08/15/2019 Final Public Charge Rule Published
On October 15, a new rule will go into effect that could negatively impact international students, scholars, employees and their foreign national dependents who receive public benefits in the United States. Public benefits are government funded programs to help low income individuals meet certain income, food, housing, medical or disability needs. When U.S. government agencies review whether someone is eligible to come or to stay in the United States, they assess whether that individual is financially self-sufficient, or whether they risk becoming a “public charge”. One way they assess this is by looking at whether an individual has ever received public welfare benefits in the United States. The U.S. agencies have always considered receipt of government cash assistance under the public charge consideration for permanent resident applications. This new rule expands the categories of public benefit support that government agencies can consider when determining whether someone is likely to become dependent on government support, and gives them grounds to deny both immigrant and nonimmigrant benefits sought by the applicant.
Which applications are impacted by the new rule?
-Extension of stay for employment and visitor nonimmigrant visas and their dependents (Note: At this time, extension of stay for F/J nonimmigrants is determined by UConn, not the government, and would not be assessed under this government rule but would need to show standard financial support documentation)
-Change of visa status, and potentially reinstatement of F-1 visa status
-Admission to the U.S.
-Adjustment of status to permanent resident
How will the rule be applied?
The government has identified specific public benefit programs which, if used over a certain time period, can lead to denial of the requested immigration benefit. If the applicant has received any of the following benefits for more than an aggregate of 12 months within a 36 months period, this could be seen as a negative factor for the individual’s benefit application.
–Any Federal, State, local, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance (other than tax credits), including:
(i) Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
(ii) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); or
(iii) Federal, State or local cash benefit programs for income maintenance (often called “General Assistance” in the State context, but which also exist under other names);
–Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (commonly known as “food stamps”);
-Section 8 Housing Assistance under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, as administered by HUD;
–Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation) under Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937;
–Medicaid under 42 U.S.C. 1396 et seq., except for:
(i) Benefits received for an emergency medical condition as described in 42 U.S.C. 1396b(v)(2)-(3), 42 CFR 440.255(c);
(ii) Services or benefits funded by Medicaid but provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);
(iii) School-based services or benefits provided to individuals who are at or below the oldest age eligible for secondary education as determined under State or local law;
(iv) Benefits received by an alien under 21 years of age, or a woman during pregnancy (and during the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy).
–Public Housing under section 9 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937.
Source: 8 CFR 212.21(b)
Each benefit “counts” toward the 12 months – for example, if someone receives two benefits for 7 months each, this counts as 14 months of benefits, even if those benefits were received within the same 7 month period.
Certain programs will NOT be included in the public charge determination. Of interest to our community, most notably use of the WIC program and the HUSKY Health program for children and pregnant women will not be considered within the definition of public benefits. HUSKY Health insurance falls under one of the Medicaid exceptions listed above.
Impact on applications
If you are applying for a change of status or extension of status (Form I-539), your application will be denied if you have exceeded the 12 month maximum within a 36 month period since beginning your current visa status, up until the date that your application is processed. However, the U.S. Immigration Service will only consider benefits received on or after October 15, 2019 toward the 12 month maximum
If you are applying for a visa, for admission to the U.S. at a port of entry, or for an adjustment of status to permanent resident, past use of government benefits does not lead to an automatic denial of the benefit, but will be a negative factor the government considers when assessing your future risk of becoming a public charge, and could be used to deny that benefit.
ISSS and UConn’s Office of the General Counsel cannot provide individualized guidance on how the public charge rule applies to your situation. We recommend that students, scholars and dependents seeking further clarification consult with an experienced immigration attorney. The ISSS Legal and Safety webpage links to contact information for immigration attorneys around CT. Low cost legal services based on qualifying income levels are also available through Connecticut Legal Services (statewide, including Willimantic) and the Connecticut Community Law Center at the UConn School of Law (Hartford).
We strongly recommend that any students, scholars or dependents who have received public assistance covered under the new rule work with an attorney for any change of status, extension of status, or adjustment of status application, and consult with an immigration attorney before any U.S. visa application or entry to the United States.
09/22/2018 Proposed Immigration Rule on Public Benefits
On September 22, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a proposed new immigration rule that could impact current nonimmigrants who are seeking immigrant status in the U.S., or who are seeking to extend or change their status while in the U.S. F and J visas are considered nonimmigrant visas to the U.S., meaning that you are here on a temporary visa. Immigrant visas are for permanent stay in the U.S., e.g. permanent residence or “green card”.
Current law has always considered whether an alien seeking admission to the U.S. or adjustment of status to permanent residence could become a public charge when determining whether to grant admission or adjustment in the United States. The government may deny an application for admission or adjustment if the applicant cannot support themselves financially. Under the current regulations, someone who had accepted cash benefits through a government welfare program can be deemed a public charge, and ineligible for admission or adjustment of status. The proposed rule would expand the definition of public benefits or forms of government assistance considered when determining whether an immigrant is likely to become a public charge. It would also consider use of public benefits when determining whether a nonimmigrant is eligible for a change of status or extension of stay in the United States. The proposed rule would expand the definition of public benefits to include other non-cash forms of public assistance, including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps), Medicaid and public housing benefits.
Please find more information on the DHS website about the proposed rule, including a link to the rule itself. While this is currently only a “proposed rule” and not yet official, the likelihood of this rule becoming official, or of immigration officials applying the proposed rule as informal guidance going forward, indicates that F and J visa holders should follow these guidelines now even if the rule is not officially adopted. There is also more information on the USCIS website about the rule including a Questions and Answers section.
Please be advised that as an F or J visa holder, you should not accept public (government) benefits, as your visa requires you to have sufficient financial resources to support your stay, and the stay of any accompanying family members with nonimmigrant visas. This includes HUSKY insurance for nonimmigrant children and women who are pregnant. We cannot provide any further advising on the proposed rule or on the impact of individual immigration applications. We advise you to seek the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney if you have further questions. ISSS lists area immigration attorneys here.
ISSS will update you if the proposed rule becomes effective.
05/10/2018 Proposed Rule on Unlawful Presence for Nonimmigrant Students and Exchange Visitors
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is the Department of Homeland Security agency that makes decisions on immigration benefits, recently issued a Policy Memorandum outlining a change in how they will consider F, J and M nonimmigrants to accrue “unlawful presence”. This change can affect eligibility for future admission to the United States.
Media reports on this policy change have confused some students and exchange visitors. The details of the proposed policy are complex, and some media reports have distorted the effects of the proposed change on students and exchange visitors. Many students have interpreted the policy change to mean that there will be no grace period following completion of the program of study. The grace period is a designated amount of time given to F and J nonimmigrants following completion of program that provides time for you to prepare for departure from the U.S, apply for OPT, initiate a SEVIS transfer or obtain a new Form I-20 to study at a different program level at your current school.
IF the new policy memorandum goes into effect on August 9, 2018, ISSS would like to confirm that this will not remove the grace period allowed to J and F nonimmigrants following completion of a program of study, or completion of post-completion OPT. For J nonimmigrants, the grace period is 30 days and for F nonimmigrants, the grace period is 60 days.
These are other circumstances to avoid, to prevent having unlawful presence under the proposed USCIS policy:
- Engaging in activity not permitted under your visa (for example, unauthorized employment, unauthorized drop below full time study, improper use of CPT, etc.)
- Staying beyond your authorized grace period following completion of your program
- Staying in the U.S. after withdrawing from your academic program, if you have not already requested a new I-20/DS-2019 to begin a new program.
- Staying beyond your I-94 “Admit Until Date”, if your I-94 lists an “Admit Until Date” other than D/S.
Accrual of more than 6 months of unlawful presence may lead to a 3- or 10-year bar on future entry to the United States. ISSS advisors will take into account the updated policy when advising you on your immigration matters, if it indeed goes into effect. Please let us know if you have any questions.
09/27/2017 Update: Presidential Proclamation – Indefinite Travel Bar
On September 24, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation following up on the prior Executive Order 13780, which required the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and State to review current screening and vetting procedures for foreign nationals worldwide seeking to enter the United States. Out of this review process, eight countries were identified as countries that do not meet U.S. criteria for visa screening and information sharing.
The proclamation imposes visa/entry restrictions for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. F and J visas are nonimmigrant visas. The restrictions are indefinite; if a country is later considered to meet U.S. criteria for visa screening, then the U.S. may consider lifting the restrictions.
Rather than impose a blanket restriction on visa issuance and entry, the newest proclamation imposes different visa/entry restrictions for different countries and different types of visas. Please see the chart below:
|Country||Nonimmigrant Visas||Immigrant and Diversity Visas|
|Chad||No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas||No immigrant or diversity visas|
|Iran||No nonimmigrant visas except F, M, and J student/exchange visas
|No immigrant or diversity visas|
|Libya||No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas||No immigrant or diversity visas|
|North Korea||No nonimmigrant visas
|No immigrant or diversity visas|
|Syria||No nonimmigrant visas
|No immigrant or diversity visas|
|Venezuela||No B-1, B-2 or B-1/B-2 visas of any kind for officials of the following government agencies: Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace; the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration, and Immigration; the Corps of Scientific Investigations, Judicial and Criminal; the Bolivarian Intelligence Service; and the People’s Power Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and their immediate family members.||No restrictions|
|Yemen||No B-1, B-2, and B-1/B-2 visas||No immigrant or diversity visas|
|Somalia||Subject to enhanced screening||No immigrant or diversity visas|
*From U.S. Department of State travel.state.gov Alert
Under the proclamation, the issuance of F and J visas, in addition to all other nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, are restricted for applicants who are citizens of North Korea and Syria. Citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, Yemen and certain visitors from Venezuela are restricted from B-1/B-2 visitor visa issuance. Citizens of Iran are only permitted F, M and J student or exchange visas. Citizens of Somalia may be permitted nonimmigrant visas but are subject to enhanced screening.
The Presidential Proclamation also allows for other defined exceptions, as well as individually-assessed waivers to the imposed restrictions on a case-by-case basis. See our resource links below for further details.
If you are from an identified country and your specific visa type is not explicitly restricted, please be advised that the U.S. embassy may still have technical or functional difficulty to issue your visa. Therefore, ISSS advises caution if you decide to travel, and we recommend that you consult with an immigration attorney before doing so.
When does the Proclamation Become Effective?
Phase 1 of the proclamation implementation, from September 24 to 12:01 a.m. October 18, applies only to nationals of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia, who “lack a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”. Those who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States may still qualify for visa/entry (seek legal counsel for further information).
Phase 2 begins October 18 for all eight identified countries according to the specific restrictions listed above, including individuals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.
What other conditions apply?
The proclamation indicates that the restrictions apply to foreign nationals who:
1. Are outside the U.S. on the applicable effective date of the proclamation;
- Do not have a valid visa on the applicable effective date of the proclamation; and
- Do not qualify for a visa or other valid travel document after cancellation of a prior travel document under Executive Order 13769
The above conditions are complex, and we recommend that any University community members from the eight countries who consider international travel consult with an immigration attorney before departing the U.S.
In addition, separate from the Presidential Proclamation, the U.S. government recently imposed certain visa sanctions on the countries of Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone. More information on these sanctions can be found here and on the websites of the U.S. embassies based in these countries. It is unclear whether the restricted visas will be issued to nationals of the sanctioned countries for individuals who apply in a different country.
|U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia||Discontinued issuance of B visas (visitors for pleasure/business)|
|U.S. Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea||Discontinued issuance of B visas (visitors for pleasure/business)|
|U.S. Embassy in Conakry, Guinea||Discontinued issuance of B visas as well as F, J, and M visas to Guinean government officials and their immediate family members|
|U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone||Discontinued issuance of B visas (visitors for pleasure/business) to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and immigration officials|
Please be advised that ISSS will continue to issue Form I-20s and Form DS-2019s to eligible applicants who meet University criteria for admission and can demonstrate financial ability to meet program and living expenses.
Further Resources on the latest Presidential Proclamation:
06/26/2017 Update: Presidential Executive Order
On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court approved to uphold certain measures of President Trump’s Executive Order Travel Ban. ISSS recommends the NAFSA – Association of International Educators webpage on Executive Order updates for the most up to date information.
We are waiting to see how the latest developments will impact international students traveling to the U.S. to begin their program of study, or to return from travel to resume their studies, as well as impact on traveling family members. Please inform ISSS of any personal travel experiences you have this summer that may give an indication of how the Executive Order has impacted travel for international students, scholars and their families.
UConn International Student and Scholar Services Travel Abroad
04/18/2017 Update: Presidential Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American
On April 18, President Trump signed a new executive order that may lead to reforms in the area of H-1B high-skilled worker visa program. The executive order does not lead to any immediate changes to the visa program, but rather, calls for government agencies to suggest reforms to the current program.
Section 5 of the executive order addresses workers and the immigration system:
Sec. 5. Ensuring the Integrity of the Immigration System in Order to “Hire American.” (a) In order to advance the policy outlined in section 2(b) of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, and consistent with applicable law, propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse.
(b) In order to promote the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.
Read the full text of the executive order here. ISSS will update students and scholars with any reforms as a result of this executive order.
3/15/2017 Update: Federal Judge Halts Executive Order Entry Ban
A Federal Judge issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on Wednesday, March 15, that prevents parts of the executive order (Sections 2 and 6) on immigration from going into effect today. This includes the entry ban for foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen, and the temporary suspension of the refugee program. We will continue to keep students updated as more developments from this legal battle unfold. You may read a copy of the temporary restraining order here: https://www.pacermonitor.com/view/P52F2SY/State_of_Hawaii_v_Trump__hidce-17-00050__0219.0.pdf
It is unclear whether the administration will continue to move forward with other parts of the executive order that were not frozen under the TRO. This includes the comprehensive review of information gathering for vetting of visa applicants from all countries, suspension of the visa interview waiver program, review of visa reciprocity and expedited implementation of a biometric entry/exit system. ISSS will continue to update our webpage with new information on other parts of the executive order.
3/6/2017 – Revised Executive Order
President Trump signed a new executive order today to replace the order issued in January, which has now been revoked. Read the new executive order here. The new order will become effective on March 16, 2017, and outlines a process to review current visa processes and identify countries that do not provide sufficient information to adjudicate visa applications. A list of countries that do not provide sufficient information will be produced within twenty days after the executive order effective date, and those countries will be given fifty days to comply with U.S. expectations for information requests. Non-compliant countries could face indefinite U.S. visa restrictions. The executive order also calls for a 90-day visa issuance and travel ban on citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen (certain exceptions apply). It suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program for most visa renewal applicants and calls for a review of visa reciprocity practices. Finally, the order suspends decisions on refugee applications for 120 days. Please check this website for any updates as they occur.
Impact on Students & Scholars from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen
- Individuals from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen who do not have valid U.S. visas will be restricted from entering the U.S. for the 90-day period from the effective date of the executive order.
- Individuals from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen will not be issued visas to enter the U.S. for the next 90 days. See information from the Department of State regarding visa applications from nationals of the countries listed above.
- Students from these countries who: have valid U.S. visas; who are legal permanent residents of the United States; who have advance parole; who are traveling on a passport of a country not on this list; or who have a visa that otherwise qualifies for an exception, will be allowed to seek entry during the 90-day period from the effective date of the executive order. However, we caution against unnecessary travel during this time.
- Students, scholars and employees from these countries whose visas have expired, are eligible for a waiver of the visa issuance ban if they are returning to resume their study, scholarly program, or work. The process to obtain a waiver is unclear and unnecessary travel should be avoided. If you are in this situation and need to travel please consult with an immigration attorney before doing so.
- ISSS will continue to issue Forms I-20/DS-2019 for admitted students and visiting scholars with plans to begin in summer and fall 2017, as well as spring 2018 terms.
- If you are from one of the countries designated above and you must travel, please consult with an immigration attorney before traveling.
- The Executive Order does not call for deportation of nonimmigrants and immigrants who are in the U.S.
- If you are from one of the designated countries, you do not have to leave the United States based on this executive order.
- It is very important to make sure that you maintain your current visa status.
- F-1/J-1 students from these countries can still:
- Work on campus incidental to status (up to 20 hours per week when school is in session)
- Participate in Curricular Practical Training (for F-1 students) and/or Academic Training (J-1 students)
- Extend your program of study, if eligible.
- Transfer to another school to continue study, if eligible.
- ISSS is awaiting confirmation from USCIS regarding continued processing of benefits for individuals from the affected countries.
Impact on all Students & Scholars
- The executive order suspends the Visa Interview Waiver Program. This may require all students/scholars who travel and need to renew their visas to schedule a consular interview. Please check the website of the embassy/consulate where you will apply for further information.
- Students and scholars who travel and must renew their visa should expect longer visa appointment wait times, and longer visa processing times. Please plan accordingly when arranging travel outside the U.S.
- Students and scholars may expect increased security checks, visits to secondary inspection when traveling, etc.
- There could be changes to U.S. visa application fees and duration of visa validity when you apply for a visa in the future.
- New countries could be added to the list of visa-restricted countries after review of visa application processes.
- If you receive an email or letter from the Nonimmigrant Visa Division of a U.S. consulate with a message about a visa revocation, please see ISSS right away.
- Report travel problems ISSS and to DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP)
Information for UConn Faculty & Staff
UConn faculty and staff may have many questions about how the executive order will affect UConn students, scholars and staff. Please do not hesitate to refer your students to ISSS if your students have concerns about their particular situation.
Can we admit students who are from countries who are barred visa/entry under the terms of the executive order? Yes. Admission decisions should be made without consideration to country of nationality. ISSS will continue to issue Forms I-20/Forms DS-2019 for admitted students from all countries who qualify for a Form. If you have international applicants or admitted students who are concerned about their ability to arrive in time for the start of their academic program, you may refer them to ISSS for further visa guidance.
How can we support our international students and scholars, both from the affected countries and in general?
At this time, international students may feel worry and anxiety about how they are perceived in the United States, and about their future ability to travel freely and meet their academic goals. Students may appreciate gestures that demonstrate they are valued at UConn. We encourage staff and faculty to:
- Attend events put on by UConn cultural-themed student groups, the UConn Cultural Centers and ISSS. Take time to talk to students at events.
- Invite students and visiting scholars to participate in department activities and U.S. life.
- Take note of the contributions of international students and scholars from the affected countries, and other countries, to your department and to the University in general.
How can we support students’ academic plans?
If your students will be traveling overseas during their academic program, they may face longer visa appointment wait times, and extended visa-processing times. If visa delays or a visa/entry bar prevents your student from arriving to UConn as expected, you may want to consider offering these students the opportunity to work on their degree study from outside the U.S., until they are able to return. Offering academic flexibility is the best way to support your students who find themselves in this situation. Please note: in order for students to maintain their active SEVIS status while outside the United States, they must be working on full time academic study. Students who are outside of the U.S. for more than five months may be required to start the I-20/visa process over from the beginning in order to return.
I have a student from a country subject to the entry ban who will soon finish their program of study. What options do they have?
If an international student is ready to graduate, they cannot put off graduating to extend their student visa status. If they will stay in the U.S. to pursue post-graduate training, they may still apply for OPT or a change of status to another appropriate visa type. Students who are not ready to graduate may request an extension of their I-20/DS-2019 if there are unexpected academic or medical reasons that require the student to continue in their program. Remember that international students are required to study on a full time basis each semester. If they are in their final term of study and require less than full time registration to graduate, they may take a reduced course load for that term only. Students who are ready to graduate also have the option to pursue a new program of study in the United States, provided they are admitted to the new program and request the new I-20/DS-2019 within 60 days after completing their UConn degree.
- ISSS Immigration Attorney List
- CT Bar Association: www.ctbar.org
- CT Law Help: ctlawhelp.org/self-help-guides/immigration
- Connecticut Legal Services – Immigration Hotline (coming mid-February) – email:PovertyLaw@ConnLegalServices.org
- 03/6/2017 Revised Executive Order
- DHS Q&A: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry to the United States: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/03/06/qa-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states
- Department of State Alert: Executive Order on Visas: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/news/important-announcement.html
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Statement and questions/answers regarding executive order
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Statement by Secretary of Homeland Security on executive order
- Departmetn of State: Remarks by Secretary of State on executive order
- NAFSA Statement on Revised Executive Order: Revised Executive Order Makes America Less Safe, Harms International Ties
- Resources for International Students & Scholars on their Rights in Encounters with Law Enforcement
- NAFSA Travel Advisory for Nationals of Certain Countries Pursuant to Executive Order
- NAFSA Visa Revocation Basics
- What to expect when traveling: The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Inspection Process
- What to expect when traveling: CBP Search Authority
- What to expect when traveling: Inspection of Electronic Devices by CBP
- UConn Counseling & Mental Health Services
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
- ACLU Know Your Rights https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights?topics=270
- ACLU Know Your Rights, Discrimination against immigrants and muslims: https://www.aclu.org/feature/know-your-rights-discrimination-against-immigrants-and-muslims
View the ISSS Information Session on the Executive Order (Note: To play this video, you must have Silverlight.)