will be emailed in addition to sending it via regular mail.

 

ACTION NEEDED

If you are employed, check one of the following to see if your employer information is up-to-date:

· SEVP Portal

· Page 2 of your most recent form I-20

If your employer info is missing or outdated, update your employer info by doing one of the following. Please do not report employment info both ways, just choose one.

· Log into the SEVP Portal and update your employer info. [Students on STEM OPT cannot use the SEVP Portal to add new employment info]

· Log into iHopkins and complete the OPT Reporting Form under the F-1 Practical Training tab. Students on STEM OPT should complete the STEM OPT Reporting eForm.

 

If you are not employed, consider the following:

· Review reporting requirements for students on OPT and STEM OPT on the OIS website.

  • If you do not plan to use your OPT and/or cannot find employment, options may include: departing the U.S., transferring your F-1 status to another U.S. institution to begin a new academic program, or changing to another visa status within the U.S. If you depart the U.S. or change your visa status from within the U.S., please notify OIS by completing the OPT Reporting Form in iHopkins. Students on STEM OPT should complete the STEM OPT Reporting eForm.

· If your F-1 record is terminated by SEVP, you will lose your F-1 status immediately. There is no grace period following a termination.

 

There are several things that remain unclear:

· Is this a new on-going process or a one-time notice from SEVP?

· Will students on STEM OPT without employer info receive the same notice?

· Will students be informed if their F-1 SEVIS record is terminated by SEVP?

 

We hope this helps inform you about this government notice so that you continue to maintain valid F-1 status while on OPT.

Please contact OIS at ois@jhu.edu if you have any questions.

 

Sincerely,

Office of International Services

The following message went to incoming international undergraduate students who were issued or had requested an I-20 for fall 2020.

 

Dear JHU International Class of 2024:

Last evening, the university sent you an announcement of the change to all-online courses and co-curricular activities for undergraduates this fall, and we can only imagine how disappointing this news must be for you. The decision was made after consultation with Johns Hopkins’ world-renowned experts in public health and medicine in consideration of the worrisome rise in COVID-19 infections throughout the United States and in Maryland. Johns Hopkins has always committed to putting the health and safety of its students, faculty, staff, and Baltimore neighbors first, and despite considering many options, university leaders concluded that bringing undergraduates back to campus this fall posed an unacceptable risk.

We are deeply saddened that, under the latest guidance from the federal government about international student visas, this decision means that those of you who are not already in the country in F-1 status will not be able to come to the United States this fall on an F-1 visa.

We know that these circumstances pose extra challenges for many of you, particularly those who must contend with unreliable or censored internet access or who live in time zones that make taking place in synchronous activities burdensome. You remain at the forefront of our thoughts, and Johns Hopkins will continue to advocate on your behalf. We are committed to serving you and keeping you apprised of the immigration impacts to your personal situation. Please visit our guidance and FAQ for information on next steps you may take now.

Also, if you experience hardships due to the university decision, please be sure to complete the Resource Support Application sent to you by Student Affairs.

We look forward to welcoming you in the U.S. as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic environment in the U.S. and government guidance for spring 2021 and beyond allow. As always, please direct your questions to ois@jhu.edu or 667-208-7001.

Sincerely,

The Office of International Services

This message went to all international students at JHU who have an I-20 for fall 2020 and to all students who have a pending New International Student eForm on August 3, 2020.

By now you have likely heard that on July 24 SEVP issued updated guidance and FAQs for fall 2020 that specifically addressed new students. The guidance states that new F-1 students are only permitted to enter the U.S. to begin a program of study if their program is not 100% online and the student will not take a course load that is 100% online. Students transferring their F-1 record to JHU and students beginning a second degree program at JHU who are outside the U.S. at this time are also considered “new students” according to this guidance.

Some JHU schools will have completely online and remote instruction for fall and others will be offering a combination of remote and in-person instruction and research. Per SEVP guidance, new students whose JHU programs will be completely online or remote cannot enter the U.S. for fall. New students whose JHU programs will offer in-person instruction or research should confirm with their program that they will be able to enroll in at least one in-person course for fall 2020. If that is possible, then they may enter the U.S. for fall.

All students should review OIS’s updated COVID-19 Immigration-Related FAQs for details [the Fall 2020 SEVP Student Impact Grid shared in previous communication is no longer available].

· Newly F-1 students and students transferring their F-1 record to JHU will find FAQs specific to their situation in the Newly Admitted Students section.

· F-1 students beginning a second or subsequent degree program at JHU will find FAQs specific to their situation in the Continuing Students section.

Students who have been issued a fall I-20 and are unable to enter the U.S. for fall should follow the instructions in the FAQs to notify OIS.

Please keep in mind that SEVP could issue new guidance for spring 2021. The current guidance applies only to fall 2020. We will communicate any spring updates to you once they are known.

If you have questions after reviewing the FAQs, please reach out to OIS at ois@jhu.edu or 667-208-7001. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Office of International Services

This message was sent to all JHU students outside the U.S. issued an initial I-20 with a fall start date.* We are writing to provide more information about the most recent Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance updated on July 15 as it applies to thousands of new students expecting to come to the U.S. to study at universities all across the country. Many of you have contacted us since that update and are understandably disappointed and upset at what the Federal Government’s guidance means for you. The excitement many felt in the wake of SEVP rescinding the July 6 guidance overshadowed the shortcomings of the judge’s announcement of the parties’ agreement, which called for a return to the guidance issued in March 2020. This March guidance did not provide relief for new students in spring or summer, nor does it provide relief for new fall students, despite prior requests by universities and their professional associations. Since rescinding the July 6 guidance, the Federal Government has not made any public statements regarding their intention to issue further guidance to benefit new fall students. SEVP merely updated the March guidance with a July 15 effective date.

 

We will continue our advocacy with the federal government for a solution that extends the March guidance through the end of the pandemic and encompasses the needs of newly admitted international students who are not yet in the United States. There are indications that Congress is trying to address this issue. However, the outcome is uncertain, and with little time before the fall semester starts, we fear it is possible, if not likely, that the situation will not be resolved before you would otherwise begin travel to the U.S., and so we offer the following guidance.

 

IMPACT TO NEW STUDENTS

Under the March 2020 SEVP guidance, new students are now confronted with the need to employ contingency plans, such as beginning their programs from abroad this fall with the hope of arriving Stateside in a later term, or deferring the start of their program altogether to spring or next fall. The March guidance clearly indicates that new F-1 students should not enter the U.S. unless their school is following normal operating procedures and students can maintain full-time enrollment requirements. JHU does not plan to return to normal operations for fall 2020 due to continuing public health concerns related to COVID-19. Therefore, new JHU students outside the U.S. with an initial form I-20 should not enter the U.S. to begin their program in fall. This guidance does not prohibit students from beginning their JHU program online while outside the U.S. Students interested in beginning their JHU program online in fall should consult with their program to discuss options.

 

ACTION NEEDED

Additionally, all new students with an initial I-20 for fall 2020 will need to inform OIS of their plans so we can amend their Form I-20 as necessary. To inform OIS of your contingency plans, please complete the “New Student Deferral eForm” in iHopkins under the “Admissions” tab at least two weeks before the start of fall semester as indicated on your current I-20. Depending on the contingency plan you and your program agree to, options may include the following:

 

  1. Begin your JHU program online in fall with the intention to travel to the U.S. in spring. OIS will amend your I-20 start date to spring and securely email your updated I-20 to your JHU email account.
  2. Defer your JHU admission to spring. OIS will amend your I-20 start date to spring and securely email your updated I-20 to your JHU email account.
  3. Defer your JHU admission to fall 2021. OIS will cancel your F-1 record and fall I-20. In spring 2021, we will contact you with instructions for requesting a fall 2021 I-20.

 

Alternatively, if you no longer plan to come to JHU, kindly inform your program and email OIS at ois@jhu.edu to let us know and we will cancel your F-1 record.

 

ACQUIRING AN F-1 VISA FROM THE U.S. CONSULATE FOR PLANNED SPRING ARRIVAL

If you are in the process of scheduling a visa interview or already have a visa interview appointment with the expectation of arriving for spring 2021, you should take your amended I-20 with you to the visa interview. However, keep in mind that U.S. consulates typically do not issue F-1 visas more than 120 days in advance of the I-20 program start date. If you have already acquired an F-1 visa, you may use it to arrive in spring if it is still valid on your planned date of entry. If you do not inform OIS of your plans, we must cancel your F-1 record.

 

Please keep in mind that SEVP could issue new guidance for spring 2021! The current guidance applies only to fall 2020. We will communicate any spring updates to you once they are known.

 

We know you may be greatly disappointed that the federal government’s current response to the COVID pandemic does not include a path for you to begin your Johns Hopkins education in the manner you envisioned. We are greatly disappointed, too, and we will continue to advocate for you in Congress and with the administration. Our international students bring irreplaceable vitality to our campus, and we will do whatever we can to help you join us as soon as government regulations and the requirements of public health allow. But please know that wherever you may be in the world this fall semester, you are a valued member of the Johns Hopkins community.

 

Please reach out to OIS at ois@jhu.edu or 667-208-7001 if you have any questions about this email. Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Office of International Services

*Students transferring their F-1 record to JHU and students beginning a second degree program at JHU will receive a separate email that specifically addresses their circumstances.