The U.S. Department of State has announced technical problems with its internal systems, causing delays in the processing of U.S. visa applications at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. OVIS posted information about the system problem on our website and Facebook page last week, and we are now following up with an email communication to ensure everyone is aware of the continuing situation, particularly when considering international travel to apply for a U.S. visa stamp. Below are links to the U.S. Department of State website and the U.S. Embassy in London website – a high volume consular post – with more detailed information. Note that each consular post around the world is handling the problem differently in terms of scheduling new appointments and processing pending visa applications, so please be sure to check the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply for visa stamps. OVIS will continue to update our website and Facebook page with new information, but the best resource is always the government agency itself so we encourage you to monitor the State Department’s website newsroom for any developments.
Link to State Department update: http://www.travel.state.gov/content/travel/english/news/technological-systems-issue.html
Link to U.S. Embassy in London website announcement: http://london.usembassy.gov/visas.html
Applicants for U.S. visas are currently experiencing delays in visa processing due to a system problem that began on June 9, 2015, and that prevents U.S. Consulates from completing required security checks and issuing visa stamps. Information can be found on the Dept. of State’s website at http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/english/news/technological-systems-issue.html.
The Department of Homeland Security’s SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) is undergoing a major upgrade beginning the evening of Friday, June 26, 2015 and extending through Sunday, June 28, 2015. During that time, the SEVIS system will be down and cannot be accessed. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has advised that although the upgrade is scheduled to end on Sunday evening, it is possible the outage will continue to Monday, June 29, 2015. Other government agencies will not have access to SEVIS during the outage -so verification of SEVIS information related to F and J visa status will not be possible during that time.
Impact on International Travel
The outage means that Customs & Border Protection officials at the ports of entry will not be able to verify F or J status if there is an issue with an international student or scholar’s travel documentation. For this reason we and SEVP recommend, if possible, that students and scholars in F and J status avoid international travel during this period. If you must travel during the SEVIS outage, please be sure you have all of your immigration documents with you, and that they are up to date (valid unexpired passport, valid unexpired visa stamp, valid Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 with updated travel signature, and EAD work card if on F-1 Optional Practical Training).
Other government services
During the outage, other government agencies will not be able to access SEVIS to verify F and J immigration status in order to process requests for benefits. For this reason, we recommend that you make requests either before or after the planned outage to avoid delays in processing. These include:
OVIS will continue to provide information regarding the SEVIS upgrade in future communications.
Effective May 29, 2015, a new rule allows F-2 dependents to enroll in a part-time course of study at an SEVP-certified school. This is a change from the current rule, which only permitted F-2 dependents (other than children in grades K-12) to engage in study that was recreational or avocational in nature. Under the new rule, F-2 dependents may engage in part-time study in courses offered by an SEVP-certified school, even where the course of study leads to a degree or certificate. The F-2 dependents will not be eligible for employment. If an F-2 dependent wishes to enroll in a full-time course of study, the dependent must obtain F-1 status.
USCIS announced that it received nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions for the FY2016 H-1B petition filing period. The agency completed the random selection process (lottery) on April 13, 2015 to select enough petitions to meet the cap. Unselected petitions will be returned with filing fees.
USCIS link is here.
USCIS link is here.
Effective May 26, 2015, DHS will extend eligibility for work authorization to certain dependent H-4 spouses of H-1B beneficiaries who are in the employment-based permanent residence process. Eligibility is limited to spouses of H-1B principal visa holders who have an approved I-140 immigrant visa petition or who have been granted a post sixth-year extension of H-1B status under Section 106(a) of AC21. Link: USCIS webiste.
The Department of Homeland Security will not begin accepting applications submitted under the new DACA expansion today as originally planned. The change is in response to a federal court order. This does not affect the existing DACA program. Eligible applicants can continue to request an initial grant of DACA or DACA renewal. Link: USCIS website.
USCIS will begin accepting applications under the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on February 18, 2015. The program expansion is one of a number of Executive Actions on immigration announced by President Obama in November 2014.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is launching a Border Wait Time App that provides estimated wait times and open lane status at land ports-of-entry to help travelers plan their trips. Link to the announcement is here.
On November 20, 2014 President Obama announced several Executive Actions on immigration. Details on the new initiatives will become available over the next several months. For more information about
the Executive Actions please refer to the USCIS website.
The U.S. Department of State has announced that visas for Chinese citizen tourists and students will be issued by U.S. Consulates for longer validity periods beginning November 12, 2014. The Department issued an FAQ providing details about the new agreement. Links to the Announcement and FAQ.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced that Visa Waiver travelers will now be required to provide additional information in their travel applications as part of the agency's effort to enhance the security of the program. The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of certain designated countries to travel to the U.S. as visitors for business or pleasure for up to 90 days without a visa stamp. Department of Homeland Security website link is here.
The FY16 Diversity Lottery opened on October 1, 2014 and will remain open for registration until Monday, November 3, 2014. The U.S. Department of State official diversity lottery instructions link here. Registrants who are selected in the lottery will be informed beginning May 5, 2015.
Consular Consolidated Database: Updates on Operational Status - Department of State website link is here.
The Department of State announced it has resumed operations following a system outage last week that affected the agency's ability to print and issue visa stamps in passports at U.S. Consulates abroad. Some consulates may temporarily limit or reschedule nonimmigrant visa interview appointments, and applicants who have already had their appointments may experience delays in visa issuance. Find more information at Dept. of State website and Facebook.
The Internal Revenue Service announced that Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) will expire if they are not used on a federal income tax return for five consecutive years. ITINs will not begin being deactivated until 2016. IRS's previously policy ITINs would automatically expire after five years, even if they were used on tax returns. IRS website link is here.
The Department of Homeland Security launched an enhanced website with new features for schools and international students, including an interactive glossary and an "Ask a Question" section. The website link is here.
U.S. Consulates in Canada are temporarily suspending TCN (third country national) visa processing during the peak demand period of June, July and August 2014. Already scheduled appointments for this time period will not be affected.
The U.S. Embassy in Thailand has posted a message that the Royal Thai Army has announced it has seized control of the administration of the country. U.S. Embassy in Thailand website link is here.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has launched a new website and FAQs for retrieval of the electronic I-94 arrival record. OVIS recommends that international students, scholars and staff access, print out and retain the electronic I-94 record upon each entry to the U.S. to ensure the arrival information is accurate. CBP website link is here.
On April 7, 2014 USCIS announced that the H-1B cap for Fiscal Year 2015 has been reached, and will conduct a random lottery selection process. USCIS website link is here.
Chile Added to Visa Waiver Program
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced the designation of Chile into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Beginning May 1, 2014, eligible Chilean passport holders will be able to visit the U.S. without a nonimmigrant visa. Find more information at these links: DHS announcement, VWP link.
In January 2012 the U.S. Department of State launched a pilot interview waiver program, which is now permanent. Under the program, U.S. Consulates abroad can waive the visa interview for applicants seeking renewal of a nonimmigrant visa within 12 months of the expiration of the initial visa in the same visa classification. Interview waivers are also available for renewals for up to 48 months after expiration of the initial visa in the same classification for certain visa types, including F and J visas. The State Dept's Foreign Affairs Manual link is here.
USCIS recently launched a new online change of address tool to enable non-U.S. citizens to report a change of address. The tool uses a single form and users receive email confirmation of the notification. Information about the change of address notification requirement can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/forms/change-address-information.
*NOTE that OVIS must continue to report all changes of address for F-1 and J-1 visa holders in SEVIS within 10 days of a residential move. All students in F-1 and J-1 status must still report changes of address in BannerStudent and all J-1 scholars must still notify OVIS of any address change.
The link to the change of address tool: https://egov.uscis.gov/coa/displayCOAForm.do.
USCIS – USCIS will continue operations during the shutdown. Individuals should report to interviews and appointments as scheduled. The agency will continue to process applications and petitions for immigration benefits, although there is the risk of delays in processing times.
U.S. Dept. of State – DOS will continue operations so long as funding from applications is available. U.S. Consulates plan to remain open and process visa applications.
U.S. Dept. of Labor – DOL is not accepting Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) or Applications for Permanent Employment Certification (PERM Labor Certifications) during the shutdown.
Customs & Border Protection – CBP operations are considered essential and will continue during the shutdown. The agency has not yet announced, however, whether it will suspend adjudication of certain border applications (TN and L-1) during the shutdown.
E-Verify – The E-Verify system will be unavailable during the shutdown.
Social Security – Social Security will remain open during the shutdown, but will not accept or process applications for new or replacement Social Security Numbers.
Online registration for the 2015 Diversity Visa Lottery begins on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 and ends on Saturday, November 2, 2013. Information about the program and registration instructions can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.
There have been several news reports today of U.S. Department of State plans to close several U.S. Embassies on Sunday, August 4, and possibly longer. NPR, CNN and CBS news have posted reports and a list of the Embassies set to close. The Department of State website link is here.
The U.S. Department of State has announced it will immediately begin accepting visa applications for same-sex spouses so long as the marriage is valid in the jurisdiction where the marriage took place. The Department of State website FAQs site is here.
Effective July 29, 2013 the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will no longer issue paper receipts for the I-901 SEVIS fee payment. Students and scholars in F and J nonimmigrant status can print payment confirmation from the FMJ fee website.
Department of Homeland Security website link is here.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently implemented a system that updates U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) databases with a "lookout" for individuals in F or J status whose SEVIS record have been terminated, cancelled, or completed. F or J nonimmigrants with a lookout in their record will be referred to secondary inspection at the time of entry to the U.S., where a more thorough review will be conducted to confirm admissibility to the U.S. Individuals who do not have a lookout on their record due should be admitted to the U.S. through the regular CBP process at the primary inspection points, unless there is some other, unrelated reason for secondary inspection. This new protocol replaces the previous, interim procedure implemented in early May 2013 where all F and J nonimmigrants were referred to secondary inspection for SEVIS status verification.
Effective immediately, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) officers at the air, land and sea ports of entry will be required to verify the SEVIS record of every entering international student and scholar holding F, J or M nonimmigrant visa status. Because officers do not currently have access to SEVIS at primary inspection points, international students and scholars will be referred to Secondary Inspection, a separate area from the regular line where more complex immigration admissions issues are addressed.
What this means is that international students and scholars entering the U.S. by air, land or sea in F or J status should plan that their U.S. entry process could take extra time (1-3 hours). This is particularly important for students who are going through Customs in between flight connections.
CBP is working to provide SEVIS access to officers at primary inspection sites, but until that is completed international students and scholars should expect delays.
Effective April 30, 2013 U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) will begin implementing an automated Form I-94 arrival and departure record process at air and sea ports-of-entry. For travelers entering the U.S. through a land border crossing, CBP will continue to issue the paper Form I-94. The implementation is expected to be completed over a four-week period, with the Boston, New York and Newark airports scheduled for the week of May 7, 2013. Under the new system, international travelers, including F-1, J-1, H-1B, TN, E and O nonimmigrants arriving to the United States by air and sea will no longer receive a paper Form I-94 as part of the immigration inspection and admission process. Instead, CBP will create an electronic record of arrival using information from both Department of Homeland Security and Department of State. CBP will issue an admission stamp in the traveler's passport documenting the date of admission, port-of-entry, class of entry (visa status), and duration of admission. Following admission, travelers will be able to access and obtain an electronic print-out of the I-94 record of admission on the CBP website at http://www.cbp.gov/I94. The print-out will contain the I-94 number, which is required in applications for such benefits as Social Security numbers and state driver's licenses. The website is expected to go live on April 30, 2013.
For more information about I-94 automation, please see the CBP announcement at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/i-94_instructions/i94_rollout.xml
I-94 Fact Sheet at http://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/i94_factsheet_2.pdf
I-94 Quick Reference at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~ovis/docs/i94quickreference.pdf
USCIS link is here.
The Department of State website link is here.
The IRS site link is here.
The Department of State website link is here.
U.S. Mission to India expands the Interview Waiver Program for certain nonimmigrant students who are renewing their visas to attend the same school. The link to Dept of State's announcement is here.
U.S. Consulate Chennai, India website - http://chennai.usconsulate.gov/visas.html
U.S. Embassy Khartoum, Sudan website - http://sudan.usembassy.gov/
U.S. Consulate Chennai, India website - http://chennai.usconsulate.gov/
For more information, please visit Department of State website: http://www.travel.state.gov/
U.S. Embassy New Delhi, India website - http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/pr090512.html
The link to Department of State's website is here.
In a memo dated August 10, 2012, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency instructed officers at U.S. ports-of-entry to stop issuing admission stamps on the Form I-20 presented by international students seeking admission to the country. CBP link is here.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has reported a fraud scheme targeting foreign nationals in the United States. Individuals posing as Immigration Officers are reportedly calling foreign nationals and claiming a problem with immigration records, asking the foreign nationals to pay a penalty to resolve the issue. These individuals may have personal information and in some instances are asking foreign nationals to confirm information such as a visa or Form I-94 Admission number. If you receive such a call, please contact OVIS. Do not forward any funds or disclose personal information.
IRS site link is here.
President Obama announced that his administration will offer temporary relief from deportation to certain young persons without immigration status who came to the United States before the age of 16, have lived here continuously for five years, and meet other eligibility criteria. The press release issued by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is available here.
The link to the USCIS announcement is here.
A limited number of NIV appointment slots for July 1 through August 17 will open up through the Embassy's Operator Assisted Visa NIV Appointment Booking Service during the third week of June. The number of appointments available per day will be limited to 200, with priority given to Student/Exchange Visitor and Petition-Based visa categories. There will be limited B-1/B-2 appointment availability during this time and, as a result, applicants who have been refused B-1/B-2 visas in the past six months will only be able to schedule appointments after August 17.
For more information about ELIS, visit the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/uscis-elis.
As of April 20, USCIS had received a total of 35,900 H-1B cap filings for FY 2013, including 25,000 cases against the standard cap of 65,000 and 10,900 filings against the cap exemption of 20,000 for foreign nationals holding U.S. advanced degrees. Click here for the USCIS announcement.
The State Department has confirmed that the annual limit in the EB-2 preference category for China-mainland born and India has been reached for the current fiscal year.
Department of State press release - http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/03/187114.htm
ICE Fact Sheet - http://www.ice.gov/news/library/factsheets/syrian.htm
U.S. Embassy London, U.K. website - http://london.usembassy.gov/
U.S. Embassy Beijing, China website - http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/20120209amb-visa.html
The Department of State recently discovered difficulties with its database communicating with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program's SEVIS database. As a result, on November 18, 2011 the Department of State confirmed it was temporarily halting the issuance of F, M and J visas. On November 21, 2011 the agency announced that the technical problems have been resolved and that it has instructed embassies and consulates to resume issuing F, M and J visas immediately.
The Department of Homeland Security launches its StudyInTheStates website - http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/
Immigration & Customs Enforcement issues new Fact Sheet on Applying for a Driver's License or State ID Card - http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/dmv_factsheet.pdf
The State Department has issued revised results for the Fiscal Year 2012 Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery. Foreign nationals who entered the FY 2012 lottery during the filing period from October 5, 2010 to November 2, 2010 may now return to the official lottery website to check their results. In May 2011 the State Department voided the original results due to an internal computer error.
The Department of Homeland Security has ended its NSEERS registration program by removing all countries from its designated list. The announcement can be found on the Customs & Border Protection agency's website at:
Certain applicants for employment and family-based green cards will now be able to apply for a single card that combines the employment authorization document and the advance parole travel document. You can read the announcement from USCIS here:
New USCIS filing fees will take effect November 23, 2010. USCIS announced increases in fees for many immigration filings, including I-765 applications for EADs, H-1B petitions and premium processing cases. Filings postmarked on or after November 23 must include the new fees.
Click here for the USCIS Fact Sheet
Citizens and eligible nationals of participating Visa Waiver Program countries may apply for admission to the United States at U.S. ports of entry as nonimmigrant aliens for a period of ninety days or less for business or pleasure without first obtaining a nonimmigrant visa, provided that they are otherwise eligible for admission under applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. On March 4, 2010, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, designated Greece as a country that is eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program. Accordingly, this rule updates the list of countries authorized to participate in the Visa Waiver Program by adding Greece.
Last Updated: 6/23/15