Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I-539 Processing
COS to F-1
F-1 Reinstatement
F-1 Optional Practical Training
M-1 Students
J-1 Scholars
H-1B Faculty and Staff
Employment-Based Permanent Residence

1) Employees at CIS service centers may be unionizing in light of lower wages being paid by contractors. Should this occur, and workers decide to strike in the future, the ripple effect would no doubt be felt by us as stakeholders.

What measures are being taken by the CIS to make sure contractor workers are content?

USCIS is not involved in contractor personnel issues.

2) Are there any proposed changes to the online case inquiry system to:

a) Fix glitches causing erroneous messages on the system: and,

b) Speed the time it takes to post cases and information; and,

c) Make it more case-specific and offer the public a little more useful information on their case other than “it is pending” (e.g that RFE response was received, etc.)?

If you are experiencing problems or issues with this system, please send the concerns to your HQ representative.

I-539 Processing
The 12/31/2007 revision of form I-539, Part 4, question 3(d) 2 to 3(d) 6, asks several questions about military service. All Korean males, Swiss males and many other countries have mandatory military service while some others may have been involved with a war in Iraq, Afghanistan or another country.

What supporting documents would USCIS like to see when the answer is yes to any of these questions?

The instructions to Part 4 Question 3 state:

“Answer the following questions. If you answer “Yes” to any question, please describe the circumstances in detail and explain on a separate sheet(s) of paper.”

Other supporting documentation is not initially required unless later determined by the adjudicating officer.

F-1 Reinstatement
Could you please give us an update on reinstatement cases at CSC:

On average how long are they taking to process?
We are currently processing these within our published time frames.

Approximately what percentage of cases are being approved?

Approximately half of the filings are being approved.

Are receipt notices sent out for reinstatement cases?

Are 3 recent bank statements from the applicant still required for reinstatement cases?
Our requests for evidence require the last 4 bank statements.

COS to F-1
1) Are 3 recent bank statements from the applicant still required for a change of status application to F-1? Or is this only required if the applicant is self-funded?

4 recent bank statements are required in most cases. If the source of the applicant’s funds is a bank where statements are not issued a bank letter(s) will suffice.

2) Scenario: An H-4 was included on a family petition for permanent residence. If she is aging out and must change status to F-1, will her inclusion on the permanent resident application be interpreted as intent?
This question is unclear. The dependent if eligible may change to F-1.

3) We have had several questions re: B to F COS. Advisors are wanting to know updated info on what is the criteria for a B to F to eligible for a COS. Likewise, if a person has had a B extension but meet all the other current criteria that we have been told, will they be automatically denied? We were told by NSC (before CSC took over our cases in Region 1) that a B extension would be 100% denied. And, they were definitely doing it. I have always cautioned advisors of this situation, but wonder if that is still is the case currently.
Can CSC give some updated info on this?

We are not aware of this information from NSC. These cases are adjudicated based on their own merit.

F-1 Optional Practical Training
  • We’re hearing talk of an extension of OPT validity to 29 months.
Is this being discussed at the CSC?

Does this look like something that is going to happen?

Will the anticipated 29 month OPT permission be available for both pre- and post- completion?

Will students currently on 12 month OPT be allowed to take advantage of the entire 29 months by applying for a 17 month extension of their OPT?

There is currently no change to OPT validity periods.
  • The CSC has recently been issuing RFEs for OPT applications requesting copies of all I-20s issued to the student. To save paper, it has been our policy to only send a copy of the I-20 issued for OPT. We notice this mostly happens to students who have earlier been authorized for CPT.
Submission of copies of all previously issued I-20 is not an initial requirement. However, if the officer determines the need for them an RFE will be issued.

Is inclusion of all I-20’s now the policy of the CSC?
No, but submission of all I-20s can avoid an RFE for this issue.

Should we change our policy to include a copy of all I-20s issued for all OPT applicants, or should we only include all I-20 copies for students who have been authorized for CPT?

See above response.

With SEVIS recording all transactions, why does the service require copies of every I-20?

Previous copies of the student’s I-20 are required to determine course completion and maintenance of status.

3) When F-1 student’s e-file the I-765 form for OPT is it advisable to submit two photos and a "signature card" at the time they send the original supporting documentation to the CSC? If they do this then how does the student cancel the biometric appointment?

It is not a requirement to submit a separate “signature card” and photos with the original supporting documentation if the I-765 application was electronically filed. Applicants must wait for the actual biometric appointment. It will automatically be sent within 2 weeks of E-filing.

4) When a DSO endorses the OPT and checks the box stating "academic year met," does the CSC interpret that to mean that the student has been continuously enrolled in F-1 status an academic year by the time OPT begins, without interruption? So for example, if a student who has consistently enrolled for several years, is enrolled fall quarter, and has an approved leave of absence for 3 months for winter quarter, and returns spring quarter to graduate, does the CSC consider the student as one who satisfied the "academic year met" criteria for post-completion OPT?

A student must have been lawfully enrolled in a Service approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary on a full time basis for one full academic year.

5) We have been given guidance that a student who wishes to apply for part-time OPT (example: during the spring semester) and full-time OPT in the summer, may do so with one application rather than two separate processes and fees. Can that procedure be clarified?

CSC is not aware of this “guidance.” The student must submit two separate I-765 applications for different periods of time being requested as an EAD is only issued for one validity period. Also, the I-20 must request either part-time or full-time OPT, not both. If the student is going to work continuously through the spring and summer then this would be considered one period of time.

6) How long does it take for the CSC to generate receipts for I-765s? How long should DSOs wait before contacting the CSC to let them know a receipt is missing?
Is the CIS expediting OPT applications for students who have a job offer?

Receipts are normally sent out within 5 days. Before contacting CSC about a missing receipt please verify that the application has been received and the fee has been accepted.
Requested expedites must meet one of the seven factors outlined in the expedite memorandum dated November 2001.

7) Can we expect to see some improvement with the scheduling of the biometric appointments when students e-file OPT applications since they can take about 70+ days from Received Date and therefore RFE's are being generate regarding the lack of biometric information?

Appointments are based on availability at the ASC within the jurisdiction of the applicant’s place of residency.

8) Is there any way to know the date of the biometric appointment ahead of time? Is there a way to contact the office in Missouri which appears to be setting these appointments?

Since the CSC does not schedule appointments, we are unable to determine this.

9) It is not uncommon for students to ask about changing the start (and end date) of their OPT request after it has been received by the CSC.

Will the CSC change the OPT dates (prior to being approved) at the request of the DSO or must the request come from the student by fax?

The DSO may contact the NAFSA Liaison Officer at CSC if there are any changes to the OPT dates. Changes may be made if the application is still pending. The DSO must also update SEVIS.

If yes, does a new I-20 need to be mailed or will you accept a scanned (or faxed) copy with the revised dates?

A properly endorsed faxed copy of the I-20 is sufficient.

10) We have been given instructions by the SEVIS Help Desk that a student who failed a final class after OPT was approved may work “Part-time” while they re-register for the failed class in the next semester. Please confirm if this an accurate guideline?

The guidance provided by the SEVIS Help Desk is accurate. The regulations state that F-1 students can only work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Accordingly, students who fail a course in their final term and need to return to school for an additional session/semester can only work 20 hours while completing the program. Students can begin full time employment upon completion of the program.

M-1 Students
1) If an M-1 student’s I-94 is stamped with a departure date later than the requested OPT end date, does an extension of status I-539 need to be filed with the I-765 to cover the practical training period?

No, since the student is in status according to the I-94 validity date.

2) According to the January 2008 SEVP SEVIS Call Summary, SEVP does not want the program end date to change in SEVIS for the purpose of M-1 practical training. The extension need only to be requested on the I-539. In the past USCIS requested that the extension be requested in SEVIS. Has this changed?

The program end date should not be changed for practical training. The program end date only needs to be changed when a student also requires an extension of stay beyond the OPT end date.

3) Does USCIS continue to want the extension date requested in SEVIS? If no, will USCIS update the SEVIS record in CLAIMS to show the new end date?

See above response.

J-1 Scholars
1) In light of the “24 month repeat participation” bar added to J-1 regulations, will CSC consider processing a change of status petition from J-1 to J-2?

Depends on the status of the EV. We will follow DOS guidelines. See attached DOS Chart.

2) Does applying for J-2 status as the dependent of a J-1 Research Scholar/Professor – after participating in one’s own independent J-1 Research Scholar/ Professor program - constitute “repeat participation?”

See above response.

3) We've noticed that F-1 EAD cards are being produced in less time than is reflected on the website. Are J-2 EAD cards being produced in a similar time frame?

Processing times are within 90 days of receipt.

4) How long are 212(e) waivers for Exceptional Hardship currently taking to forward to State?

I-612 cases are processed within 6 month of receipt.

H-1B Faculty and Staff
1) We are alarmed to hear rumors of proposed legislative action that would trade an increase in the H-1B cap for elimination of the cap exemption altogether – including the exemption for universities and research institutes (something we would view as disastrous). Can the CIS offer any updates on this?

We do not have information on this.

2) Recent instruction to cap-exempt employers is to file H-1B cases with the CSC in anticipation of the April 1 “filing season” for cap-subject cases. Is this a step towards finalizing a policy whereby the CSC will be given jurisdiction over all cap-exempt H-1B cases?

CSC has jurisdiction on all cap exempt H1B petitions.

3) If an H-1B petition includes an attached I-539 for H-4 dependents, should it be sent to CSC to be processed concurrently with the I-129 for the H-1B principal?

The I-539 application for H-4 dependent may be filed concurrently with the I-129 H1B petition.

4) Can USCIS provide more information about the “Special Unit” within CSC for adjudicating H-1B cap exempt employer petitions? Is it a newly created unit, or an expansion of the previous staff who handled these types of petitions at CSC? Who is the line supervisor for this new unit?

The group of officers who will be adjudicating cap exempt cases consists of previous staff who handled these petitions at CSC.  The supervisor for PP cases is Ana Rili.  ACD Kurt Gooselaw for non PP H-1B cases.

5) What is the relationship between this “Special Unit” and the Schools Liaison (formerly held by Ana Rili)?

The school liaison team and those that will adjudicate cap exempt petitions work in the same divisions but are not necessarily the same people.

Should we continue to use the [email protected]/ fax for H-1B questions (particularly for errors on I-797 approval notices)?

The customer service email [email protected] may be used with proper G-28 representation. If the petitioner is not represented then they must call the National Customer Service Center 1-800 number for information. For Premium Processing cases you may also call the Premium Processing Customer Service number at (866) 315-5718 or Fax your inquiry to (949)389-3460.

What is the future of the schools mailbox now that CSC is doing all H's nationwide? Will we continue to use it, or is an alternative communication tool being contemplated?

See above response.

Who is the current contact for academic H-1B case management liaison?
See response to #4

6) In the past, security clearances haven’t been an issue for H-1B’s. However, we are seeing H-1B petitions pending beyond regular USCIS processing times due to &