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Updates on Governmental Actions

Below are updates from International Student and Scholars regarding the recent governmental actions. International students, scholars, and employees who have questions about these changes should contact ISSS. For other immigration-related matters, contact Immigration Response Team.

January 25, 2021: A Message from International Student and Scholar Services

Over the last four years, we witnessed a difficult time for international students and scholars as there was a frequent feeling of uncertainty regarding whether new and challenging policy changes would be announced. With the inauguration of President Joe Biden, we (the staff of International Student and Scholar Services) are hopeful for more certainty ahead.

Looking forward, we wish to share some information:

  • We are hopeful that the Biden administration will take action to make positive changes for international students and scholars. This will take time, however, as some policies will be more complex than others. ISSS will review any news updates and be in contact with representatives of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and other agencies. We will share information through this Weekly Update and other communications when it becomes available.
  • Last week, as one of his first actions after being inaugurated, President Biden signed an executive order ending the travel ban prohibiting entry to the United States for individuals from several Muslim-majority countries. While positive, this change was only related to this specific travel ban. Due to COVID-19, other travel restrictions will be in place, including measures prohibiting foreign nationals from entering the U.S. within 14 days of being in several countries and the CDC’s new testing requirements for individuals flying to the U.S. from international locations.
  • With the change of administration, we do not expect action on several changes that were proposed but never finalized—the most notable being the plan to eliminate “Duration of Status” for international students. Final action was not taken on the Duration of Status policy change, so with great relief, we can state that we do not believe it will move forward now. We are pleased that so many people spoke out against the proposed change, including students, staff, faculty, staff, and departments from throughout the University of Minnesota

We are thankful for each and every international student and scholar who has and continues to choose to study in the United States (and the University of Minnesota, in particular!). We are thrilled to work with you as you pursue your academic and personal dreams. The ISSS staff (and other offices at the UMN) continue to be here to answer your questions and help with any concerns you may have. Please email isss@umn.edu or complete our Phone Call Request Form if you wish to contact us.

December 31, 2020: Presidential Proclamation Extended Suspending Issuance of H-1B Visas

On December 31, President Trump extended the previous immigration proclamations suspending the issuance of certain H-1B and other employment-based visas (see the announcements below from June 22 and August 12 for further information). These restrictions will not be in effect until March 31, 2021 (review this Wall Street Journal article for more information). It is not known President-elect Biden will take action related to this proclamation once he assumes office on January 20.

December 1, 2020: Court Sets Aside H-1B Rules Regarding Wage Requirements and Definition Changes

On December 1, a district court in California issued a ruling that set aside two interim final rules which had been announced by federal agencies on October 8: (1) a Department of Labor (DOL) rule which changed H-1B "prevailing wage" requirements; and (2) a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule which would have revised the definitions and standards for “specialty occupation." We celebrate this court ruling as a victory, as these rules would have had a significant negative impact on H-1Bs, both in education and private industry. The original ISSS announcement on this topic can be found here.

October 8, 2020: Changes Announced for H-1B Wage Requirements

Please Note: This information included here only addresses individuals who currently have H-1B visas through the University of Minnesota. Individuals who have H-1B status through another employer will need to consult their employer or a private immigration attorney. 

On October 8, the federal administration released new rules that impact H-1B sponsorship. The most immediate and significant change impacting University of Minnesota employees is a dramatic increase in the Department of Labor-calculated “prevailing wage,” or the minimum wage required to pay an H-1B employee in a particular occupation. You can read the full announcement here. We recognize these changes can be deeply frustrating to learn about, especially as they come with no warning. We sincerely regret the challenge this news can bring and are working to bring you accurate and timely information. 

No immediate changes to wages are required for current H-1B employees. However, under established procedures, the new, higher wage calculation will be required for new applications or to obtain an extension of an H-1B status.

This change will significantly increase the cost for departments of employing H-1B employees, and is expected to have the greatest impact on salaries for Postdoctoral Associates and Researchers, though others will be affected as well. Each position has a different prevailing wage rate, and specific job details are required to calculate the required wage for any particular position. In general, however, a review of the new data for some of the most common occupations on campus shows an increase of more than $15,000 in the prevailing wage for each position.

Positions that are covered under a union-negotiated wage (such as the Duluth and Crookston faculty UEA), as well as Medical Residents and Fellows, will not be impacted by this change.

It is likely that there will be litigation related to these rule changes. We will be tracking this for the potential impact (including a possible reversal or temporary injunction of the change) and will keep you updated. Unlike the recent proposed changes for F/J visas regarding duration of status, this new rule is being enacted without a review or comment period, severely limiting our abilities to advocate against these changes before they go into effect.

ISSS will reach out to all departments and employees who have initiated the H-1B process, if we identify a prevailing wage problem. In the meantime, we encourage you to initiate H-1B requests as early as possible (up to 6-8 months in advance), and we ask that you provide documentation quickly and carefully, to help ensure that we are able to work with you on identifying solutions as early as possible. 

September 25, 2020: Proposal Made to Eliminate Duration of Status

USCIS has announced a plan to eliminate "duration of status" for international—a change that could create greater uncertain, complications, and expense for students/scholars and institutions. To learn more about the proposal and how you can submit a comment regarding the change, please review our updated webpage.

August 12, 2020: DOS Announcement Regarding Exceptions to the June 22 Presidential Proclamation

On June 22, President Trump issued a proclamation that suspended H-1B visa issuance for those outside the U.S. (see below for the original announcement). This proclamation is still in place. As a reminder, the proclamation does not apply to individuals who:

  • Are currently in the U.S. and do not intend to travel abroad.
  • Are outside the U.S. but already have valid H-1B/H-4 visas in their passports.
  • Have an Advance Parole travel document as part of the green card application process.
  • Are exempt from the visa requirement (i.e. Canadian citizens).

On August 12, the Department of State provided additional information regarding exceptions for certain travel in the national interest. Exceptions that are most applicable to U of MN faculty/staff and their families include:

  1. An individual may be eligible for an H-1B visa based on employment related to COVID-19 or ongoing medical research in an area with a substantial public health benefit. [DOS language: For travel as a public health or healthcare professional, or researcher to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to conduct ongoing medical research in an area with a substantial public health benefit (e.g. cancer or communicable disease research). This includes those traveling to alleviate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that may be a secondary effect of the pandemic (e.g., travel by a public health or healthcare professional, or researcher in an area of public health or healthcare that is not directly related to COVID-19, but which has been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic).]
  2. An individual who was already in H-1B status on June 24 may be able to apply for a new H-1B visa if international travel becomes necessary. [DOS language: Travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification. Forcing employers to replace employees in this situation may cause financial hardship. Consular officers can refer to Part II, Question 2 of the approved Form I-129 to determine if the applicant is continuing in “previously approved employment without change with the same employer.”]
  3. Dependents (spouse/children) of H-1B non-immigrants who are not subject to the June 22 proclamation or who qualify for an exception may be eligible for H-4 visas. [DOS language: National interest exceptions are available for those who will accompany or follow to join a principal applicant who is a spouse or parent and who has been granted a national interest exception to P.P. 10052. Note, a national interest exception is not required if the principal applicant is not subject to P.P. 10052 (e.g. if the principal was in the United States on the effective date, June 24, or has a valid visa that the principal will use to seek entry to the United States).  In the case of a principal visa applicant who is not subject to P.P. 10052, the derivative will not be subject to the proclamation either.]
  4. Travel by technical specialists, senior level managers, and other workers whose travel is necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States. [Must meet at least 2 of 5 criteria -- see announcement.]
Please note: it’s possible that there may be lawsuits and/or additional guidance in response to this proclamation. We will try to keep you informed on the latest developments. Please contact an advisor if you have questions related to your specific situation.

July 24, 2020: An Update from ISSS on the SEVP Guidance Regarding Fall 2020 Courses

On Friday (July 24), the Student Exchange Visitor Program updated the guidelines for this fall.  

The two new items that most impact students at the University of Minnesota are:

  • New students (those who have not previously studied at the University of Minnesota) are eligible to receive a visa and enter the U.S. as long as they are not registered for 100% online courses. As the University of Minnesota is implementing a hybrid model this fall, new University of Minnesota international students are eligible for entry. We regret that new students have the additional requirement that they cannot be enrolled 100% online; new students can be assured that the University of Minnesota is here to support you in meeting this requirement. 
    • The Office of Undergraduate Education and Graduate Education are aware of this requirement, and the University remains committed to working with each student to ensure that they are able to meet the requirement of having at least one course that is not fully online. You should contact your academic advisor to review your registration options. 
    • ISSS has been updating I-20s upon student request to state that the University of Minnesota will be using a hybrid model. We have been contacted by new students who have been successful in receiving visas and in entering the United States. We continue to monitor this activity; please email isssnew@umn.edu if you have difficulties. 
  • The guidelines also affirm what was decided in the outcome of the July court case: Current students can stay in the U.S. and maintain F-1 status while taking 100% of their class online this fall.
  • The updated guidance clarified that all international students in the U.S. will continue to be able to maintain their status and remain in the U.S. if the University of Minnesota were to switch to all online course offerings during the fall semester. 

We recognize that the ongoing issuance of guidance can be incredibly stressful, and we regret how late in the summer these announcements are coming. Please contact ISSS if you have specific questions (new students should email isssnew@umn.edu while continuing students should email isss@umn.edu or complete the Phone Request Form to talk to an advisor). We are here to support you.

Review Our Frequently Asked Questions for More Information

June 22, 2020: Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry into the U.S. For Certain Foreign Nationals and Their Dependents

On June 22, President Trump issued a Proclamation suspending entry into the U.S. for foreign nationals in certain temporary visa categories (H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-1 exchange visitors along with the dependent family members for all of these visa types). The proclamation goes into effect on June 24, 2020 and expires on December 31, 2020.

The proclamation does NOT apply to F/J Students, certain J-1 categories (including the visa categories used at the University of Minnesota: Student, Research Scholar, Professor, Short-Term Scholar, Alien Physician), Green Card Holders, or spouse/minor children of a U.S. citizen.

It also does NOT apply to individuals who:

  • Are currently in the U.S. and do not intend to travel abroad.
  • Are outside the U.S. but already have valid H-1B/H-4 visas in their passports.
  • Have an Advance Parole travel document as part of the green card application process.
  • Presumably, this does not apply to individuals who are exempt from the visa requirement (i.e. Canadian citizens).

We urge individuals who are in the process of applying for H-1B visas to reach out directly to their employers and employers' attorneys for advice. University of Minnesota H-1B visa holders can contact the appropriate H-1B staff person.

ISSS advisers are available to answer questions about the proclamation and the impacts. Please either send an email to isss@umn.edu or complete our phone call request form to make an appointment to talk to an adviser.

May 29, 2020: Proclamation Regarding Certain F-1 and J-1 Graduate Students and Visiting Scholars From China

On May 29, a proclamation was issued by the U.S. government that bans the entry of certain F-1 and J-1 graduate students and visiting scholars from China effective June 1, 2020.

On June 1, ISSS sent an email to all UMN Chinese students and scholars on F-1 and J-1 visas with further information. The order does not include undergraduate students. Please review the email for more information, and we will provide further updates when appropriate.

GPS