Legal Updates for Students and Scholars

Information and resources regarding immigration issues

At Northeastern, creating a diverse and inclusive community built on mutual respect and the free exchange of ideas is a core value. All students, regardless of immigration status are an essential part that community. As an institution, we are committed to advocating for policies that advance our global mission and which help us to cultivate a diverse global community. The information compiled here is intended to provide general guidance and resources to all members of our community regarding changes to federal immigration law and policies. In addition, the Office of Student Affairs, Office of Global Services, Office of General Counsel, and Office of Government Relations are available to answer specific questions you may have about these and other immigration issues.

Policy Updates

President Aoun's letter on the Optional Practical Training program

Dear Secretary-Designate Mayorkas,

On behalf of thousands of international students and scholars who are an essential part of the Northeastern University community-and as a former member of the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council-I write to request that you commit to preserving and bolstering the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program as soon as you are confirmed by the United States Senate...

READ FULL LETTER HERE [PDF]

Legislation

The following are noteworthy pieces of immigration legislation that have been introduced in Congress recently. It is important to note that these bills have not-and may never-become law. Their inclusion here is a reflection of their potential interest to our community, not the likelihood of their passage. We will continue to follow and share updates on these and other relevant pieces of legislation.

U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 Introduced

Topics: International students, undocumented students, employment, green card

On February 18, 2021, the Biden administration formally introduced the bill "To provide an earned path to citizenship, to address the root causes of migration and responsibly manage the southern border, and to reform the immigrant visa system, and for other purposes,"   also known as the "U.S. Citizenship Act." If passed, the bill will create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students and various other individuals if they meet certain requirements. In particular, the bill would (1) extend dual intent to international students on F-1 visas; (2) permit international students to apply for green cards without losing the ability to continue extending their F status; and (3) allow international students to extend their status in increments of one year while USCIS and the DOL determine which filings are required for lawful permanent resident status. Additionally, the bill exempts STEM PhD U.S. graduates from the annual green card and per country caps.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act

Topics: Green card

On December 2, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed S. 386/H.R. 1044, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which would make changes to the formulas by which immigrant visas (green cards) are allocated to nationals from different countries. The version of the bill passed by the Senate is different from H.R. 1044, the version that had previously passed in the House. This means that the bill must go back to the House for consideration again. There are already some indications that the bill will have difficulty passing the House in its current form-including a swift rebuke from the bill's original author, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

Northeastern strongly supports efforts to decrease visa processing backlogs, to make the issuance of visas fairer and more transparent, and to reform our immigration system in ways that increase competitiveness and live up to our values. We are committed to being a welcoming and inclusive global community. But because this bill in its current form would benefit some members of the Northeastern community but harm others, and it does not go far enough to bring about the necessary innovation to advance the global exchange of ideas, we do not support it. We will continue to work with members of our congressional delegation and other federal policymakers to advance policy that furthers our global mission, and we will continue to monitor the progress of S.386/H.R. 1044 and share updates as we learn more.

Agency Actions

USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain Applicants Filing Form I-765 for OPT

Topics: International students, employment

On February 26, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) extended flexibilities to certain foreign students affected by delayed receipt notices for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. These flexibilities apply only to applications received on or after October 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, inclusive. The following flexibilities are being issued to assist certain applicants for OPT impacted by the delays:

14-month OPT Period Flexibilities
Normally, post-completion OPT authorization would need to be completed within 14 months of a student's date of completion of their degree program. Due to the processing delays, USCIS has indicated that students will receive the full period of OPT requested (up to 12 months) from the date USCIS approves the post-completion OPT application.

Refiling Applications Following Rejection
USCIS advised that due to the lockbox delays, applicants who timely filed the Form I-765 for F-1 OPT, whose applications were rejected and returned by USCIS, and those students were unable to timely refile the application within required timeframes, may be able to refile the application with USCIS if certain conditions are met. The original applications (that were rejected) must have been timely filed (delivered to USCIS) between October 1, 2020 through May 1, 2021.

NOTE: USCIS has not released any guidance changing the requirement that students must be physically inside the U.S. when USCIS receives the F-1 OPT or F-1 STEM OPT Extension application. Students must still plan to be physically inside the U.S. when filing their OPT/STEM OPT applications and should remain in the U.S. until they receive a receipt notification (text/email or paper notice) from USCIS.

Northeastern will continue to work with the Biden Administration and key members of Congress to advocate for common sense changes to strengthen the OPT program. You can read more about these efforts in President Aoun's letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas from earlier this year. For additional information or questions, please contact the Office of Global Services.

Executive Actions

UPDATE: Expiration of Presidential Proclamation Suspending Issuance of Certain Visa Categories Topics: Employment, H-1B, J-1

On March 31, 2021, the Proclamation issued by the Trump Administration that originally placed a ban on the issuance of green cards and on visa issuance for individuals in certain J-1 categories, the H-1B category, and their dependents expired.

The Proclamation was originally issued on June 22, 2020 and was set to expire on December 31, 2020 but the Trump administration extended it through March 31, 2021. On February 24, 2021 President Biden rescinded the portion of this Proclamation applying to the issuance of green cards; however, the ban still remained in effect for the following non-immigrant visa categories and their dependent family members:

  • H-1B or H-2B visa holders and their H-4 dependents; and
  • J visa holders ONLY in the following categories: intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program, and their J-2 dependents.

The suspension applied to individuals seeking entry into the U.S. in the visa categories noted above who:

  • were outside the United States as of June 24, 2020;
  • did not already have a valid non-immigrant visa; and,
  • did not have a valid official travel document other than a visa (such as transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document) as of the June 24, 2020 or issued thereafter.

If you think your case was impacted by the changes, please contact the Office of the General Counsel at OGCImmigration@northeastern.edu for H-1B or the Office of Global Services at OGS@northeastern.edu for J-1 additional information or questions.

UPDATE: Proposed H-1B Changes

Topics: Employment, H-1B

On March 22, 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it has proposed a delay in implementing the new wage rule that would have changed how wages are calculated for H-1B sponsorship. The proposal would delay the rule's implementation for 18 months, or until November 14, 2022, and the new wages would take effect on January 1, 2023. The DOL is proposing the delay to allow it more time to fully analyze the legal and policy issues raised by the rule, as well as additional time to compute and validate prevailing wage data for specific occupations and geographic areas.

Northeastern, together with 25 colleges and universities, joined an amicus brief filing in opposition of the DOL Wage Rule. You can read the amicus brief here.

On January 20, 2021, President Biden placed a freeze on the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) rule refining the meaning of Specialty Occupation and changing the definition of "employer-employee relationship."The rule will be held until Biden administration officials are able to review and approve the rule.

Northeastern is committed to advocating for and supporting the invaluable members of our student, faculty, and staff community. The university continues to closely monitor these changes and will share updates as they become available.

If you think your case may be impacted by the changes, please contact the Office of the General Counsel at OGCImmigration@northeastern.edu for additional information or questions.

Travel Ban Update

Topics: Travel, international students, employment

On January 20, 2021 President Biden signed the Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry into the U.S., known commonly as the "Muslim and African Bans”. Northeastern supports this proclamation, which uses strong language condemning the previous proclamation. The Biden administration plans to take action to reconsider anyone's case who was harmed as a result of the original proclamation.

Several Presidential proclamations have established restrictions on the entry of certain travelers into the U.S. in an effort to help slow the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Please visit Northeastern's International Travel website and the Office of Global Services travel information website for the latest information on traveling to the U.S. and Canada from abroad. The CDC website is also available for up-to-date information.

Northeastern has resources to help students, faculty and staff if they need assistance while traveling abroad or arriving on campus. Under the university's Policy Requiring Registration of University Travel, all students, faculty and staff are required to register their travel prior to departure through My Travel Plans at https://my.northeastern.edu/. We also encourage students, faculty and staff to register personal travel to access services available for Northeastern travelers. Additional information can be found at www.northeastern.edu/international-travel.

DACA

Topics: Students, employment, travel

On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed the Memorandum Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In this memorandum President Biden further strengthens the DACA program by directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all actions deemed appropriate and consistent with applicable law to preserve and fortify DACA.

Northeastern applauds the Biden Administration for taking this step and continues to express its support for the DACA program and calls on Congress and the administration to provide permanent relief to these "Dreamers."

DACA Supreme Court Decision: On December 4, 2020, the federal district court in Batalla v. Trump ruled that DACA must be restored to its original terms. Under this decision, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is required to begin accepting initial applications for eligible applicants, accept applications to travel internationally for educational and other grounds, and restore existing work permits to two years. This comes after a long fight under the Trump Administration to eliminate the program. Northeastern, together with 165 colleges and universities, joined an amicus brief filing on October 4, 2019, in support of DACA in this case before the Supreme Court. You can view and download the brief at this link. While Northeastern welcomes the temporary relief that this decision will bring to the approximately 700,000 DACA recipients currently in the U.S., we reiterate the call for Congress and the Biden Administration to provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients.

For additional information or support from Northeastern, please contact We Care.

Additional Resources:

UPDATE: Northeastern Responds to PROPOSED DHS Rule Impacting Visa Stays for F and J International Students and Scholars

Key words: International students, student employment, scholars, researchers

On Monday October 26, 2020, Northeastern University submitted a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf opposing the Proposed Rule announced by the DHS on September 25th that would change the period of admission for F and J students and scholars from Duration of Status ("D/S”) of one's academic program to a fixed period of stay. The comment describes in detail the harmful impact the Proposed Rule would have on the Northeastern community. The full text of the comment, signed by Provost David Madigan and Chancellor Ken Henderson, can be found here.

There are many elements to the proposed rule, but at its essence DHS is proposing that F and J visa holders, upon entry to the U.S. be granted a period of stay of no more than 2 years or 4 years. Currently, F and J visa holders are granted D/S, which allows a period of stay for as long as their Form I-20 or DS-2019 are valid and they remain engaged in the academic program for which they were admitted to the U.S. Under this proposal some international students and scholars would only be granted a 2-year stay, others a 4-year stay, and then they would then have to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and pay a fee to request an extension without leaving the U.S.

The proposed rule would wrongly take away academic determinations from educational institutions and place additional burdens on international students, including by potentially limiting their ability to change programs or majors and decreasing the amount of time they may remain in the U.S. after completing their studies, among other changes. Under the current D/S rule, international students may stay in the U.S. as long as they remain enrolled and are making "normal progress"in their academic program and are otherwise compliant with the requirements of their F or J visa status.

Northeastern is unwavering in its commitment to advocating for and supporting international students and scholars as invaluable members of its diverse, global community. As President Aoun wrote in his message on June 1, "our core values of inclusion, equality and harmony will be our guiding lights"as we move forward. These values are written into our DNA as an institution.

Northeastern will closely monitor this proposed rule and provide updates as more information becomes available.

DHS Rescinds July 6th Guidance on F-1 International Students

Key words: International students, student employment

On July 6, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced plans to make modifications to temporary exemptions for F-1 students taking online classes due to COVID-19 for the Fall 2020 academic term. These new rules would have required international students whose college or university has moved to a fully online education for Fall 2020 to either transfer to an institution that offers in-person classes or leave the U.S.

In response, President Aoun wrote that "this new guidance from Homeland Security creates chaos for international students and has the effect of weakening American higher education-one of our nation's signature strength. While we believe the hybrid-flexible model we have developed at Northeastern will insulate our international students from the pernicious effects of the new rule, we steadfastly oppose this divisive approach."

On July 14, 2020, under pressure from a lawsuit supported by Northeastern, DHS rescinded its July 6th order.

Northeastern continues to work with federal agencies to help international students navigate these rules and prioritize visa processing for international students.

Please visit this FAQ from the Office of Global Services for the latest updated information:

Additional Resources:

Presidential Proclamation Impacting Certain Chinese Graduate Students and Scholars

Topics: International students, international scholars

On Friday May 29, 2020, President Trump signed Presidential Proclamation 10043 restricting certain Chinese nationals holding F or J visas from seeking entry to the U.S. effective June 1 if they will engage in graduate study or research in the U.S. AND have been funded by, studied at, been employed by or conducted research at or on behalf of an entity in the People's Republic of China (PRC) that implements or supports the Chinese government's military-civil fusion (MCF) strategy. The proclamation defines the MCF strategy as "actions by or at the behest of the PRC to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC's military capabilities."

The proclamation expressly exempts Chinese undergraduate students. Also exempted are U.S. permanent residents (green card holders), spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their immediate family members, and individuals whose entry would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives or is in the U.S. national interest.

In addition, the proclamation currently does not apply to individuals inside the U.S. pursuing study or research in F or J status. However, the proclamation states that the Secretary of State will review and determine if current visa holders subject to the proclamation conditions should have their visas revoked.

Northeastern is unwavering in its commitment to advocating for and supporting international students and scholars as invaluable members of its diverse, global community. As President Aoun wrote in his message on June 1, "Our core values of inclusion, equality and harmony will be our guiding lights"as we move forward. These values are written into our DNA as an institution. If you believe you have been denied a visa or have had a visa revoked as a result of this Proclamation, please complete this form and contact Northeastern's Office of Global Services.

Northeastern is closely monitoring the impact of this executive order and working with the Biden Administration to seek greater clarity on its scope. We will also continue to engage with the Administration and Congress regarding ways to increase visa processing transparency and predictability and to ensure that visa processing for international students is a top priority.

Immigration Policy

Topics: International Students, Employment, Benefits

OPT Litigation Update On November 30, 2020, the district court in Washington Alliance of Technology Workers Union vs. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (WashTech) issued an order upholding the OPT programs and rejecting the efforts to strike down the OPT and STEM OPT programs.

On January 28, 2021, the US District Court for the District of Columbia further issued a decision to grant the summary judgment motion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concluding that the standard 12-month OPT and the STEM OPT extension programs were lawfully within DHS's authority to promulgate. The same day, WashTech appealed this decision to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Northeastern University, together with over 110 colleges and universities, joined an amicus brief filing on November 21, 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in support of international students, Optional Practical Training (OPT), and STEM OPT in Washtech vs. DHS. You can download the brief here. This case involves a legal challenge to the OPT program. OPT represents valuable experiential learning for our international students and scholars holding F-1 status, allowing them to obtain practical training that complements and expands upon their academic studies. Specifically, the lawsuit argues that DHS lacked authority to allow F-1 international students to be work-authorized and that the regulation unfairly disadvantaged American workers by increasing global competition for jobs. We joined this "friend of the court"brief to demonstrate our unwavering support for our international students and scholars, and the OPT program.

Northeastern will continue to watch the events of this case very closely and continue to take measures in support of the OPT and STEM OPT programs.

The Public Charge Rule

UPDATE: President Biden issued Executive Order 14012 on February 2, 2021. In this Executive Order, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS) are instructed to review the public charge rule and related policies previously implemented by the Trump Administration, which says that an individual who has received certain public benefits within a certain timeframe could be deemed inadmissible and denied their request for a green card or extension of stay in the U.S. On March 9, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that the DHS will no longer defend the public charge rule in the several lawsuits filed against the rule.

The DHS determined that defending the rule was not in the public interest nor was it an efficient use of limited government resources. In this announcement, Secretary Mayorkas stated, "The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation's values. It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them,"said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. "Consistent with the President's vision, we will continue to implement reforms that improve our legal immigration system."

IMPACT: As the DHS will no longer be enforcing their rule, and the DOS public charge rule was enjoined in July 2020, applicants and beneficiaries are no longer required to establish self-sufficiency.