Monday, July 6, 2015, is the deadline for eligible Syrian nationals (and individuals without nationality who last resided in Syria) who are in the United States to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
TPS allows foreign nationals to remain in the Unite States with employment authorization due to temporary conditions in their home country that prevent them from returning. The Secretary of Homeland Security designated Syria as a TPS country based on the ongoing armed conflict. Qualified applicants will receive TPS through September, 2016, based on the current designation period.
You can learn more about Temporary Protected Status by contacting the Davis Legal Center or at the following website: http://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/initial-registration-deadline-syria-tps-july-6-2015.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has temporarily stopped allowing nonimmigrants to extend or change their status online.
USCIS stopped accepting electronically-filed versions of Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, on June 15, 2015. Applications filed before that time will not be impacted. USCIS is using this time to update its electronic filing system to accommodate recent changes to the form.
For now, nonimmigrants who need to extend or change status should file paper versions of the form. You can find additional information about Form I-539 at the USCIS website: http://www.uscis.gov/i-539.
Question: Do I qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
Answer: In general, foreign students qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT) if they entered the United States as bona fide students and are pursuing a full course of study (most commonly in F-1 Visa Status). Students meeting these criteria are usually eligible for up to 12 months of OPT per educational level.
Some students may be eligible for an extension of the 12-month time limit, and you should contact an immigration attorney if you think you may qualify for an extension. Students who have participated in other work-study or curricular employment programs, however, may be ineligible for OPT.
OPT may be granted for any legitimate purpose other than to prepare the foreign national for permanent residence in the United States. Although OPT cannot be used to train a foreign national for a permanent U.S. position, it can be used to train a graduate for an employment position in an office abroad. It can also be used as a trial period to assess an alien’s skills.
Students interested in OPT should consult with their university or an immigration attorney to determine whether they are eligible for pre- or post-graduation OPT. Please keep in mind, however, that all OPT must generally be completed within 14 months of graduation.
Question: What does it mean that the F2A category is now current?
Answer: The Immigration and Nationality Act sets numerical limits on the number of visas that will be issued each year to categories of prospective immigrants. The F2A category is a family-based visa category that applies to spouses of lawful permanent residents and their unmarried children under 21 years of age.
Every month, the U.S. Department of State issues a bulleting that informs the public about how many visas are currently available since there are generally more potential immigrants than there are available visas. In recent memory, the F2A category has always had a long wait (often two to three years). The August 2013 visa bulleting, however, indicated that the F2A category is now current. The category is also current for September.
This means spouses of lawful permanent residents who are currently lawfully in the United States may immediately file the I-130 petition and I-485 Adjustment of Status application to get a green card. Both forms may be filed concurrently as long as the category stays current.
If a spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21 is currently residing outside of the United States, the individual is eligible to apply for Consular Processing if they have an approved I-130. Individuals without an approved I-130 petition may wish to file as soon as possible to take advantage of this recent change as it is unknown how long the F2A category will remain current. It is likely the category will experience some retrogression in the coming months.
Please consult an immigration attorney if you think you may be able to take advantage of this exciting opportunity.
Question: What is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?
Answer: The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was announced on June 15, 2012. The program allows qualifying immigrants who first came to the United States as children to stay in the country for two years without the risk of being placed in removal proceedings regardless of their past or current immigration status.
The two-year “deferred action” period allows applicants to gain work authorization and live in the United States without fear of being deported. DACA does not, however, provide applicants with lawful status and is not a path to citizenship.
To qualify for consideration under the program, applicants mush show they:
1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
2. Came to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday;
3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services;
5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or their lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
6. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran; and
7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security of public safety.
Please contact an immigration attorney if you feel you may be eligible for this program. The application process can be complex, and you must provide adequate documentation. A licensed attorney can help you with this process and answer your legal questions.
Question: When should I apply for a student visa?
Answer: The most common type of student visa is a nonimmigrant F visa. Students who plan on attending a college or university, high school, private elementary school or other academic institution will generally apply for this visa type. If you are looking for information regarding M- and J-type visas, please contact our immigration attorney.
Prospective students may apply for an F-type student visa at any time, but the visa may not be issued more than 120 days before the student will begin his or her studies. Further, prospective students cannot enter the United States more than 30 days before the academic program’s start date.
New students are encouraged to apply for their visa as soon as possible to avoid delays and to allow for scheduling of their Consular interview. Interview waiting periods vary in length depending on the location of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate and may be checked at the following website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html.
Prospective students who wish to enter the United States more than 30 days prior to beginning their studies may apply for a B-type visitor visa. Students may hold an F visa and a B visa at the same time but will need to adjust their status before starting their studies if they initially arrived on a visitor visa. In some instances, an adjustment of status application may not be approved, and the student will need to leave the country and return using their student visa within 30 days of their academic program’s start date.
These rules only apply to new students. Continuing students may be issued a student visa at any time and may return to their academic institutions at any time.
Emil Dixon is the founder of the Davis Legal Center, a private law office located in Davis, California.