DHS Updates

Important USCIS Updates

February 26, 2021: USCIS announced greater flexibility related to delayed I-765 receipts.  USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain Applicants Filing Form I-765 for OPT

  • 14 month OPT Period Flexibilities: the 12 month OPT is required to be completed within 14 months from the end of their program.  Because of the delay will allow the 14 month period to start from the date of approval of the OPT.  This means the student should be eligible for 12 months of OPT. 
  • If a student is eligible for 12 months of OPT, but did not receive the 12 months, then the student should follow the instructions in the link above.
  • The guidance provides flexibility if an OPT was rejected and how to refile.

February 26, 2021: USCIS announced Significant USCIS Lockbox Delays in Processing of Receipt Notices. USCIS emailed an announcement to stakeholders setting forth the steps it will take to remedy the ill effects of the recent delays in processing at USCIS lockboxes.  https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/significant-uscis-lockbox-delays-processing-receipt-notices

January 12, 2021:  ISS has updated our website to provide currently known information and how to provide ISS information about USCIS receipt delays.  We will provide any updates to the following website.  Go to the widget called "Important Updates Regarding USCIS Receipts."

USCIS provided an update at https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-lockbox-updates. 
*** January 8, 2021, USCIS adjusted the filing location for "certain foreign students filing Form I-765." https://www.uscis.gov/i-765-addresses ***

New President Administration Executive Actions
January 25, 2021: Continues COVID-19 restrictions for persons from the Shengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, China and Iran and adds South Africa.  See information at the ISS COVID-19 FAQ, https://iss.tamu.edu/Current-Students/Traveling-and-Coronavirus.


COVID-19 Guidance

January 12, 2021: The frequently asked questions (FAQ) have been updated to reflect the Spring 2021 guidance.
December 9, 2020:  A news article stated, "Nonimmigrant students should continue to abide by SEVP guidance originally issued in March 2020," said the spokeswoman, Carissa Cutrell. "The guidance enables schools and students to engage in distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19."  https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2020/12/09/federal-guidance-foreign-students-remains-same-spring

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of State have not yet published Spring 2021 guidance related to COVID-19 and F or J regulations.  Please visit the ISS COVID-19 FAQ for more information.  ISS will be updating the FAQ to reflect the recent statement from SEVP.


The Texas A&M University System submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security proposed regulation to replace duration of status.  Click here to read the comments.  DHS has not published a final rule or designated if or when the final rule would go into effect.

More information regarding the proposed regulations is located at https://www.nafsa.org/professional-resources/browse-by-interest/proposal-replace-duration-status

Recent Employment-Based Changes and Proposals
January 7, 2021, USCIS announced "has announced a final rule that will modify the H-1B cap selection process, amend current lottery procedures, and prioritize wages."  The rule is scheduled to go into effect March 9, 2021.

In October, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor published interim final regulations regarding H-1B and labor certifications. 
December 1, 2020, there was a court injunction regarding the regulations. 

More information regarding the interim final regulations is located at https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/recent-employment-based-changes-and-proposals


Optional Practical Training Legality
A lawsuit regarding the legality of Optional Practical Training (OPT) has been going on since 2016.  The Texas A&M University System signed on to the Amicus Brief in support of OPT.  https://www.presidentsalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Final-OPT-Amicus-Brief-list.pdf
More information regarding the lawsuit is located at https://www.nafsa.org/professional-resources/browse-by-interest/stem-opt-washtech-litigation

Government Actions

OPT enforcement
The Department of Homeland Security has begun terminating students on OPT SEVIS records if the student has not updated their employment information and exceeded the 90 days of unemployment.  If a student receives a letter mailed to them stating that their SEVIS record is going to be terminated, they should reach out to ISS immediately.
DHS is also targeting fraudulent employers and students who report that they are working for a fraudulent employer. 
More information regarding the DHS actions is located at https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/ice-opt-enforcement-actions