Immigration Alerts

▼   Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Announcement

On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provided two-year renewable employment authorization cards and protection from deportation for 800,000 undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children.  If you are a DACA beneficiary, family member or friend, here's what you need to know about the end of the program:

  • RENEWALS. If you already have DACA, and it expires ON OR BEFORE 03/05/2018, you can still renew your DACA for a two-year period if the renewal is filed before 10/05/2017. Contact a qualified immigration attorney as soon as possible to make sure your renewal is filed on time.
  • VALID UNTIL EXPIRATION. If you have valid DACA status right now, it will remain valid until its expiration date.  See the face of your employment authorization card or the I-795 approval notice to determine the expiration date.
  • NOT ACCEPTING NEW DACAs. USCIS will not accept any initial DACA applications filed after 09/05/2017. USCIS will continue to process initial and renewal applications that were pending as of 09/05/2017.
  • NO ADVANCE PAROLE. Previously, DACA recipients had been eligible to apply for advance parole, or permission to depart from and return to the U.S. for educational or humanitarian reasons. USCIS will no longer grant advance parole for DACA recipients. In contrast to pending DACA applications, USCIS will not process pending advance parole applications and will be returning any filing fees.

If you are a DACA beneficiary, please contact a qualified immigration attorney for advice.

 

The University of South Alabama announcement regarding DACA:

As I know many are aware, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is currently set to end in six months.

Congress may act before then to allow young undocumented immigrants to remain in the country, but the future for immigrants who were approved for a two-year deferred deportation, and those who were eligible for the program, remains uncertain.

The University of South Alabama prides itself on being a welcoming institution supportive of all its students. We believe in a diverse community whose academic, research and health care initiatives and ambitions requires global outreach and engagement.

The uncertainty surrounding DACA does not change those principles nor the support for our students, faculty and staff. I would encourage those with questions about how the possible termination of DACA affects them to consult an immigration attorney.

Catholic Social Services has an immigration specialist who can discuss concerns and make recommendations. Stella Knight can be reached at 251-947-3878.

Campus resources are also available by calling the Office of Counseling and Testing Services at 251-460-7051, the Office of Student Affairs at 251-460-6172 or the Office of Academic Affairs at 251-460-6261.

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Tony G. Waldrop, Ph.D.
President
University of South Alabama

▼   U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Partial Reinstatement of Travel Ban

On Monday, June 26, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) agreed to hear the appeal over President Donald Trump's revised travel ban against nationals from six Muslim-majority countries this fall, and granted the government's requests to reinstate part of the ban in the meantime. The latest immigration ban executive order, which the president signed on March 6, seeks to block nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. "In practical terms, this means that §2(c) may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States. All other foreign nationals are subject to the provisions of EO–2," the Court wrote.

It seems that anyone with a university-sponsored F, J, H, O visa should not be affected by this reinstatement. However, we continue to caution against any travel outside the U.S. for current international students and scholars at the University of South Alabama from those six countries until SCOTUS has made a decision. We will continue to monitor this as it unfolds and update you with any information we may receive.

Again, we are proud to have you at our institution and glad you have chosen to study, work, and/or research at our institution. #We Are South #You Are Welcome Here!

A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) info sheet can be found by visiting the Department of Homeland Security.

Updates to actions on this Executive Order can be found at NAFSA Association of International Educators.

▼   OPT Cap-Gap Extensions and Private Sector H-1Bs

A cap-gap extension automatically extends an eligible F-1 student’s status to bridge the gap between the end of OPT (F-1 status) and start of H-1B status. This extension allows a student to remain in the US and continue working during the “gap.”

The cap-gap extension is available to students who, as of April 1, were either on approved OPT or in their 60-day grace period and have a pending or approved change-of-status H-1B petition with USCIS with an October 1 start date.

This cap-gap extension will produce one of two outcomes depending on your individual situation:

Scenario 1: Extension of your OPT work authorization to September 30. This happens if your approved OPT end date (on your EAD card) is April 1 or later.

OR

Scenario 2: Extension of your F-1 “duration of status.” If your OPT employment authorization expires before April 1 but your 60-day grace period ends after April 1, you are allowed to stay in the U.S., if you otherwise maintain your F-1 status.  Please note: this is just an extension of your status, but you are not authorized to work until the H-1B petition is approved and goes into effect October 1.

Who is eligible for the extension?

Students in all fields of study are eligible for the cap-gap extension as long as the student has not violated the terms or conditions of their F-1 status. To qualify for the extension, the student must be the beneficiary of an H-1B petition that:

1. Has been timely filed (within the acceptance period – after April 1, but before either the OPT period or 60-day grace period expires)
2. Requests an employment start date of October 1
3. Requests a change-of-status (rather than consular processing)

How do I apply for the cap-gap Extension?

There is no application process for the cap-gap extension. If your H-1B petition has been approved by USCIS, your SEVIS record will automatically be updated to reflect the cap-gap extension and your work authorization will be extended to September 30. However, because of the huge number of applications USCIS receives, it is not likely that a case will be either receipted or adjudicated quickly after April 1.

The Office of Immigration and International Admissions can prepare cap-gap extensions at three different steps as allowed by USCIS and SEVP:

1. When your H-1B case has been filed and you can provide Immigration and International Admissions with proof of the submission (i.e. delivery confirmation), we can update the SEVIS system to extend your OPT only to June 1. (Please note that if your OPT already is valid through June 1, there is nothing to be done at this stage).
2.  When you get wait-listed by USCIS and you can provide Immigration and International Admissions with evidence of the wait-listing, we can then extend under cap-gap rules again to July 28. (Please note that if your OPT already is valid through July 28 or later, there is nothing to be done at this stage).
3.  Finally, when you get an official receipt notice for your H-1B case, we can process the full cap-gap extension until September 30.

To obtain a cap-gap I-20 from the Office of Immigration and International Admissions, please send an email to immigration@southalabama.edu with “Cap-Gap Extension” in the subject line. Include the following in the email:

• Full Name
• SEVIS number
• Jag ID number
• Employment start and end date as indicated on your current EAD Card
• Proof of filing (for an extension to June 1), or proof of wait-listing (for an extension to July 28), or scanned copy of I-797 H-1B approval and/or receipt notice (for an extension until September 30)
• Indicate whether you would like to pick up your document or have it mailed to you. We can ship documents to you through an express mail service provided by University Express Mail Services (UEMS) to deliver documents through DHL or FedEx in 3-5 days. Requesting your document delivery through UEMS is at your expense. Your credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Discover cards only) will be charged when requesting the service from UEMS. Otherwise, documents will be sent through regular US Postal Services "snail" mail.

What happens if my H-1B is denied after receiving the cap-gap extension?

If the student’s H-1B sponsorship is denied or withdrawn, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice to depart the U.S. However, if a denial is based on a discovered status violation, no such grace period exists and the student should leave the U.S. immediately.

What if my OPT expires before April 1st? Will the cap-gap extension extend my OPT?

If your OPT employment authorization expires before April 1, but your 60-day grace period extends beyond April 1, your F-1 status will be extended.  Although your F-1 status would be extended, your OPT employment period is expired, and the cap-gap does not serve to reinstate or retroactively grant employment authorization.

You would be required to stop working until October 1. Also, keep in mind that the 90-day unemployment rule remains in full effect during your automatically extended work authorization (if you qualify for extension of work authorization.)

INFORMATION RESOURCES

Cap Gap Fact Sheet from the Department of Homeland Security

F-1 On-Campus and Off-Campus Employment

▼   U.S. Presidential Executive Order (January 27, 2017)

On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order entitled Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals. Under Section 3(c) of that Executive Order, entry into the United States of "immigrants and nonimmigrants" from 7 countries has been suspended for 90 days from the date the Executive Order was signed, "except for those traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas." The countries listed in the Executive Order are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. This order relates to visa issuance, screening procedures, entry into the U.S., and refugees from these countries.

With this Executive Order, we strongly advise all nonimmigrants (F-1, J-1, H-1B, etc.) and immigrants (Permanent Resident “green card” holders) from these countries to avoid travel outside the U.S. at this time. If you are from one of these countries and must exit the U.S., we encourage you to seek legal guidance before travel. There is currently no indication that your visa status is being questioned while you remain in the United States. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide additional details and information as it becomes available. In the meantime, please contact our office with specific inquiries or urgent travel issues.

You are a valued member of the University of South Alabama community and family. South Alabama remains committed to supporting your success. We advise that you continue your studies and employment at USA with the same dedication you have always shown. You are welcome here. We are South!

For more information, we recommend the following sources: