online learning

Will Foreign Students Have to Leave the U.S. If their Universities Switch to Online Learning?

According to data from the Department of Homeland Security, more than 1.1 million foreign students currently have active student visas. The coronavirus pandemic forced most colleges and universities to switch to online learning (at least in part) in the Spring, and those plans might continue in the Fall. 

The U.S. government has come out with several conflicting policies regarding whether or not international students on student visas will need to leave the country. As it stands today, foreign students on visas can remain in the U.S. even if their colleges cancel in-person instruction.

July 6 Announcement by DHS Regarding Student Visas

In March, the DHS issued guidance allowing international students to remain in the U.S. even if their university or college opted for online-only instruction due to the pandemic. On July 6, the agency reversed that guidance and said that students would need to leave the country. 

Specifically, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications for F1 and M1 students taking online courses due to COVID-19. According to the July 6 announcement, F1 and M1 students would not be able to remain in the U.S. and take a full online course load in the Fall. Further, students enrolled in programs at schools that have gone fully online would not be able to enter the country. Students would either need to transfer to a school that offers in-person instruction or leave the country. 

Multiple Lawsuits Filed Against ICE

The abrupt course reversal by the federal government at the beginning of July prompted a slew of lawsuits. The first was filed by Harvard and MIT on July 8, claiming that ICE issued the policy arbitrarily without offering “any reasoned basis for the sudden and dramatic change of position.”

The schools accuse the Trump administration of using the policy change to attempt to get colleges and universities to re-open for in-person classes. The universities also state that the change in policy puts schools in a difficult position for the Fall semester, with classes resuming in less than a month. 

Finally, there is an overriding safety issue for universities, students, and faculty. For example, the median age of faculty at many universities is over 60, putting these people at greater risk of infection if forced to hold in-person classes. 

Similar lawsuits were filed by Johns Hopkins University, a group of universities in the Western U.S., a group of international law students at the University of California, Irvine, the state of New York, and a coalition of 17 states

Trump Administration Drops Online Student Visa Policy for Now

In a surprise development, the U.S. government reversed course on its decision to require foreign students to take in-person classes or leave the country. On July 14, just minutes before a hearing in front of a federal judge on the Harvard and MIT case, the judge announced that an agreement had been reached. 

The case was scheduled for a 90-minute hearing to address a preliminary injunction, but the proceedings were over in just a few minutes. U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs outlined a truce between the U.S. government and the universities.

Specifically, ICE agrees to revert back to the guidance that the agency issued in March, which allows international students to remain in the U.S. even if their college or university is only offering online instruction due to the pandemic. 

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who led the suit filed by the coalition of 17 states, tweeted that the new rule issued on July 6 was “illegal,” which was the reason for the many lawsuits. There is a chance that the federal government might try again, but their efforts are sure to be met with stiff resistance. 

Helping Students Seeking Non-Permanent Immigration to the U.S.

To qualify for an F1-visa, an individual must generally meet certain requirements. Some of these include showing that you:

  • Have a foreign residence with no intent to abandon it; 
  • Are entering the U.S. with the sole purpose of studying; and
  • Are qualified to pursue a full course of study. 

At Garmo Group, we work with clients from a variety of countries to assist with the complex student visa application process. We can provide guidance relative to the documentation required for an F1 or M1 visa. In addition, if you are already in the U.S. and need an extension or a change in status, we can help facilitate this through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Many people come to the U.S. seeking higher education, but an essential part of this process is getting authorization through USCIS. If you need help facilitating this process or dealing with an obstacle, our firm can provide you with the assistance you need. We have more than 30 years of experience advocating for the rights of clients and their families. 

Contact our San Diego office now at 619-441-2500 or reach us online to schedule a consultation with an experienced California immigration lawyer. 

trump suspends visas

Who Will Be Most Impacted by President Trump’s Order Suspending Four Visa Categories?

On June 22, President Donald Trump signed a proclamation that suspends the entry into the United States of nonimmigrants who “present a risk to the labor market” during the economic recovery that follows the COVID-19 outbreak. While this is meant to be a temporary suspension of certain types of visas, the impact of the decision is far-reaching. 

Background of Visa Suspensions

On April 22, President Trump issued a proclamation that suspended entry into the U.S. of immigrants who pose a risk to the country’s labor market due to COVID-19. That ban was to last 60 days and did not include nonimmigrant visas. 

The new ban not only includes nonimmigrant visas but also extends the April ban. The latest proclamation went into effect on June 24 and is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2020. 

The administration clarified its order on June 29. Specifically, anyone who already holds a visa in any of the applicable categories is exempt from the new proclamation. There is always the chance that the order could be extended further. 

Who is Impacted By the Latest Order?

The latest order suspends four categories of visas: those for specialty occupations, temporary non-agricultural workers, exchange visitors, and intracompany transferees. Other visas impacted are the ones for the spouses and children of the recipients of each of these visas. 

Specialty Occupations (H-1B Visas)

Each year, the U.S. grants 85,000 H-1B visas to “highly skilled” workers, many of whom are in the technology sector. These visas are generally valid for up to six years. In 2019, 188,123 H-1B visas were issued by the department of state, 70% going to Indian citizens, and 15% to Chinese citizens. In May 2020, just 143 of these visas were issued. 

Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers (H-2B Visas)

Roughly 66,000 H-2B visas are granted annually for seasonal non-agricultural labor, but more can be issued if the demand warrants an increase. These visas are generally valid for up to three years and are prominent in hospitality, landscaping, and food processing industries. About 74% of the visas issued in 2019 were for Mexican citizens. 

Exchange Visitors (J Visas) 

The Department of State either issued or renewed just over 353,000 J-1 visas in 2019. These are applicable for educational and cultural exchange, and holders participate in things like being a teacher, trainee, intern, camp counselor, or au pair. Depending on the program, the visas can be valid for up to seven years. 

Intracompany Transferees (L-1 Visas)

The Department of State issued nearly 77,000 L-1 visas in 2019. These are available to employees and business owners who have worked for a parent, subsidiary, branch office, or affiliate of a U.S. company outside the U.S. for at least one year out of the last three. 

Spouse and Children Visas

The spouses and children of anyone that receives any of these nonimmigrant visas would also be impacted by the latest decision. Some examples are H-4 visas for dependents of H-1B and H-2B visas, J-2 visas for dependents of J-1 visas, and L-2 visas for dependents of L-1 visas. Together these make up roughly 245,000 foreigners who typically accompany spouses and parents to the U.S.

U.S. Businesses Object to the Order

The intent of the government’s proclamation was to preserve and open up opportunities for U.S. workers as the economy recovers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Since mid-March, about 45.5 million workers have filed for unemployment compensation, equaling over a quarter of the U.S. workforce. Unfortunately, economists and business leaders believe that the new policy is likely to do damage instead. 

In addition to crippling many industries that rely on these foreign workers, the government’s stance also sends a message to overseas talent is not needed in the U.S. in the future. The decision was widely denounced by industry associations and pro-business groups. 

Daniel Costa, an attorney with Washington D.C.’s Economic Policy Institute, states that much of the country’s immigration has already been shut down thanks to the pandemic. In his recent analysis, Costa indicates that banning visas is just another way to “scapegoat immigrants” as the economy moves towards collapse. 

Speak With an Immigration Lawyer to Protect Your Rights

It is unclear whether the current guidance will stand up in court, and there’s a strong chance that it will be challenged. The Garmo Group in San Diego has more than 30 years of experience proudly advocating for the rights of immigrants, and our mission is to provide strong legal representation and protect the rights of those who have difficulty navigating the complexities of our immigration system.

If you have questions about your rights or need assistance with an immigration matter, contact us to schedule a consultation. Call 619-441-2500 or reach out online for an appointment.  

travel ban

How Does the U.S. Travel Ban Impact H-1B, L-1, F-1, EB-2, EB-3, and Related Visa Holders?

According to figures from the U.S. State Department, roughly 9 million nonimmigrant visas are issued each year. Foreigners come to the United States for work and education purposes and are required to meet various requirements put in place by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the rules can change quickly and without notice. 

On June 22, President Trump released a proclamation that acts as a new travel ban on several categories of temporary visas and green cards. To clear up confusion about the announcement, the administration had to release an amendment shortly after. Here is how the new travel ban, which went into effect on June 24 and ends December 31, 2020, impacts different visa categories. 

H-1B & H-4 Visas

The new travel ban will restrict the entry of anyone into the U.S. on an H-1B or H-4 visa unless that person had a valid visa stamp on or before June 24, 2020. If an individual with H-1B or H-4 status was already in the U.S., they will not be impacted by the new ban as long as they don’t leave the country. In fact, the guidance says they can travel outside the U.S. and return with this status, although this could pose a risk. Current H-1B and H-4 visa holders are also eligible for in-country extensions, change of status, and change of employers. 

To qualify for an H-1B visa, the applicant must possess a U.S. bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. Having this designation allows the holder to work in a “specialty occupation” in increments of three years for a total of six years, with further extensions in some circumstances. 

A dependent of an H-1B visa holder can apply to obtain an H-4 visa, but they cannot work in the U.S. unless the H-1B visa holder has also been approved for an I-140 (green card). 

The new travel ban creates issues with the annual H-1B cap. Just 85,000 of these visas are issued annually. The new visa recipients are notified in March but cannot begin work in the U.S. until October 1. Because of the ban, these recipients won’t be able to enter the country until January 1 at the earliest. 

L-1 & L-2 Visas

Unless you already had a valid visa stamp on June 24, the June ban restricts U.S. entry of individuals on L-1 and L-2 visas. If you were already in the U.S. with either of these visas, you won’t be impacted by the ban. The USCIS also states that valid visa holders can leave and return to the country, but this could be risky. Further, anyone with a valid L-1 or L-2 visa remains eligible for in-country extensions, change of status, and change of employers. 

To qualify for an L-1 visa, you must have worked for a parent, subsidiary, branch office, or affiliate of a U.S. company for a minimum of one year out of the past three. L-1A visas are granted to managers and senior executives, and L-1B visas are granted to specialized knowledge employees. There is no cap on either number of visas granted each year, but an L-1A visa holder is limited to seven years total and an L-1B a maximum of five years.

L-2 visas are granted to dependents of L-1 visa holders. With a valid work authorization, these visa holders can seek employment in the U.S. 

F-1 Visas

F-1 visas are issued to international students who wish to pursue full-time academic studies at a U.S. accredited institute. The June travel ban doesn’t restrict the travel of people that have valid F-1 visas.

The administration did attempt to restrict these visas by requiring students to leave the country if colleges or universities opted for online learning in the Fall. But, the decision was reversed in the wake of a slew of lawsuits.

EB-2 and EB-3 Green Cards

Both EB-2 and EB-3 are employment-based immigrant visas or green cards. While the June travel ban doesn’t technically impact these visas, there is the potential for changes in the future. 

A provision in the June proclamation directs the Department of Homeland Security and Labor to consider regulations or other appropriate actions that will ensure that nonresident aliens who have been admitted to the U.S. or who are seeking admission do not create a disadvantage to U.S. workers. In short, this could be a lead up to changes on the horizon. 

This travel ban will likely be the subject of litigation, and it will continue to be a fluid and rapidly-evolving situation. 

If you have any questions about the travel ban or need help with any other immigration issue, contact the Garmo Group or assistance. We are a San Diego based firm with a practice that is focused heavily on immigration law, and we have more than 30 years of experience fighting for the rights of clients. Call us at 619-441-2500 or contact us online to schedule an appointment. 

Upcoming Presentation: Business and Investment Immigration

Due to increased interest, Garmo & Garmo, LLP is hosting another Business and Investment Immigration Seminar!

Attend this presentation to explore which programs are available to help your investor-client avoid immigration backlogs to fulfill their American dreams. This presentation is designed to focus on viable methods of working, investing, or immigrating to the United States in as little as 45 days!

The presentation will cover the following topics:

EB-5: $1,000,000 or $500,000 Investor

  • The EB-5 program provides foreign nationals a path to permanent residency through the investment of either $1,000,000 or $500,000 and the creation of at least 10 jobs in the United States.

E-1 or E-2: Temporary Treaty Investor

  • The E-1 – Treaty Trader visa, is a program that allows foreign nationals of treaty countries to receive temporary status in the United States for the purpose of engaging in substantial international trade.

  • The E-2 – Treaty Investor visa, is a program that allows foreign nationals of treaty countries to receive temporary status in the United States upon investing substantial sum of capital in a an active U.S. business.

  • The E-1 visa, also known as the Treaty Trader, is a program that allows foreign nationals to receive temporary status in the United States for the purpose of developing their business.

For more information, or to reserve a seat at this presentation, please contact our office at 619-441-2500.

Immigration Visa Petition Options

Many people here in U.S. would like to petition for family members, friends, and colleagues but they are finding out that there is a tremendous backlog to file family based petitions. In some instances family based petitions can take up to 20 years before a visa can be current. So what are some options?

1. H-1B employment petition. This is a 3 year work visa that can be renewed for another 3 years. The applicant must have a 4-year degree or experience working in a field with specialized knowledge. The alien must find an employer who can petition for them. The process opens up on April 1 of every year and the visas are filled up in about one week. If approved, the alien can come to the U.S. by the end of the year that he files. This visa is available to people of every country.

2. E-1 or E-2 investment visa. This is an investment visa that is available to citizens of countries where the U.S. has a treaty. The investor can open a new business or purchase an active business in the U.S. and usually gets up to a 5 year visa that can be renewed indefinitely. There is no minimum amount of investment but it cannot be marginal. This basically means that it has to be enough to pay operating expenses for at least one year, such as hiring someone to help run the business, pay for rent and utilities and other expenses. The business has to be active meaning the investor can’t just buy a house or apartment. The investor has to prove the source of his money. The process only takes about 2 to 3 months.

3. EB-5 green card. This application allows people from any country to invest $1,000,000 and employ 10 people to receive their green card. If they put their money into a regional center or if they open a business in an area with high unemployment, the minimum amount to invest is $500,000 but they would still have to create 10 jobs. Some good examples are opening a restaurant, a supermarket, or hotel where at least 10 people can be employed. The investor has to prove the source of his money. The process takes about one year after the investor proves the source of his funds.

4. EB-3 employment based green card. The alien does not need to have a 4-year degree but he has to have experience in the job offered. Anyone form any country is eligible as long as they find an employer to petition for them. The U.S. employer has to prove that they could not find a suitable employee in the U.S. to fulfill the job. Some examples are ethnic cooks or chefs, jewelers, and any other occupation where we have a shortage of workers in the U.S. The process can take between 3 to 5 years but it is still much shorter than family-based petitions.

Find Out How Garmo Group Can Help

We know how important your goals of coming to the United States are, and we also know how difficult the immigration process can be. We are ready to help you navigate this process, so you can realize your dream of living in the US. To discuss your or your loved one’s immigration case, contact Garmo Group online or call us at 619-441-2500.

If you have family members who are stuck in Iraq or any other country and you wish to help them come to the U.S. faster, please call our office at 619-441-2500 so we can go over these possibilities in more detail.