Category: Uncategorized

USCIS Premium Processing Fee Increases

January 3rd, 2024 in Featured, Uncategorized

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced increases to premium-processing fees effective February 26, 2024.

Premium processing allows for accelerated case review for certain petitions. Premium processing is available for several services, including OPT and STEM OPT extensions, certain Form I-539 applications to extend/change nonimmigrant status and Form I-129 petitions for nonimmigrant employment. The increased fee will be required for all requests postmarked on, or after February 26, 2024. See details below for the most common fees utilized by our international community:

  • Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (OPT/STEM OPT) will increase from $1500 to $1685.
  • Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Employee (H-1B, TN, etc.) will increase from $2500 to $2,805.
  • Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status will increase from e is $1750 to $1965.

Please consult with the ISSO if you are unsure which fee will apply to your application/petition before filing as USCIS will not accept requests that are not accompanied by the appropriate fee on the date the request is received. You can find additional details about premium process options here.

ISSO Launching New Immigration System for Students

October 3rd, 2023 in Uncategorized

The International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) is launching a new system to manage all international student documents and immigration processing. The new ISSOPortal will allow students to securely upload documents and to initiate and track requests for immigration processing like travel signatures CPT, OPT, extensions etc. online through a single portal.

ISSOPortal is scheduled to go live on November 20th, 2023!

There will be a system cutover period when ISSO will be not be able to process any immigration requests. Students must submit all processing requests by Monday, November 6th at 5pm or they will need to wait until after the system launches.

This means the following students should submit completed requests to ISSO ASAP:

  • student planning on travelling outside of the US over the Thanksgiving break who need a travel signature,
  • students requiring any ISSO immigration processing before November 20th, and
  • students graduating in January 2024 looking to apply for OPT in November

In addition, the ISSO will be closed Friday, November 10th in observation of Veterans’ Day. From Monday, November 13th through Friday, November 18th the ISSO lobby will be open from 2-5pm each day to sign immigration documents for travel. We will have in-person and virtual advisor-on-call each day that week from 2-5pm to answer basic questions while we migrate data and train on the new system.

Once the ISSOPortal is live, international students will:

  • Access the new ISSS portal using your BU login
  • Submit all immigration requests through ISSS
  • View request tracking in ISSS
  • Upload and retrieve documents in ISSS (including immigration documents)
  • Interact with ISSO via ISSS going forward

Please watch your email inboxes for details in the next few weeks as we prepare for launch.

Fall 2023 Student Reminders

August 17th, 2023 in Uncategorized

Please review the information below for important reminders about maintaining status for new students and continuing F and J students. Please read our updated summaries of F-1 student and J-1 student regulations to learn more! 

Update Your Addresses in the MyBU Student Portal 

It is critical that you understand the different addresses on the MyBU Student Portal and keep each address updated correctly. Local address is used by the university to know your location while the Foreign-Immigration and the US-Immigration address are reported to the US Department of Homeland Security through SEVIS. Immigration regulations require that you update your address within 10 days of a move so you must keep your immigration-related addresses in the MyBU Student Portal up to date throughout the duration of your program. 

  • Foreign-Immigration address: must reflect your address in your home country 
  • US-Immigration address: must reflect your current US address (If you are living on campus, this address will automatically reflect your BU housing address) 

Initial ISSO Check-in for New Students 

All international students beginning a new program and F-1 students returning to campus after a leave of absence will be required to complete Initial ISSO check-in remotely through MyBU Student Portal. You will be required to upload copies of your US immigration documents to notify us of your arrival in the US so we can activate your SEVIS record. You should only complete Initial ISSO check-in after you have entered the US. Students beginning a new program of study will receive separate email messages with additional details about Initial ISSO check-in 

SEVIS Reporting for Continuing Students 

Boston University is required to confirm your enrollment to the US Department of Homeland Security through the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) at the start of each semester. The ISSO will rely on your academic registration data to automatically update your SEVIS record for fall. You do not need to take any additional steps provided you are academically registered. 

Enrollment Requirements 

Remember that you must be enrolled full-time and making normal academic progress in your degree each semester. For most students, full-time is a minimum of 12 credits. Some graduate student programs may have different full-time equivalents, but you must be certified as a full-time student to maintain valid student immigration status. Students are only allowed to take one online course each semester towards the 12 credit enrollment minimum so students seeking to enroll in an online course must enroll in at least 8 credits of in-person instruction. 

If it is your last semester and you need less than 12 credits to graduate, you should enroll in at least one on-campus course and request authorization for a Reduced Course load from your ISSO advisor prior to the start of the semester. 

On-Campus Employment 

Immigration regulations allow international students to work a maximum of 20 hours per week on-campus during the regular semester. If you have multiple jobs, you are still restricted to a maximum of 20 hours per week. The consequences of exceeding the 20 hour per week limit are severe so it is important you pay attention to your hours each week. You can read more about being hired to work on-campus on the ISSO website. If you have not worked on-campus before, you will need to complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility form before you begin work. If you do not have a Social Security Number, you will need to apply for one after you secure a job. 

Off-Campus Employment 

Immigration regulations intentionally limit employment option off campus during the academic year so you can concentrate on your full-time coursework. You can learn about eligibility requirements and the application process from the ISSO website. Consequences of beginning employment without authorization are severe so, it is critical that you obtain specific authorization BEFORE you begin any employment opportunity. 

  • F-1 students may qualify for Curricular Practical Training from the ISSO for academic internship experiences specifically required by a program of study or a particular course. Alternatively, if you are interested in gaining work experience related to your major field of study during your program, you may need to apply for pre-completion OPT employment authorization in advance from USCIS for Optional Practical Training for jobs directly related to your field of study. 
  • J-1 students may qualify for Academic Training authorization from the ISSO for experiences related to your program of study. 

January 2024 Graduates 

If you are graduating in January, please note that you will have a 60-day grace period after your official program completion date of January 12, 2024 during which you must: 

We wish you a successful semester. The ISSO team is available in-person or virtually to support you. Attend one of our immigration workshops or visit our website to learn how to contact us, find your ISSO advisor, meet with our Advisor-On-Call or schedule an appointment. Given an increased volume of inquiries, it may take your advisor a few days to respond to inquiries and up to 10 business days to issue immigration documents and complete requests so please plan in advance. 

Fall 2023 Workshops

July 26th, 2023 in Uncategorized

Please find our virtual immigration workshop series below. Join us at one of our scheduled workshops to learn about maintaining status and employment benefits as an F-1 student and ask questions. In addition, do access one of our on-demand workshops available on our website about OPT or on-campus student employment.

Fall 2023 Workshop Series

Post Completion OPT Application Basics and Q&A

This workshop covers topics for students preparing to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), including eligibility factors and timing of application, considerations for travel and employment, and tips for preparing and submitting the OPT application. Questions will be taken via chat at the end.

**This session will focus on unique aspects of Post Completion OPT for PhD students**

  • Thursday, December 14, 2023 10AM            Register Here

 

This workshop is designed for students who have already

STEM OPT Basics and Q&A

applied for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and who may already be working on OPT. Covers advanced OPT topics including an overview of STEM OPT, allowing OPT extensions for certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.  After this workshop, students should be prepared to apply for the STEM OPT extension. Questions will be taken via chat at the end.

 

Employment Authorizations for Internships

It’s not too early to begin planning for a summer internship. This workshop covers F-1 student employment authorization options for off-campus work and internships including: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Pre-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).

 

Special Topics in Immigration with Featured Immigration Attorneys

Join ISSO and local attorneys who specialize in immigration to learn more about special immigration topics;

Immigration Considerations for Entrepreneurs and Non-Traditional Employment

  • Tuesday, October 17, 2023 5PM    In person session located at HAR208. Capacity is limited so please arrive early to ensure attendance.

Immigration Options after OPT

Immigration Options for Medical Students

 

On-Demand Workshops – access them anytime!

Student Employment

This workshop covers tips for finding a job on campus, U.S. work permission, your rights and expectations as a U.S. worker, Social Security numbers, getting paid and taxes. It is now offered online in an on-demand format.  If you are interested in learning about how to work at BU, you can watch the video any time!

You're Hired! On Campus Employment for International Students- on demand workshop

 

OPT Application Basics

Want to know more about the OPT Application process? Check out the OPT Application Basics Workshop below. This video is a 25 minute overview intended to introduce you to basic concepts and terms.  You will learn more about what OPT is, when you should apply, and how to maintain your status while on OPT. We recommend that you watch this video when you are starting to think about OPT as it gives you a good overview of the entire process.

OPT Applications Basics – on demand workshop

 

ISSO Collaboration with Center for Career Development

Please register for these Center for Career Development sessions through the CCD website

  • Tuesday, October 3, 2023 6 to 7pm Internship Search for International Students
  • Thursday, October 26, 2023 2:30 to 3:30 pm Networking for International Students
  • Tuesday, November 7, 2023 9:30 to 11am Interviewing in the US

Reminders for F-1 Students Graduating in Summer

May 9th, 2023 in Uncategorized

As you near the end of your program, it is important for you to read the information below so you can understand your how program completion impacts your F-1 student status.

The end date on your I-20 is initially determined by the average length of your program but often changes during your final semester to reflect the date you will officially complete your program. Since the official BU summer graduation date has changed from September 25 to August 25, we will be adjusting I-20 end dates throughout the summer when you apply for OPT, when you apply to be part-time in your final summer semester, or, after your summer graduation is confirmed

If you have any questions or wish discuss any of these options, please feel free to connect with our virtual advisor-on-call or email our team at isso@bu.edu.

US Ends COVID Vaccination Travel Requirements

May 9th, 2023 in Uncategorized

COVID vaccination requirements for all international travelers will be eliminated with end of the COVID public health emergency.

All nonimmigrant travelers entering US after May 11th via all ports – land, air or sea – will no longer be required to document proof of a WHO acceptable COVID vaccine. In a May 1, 2023 statement, the Biden administration announced that "the Administration will end the COVID-19 vaccine requirements for Federal employees, Federal contractors, and international air travelers effective 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on May 12, 2023, at the end of the same day that the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

The U.S.-Canada-Mexico land border COVID restrictions will also cease to have effect as of 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on May 12, 2023, under a Federal Register Notice to be published on May 10, 2023.

USCIS Expands Premium Processing

May 4th, 2023 in Uncategorized

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a phased-in expansion of premium processing for certain employment authorization and changes of status applications. USCIS premium processing allows for case review within a guaranteed time frame which may be more accelerated than regular USCIS case processing. Premium processing is now available for F-1 students applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT Extensions. Additionally, USCIS has announced a plan to expand premium processing to I-539 applications this summer. The I-539 is a form commonly used to apply for a change of nonimmigrant status within the United States and for reinstatement of F-1 student status. Please note that premium processing requires the applicant to pay the premium processing fee, file a separate I-907 application form, by paper or online, in addition to the I-765 or I-539 application and supporting documentation.

For I-765 OPT and STEM OPT extension applicants: USCIS will require a $1500 fee to review the case and forward a response within 30 calendar days. ISSO recommends that you compare current USCIS I-765 processing times at the Potomac Service Center before deciding whether to pay for premium processing to insure a 30-day adjudication. You should also evaluate:

  • when your OPT application was or will be received by USCIS
  • your requested OPT start date
  • potential travel plans

For I-539 changes and/or extensions of nonimmigrant status applicants: USCIS has indicated they will begin accepting premium processing for pending I-539 petitions in May and concurrently for new I-539 applications in June but we are waiting on specific dates and additional details. USCIS will require a $1700 fee to review the case and forward a response within 30 calendar days. Once launched, ISSO recommends that you compare current USCIS processing times before deciding whether to pay for premium processing to insure a 30-day adjudication. You should also evaluate:

  • when your application was or will be received by USCIS
  • the expiration date of your current status and/or your requested start date
  • potential travel plans

Premium processing will begin of the day your I-907 premium processing request is received by USCIS. While it allows for a guaranteed turnaround, it does not guarantee an approval. As always, we encourage you to discuss the pros and cons of premium processing with an ISSO student or scholar advisor.

Winter Travel Reminders

December 28th, 2022 in Uncategorized

Are you planning to travel internationally during the upcoming winter break? Please refer to our current Travel Advisory carefully to ensure you are fully prepared to travel and to return to the United States for spring 2023 semester.

Check your Documents

  • Do you have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa for your return? If you need to renew your visa, please check the wait times at your preferred US Embassy or Consulate to ensure you have enough time to go through the visa process and return in time for the start of the spring semester. More information about visa renewals can be found on our current Travel Advisory.
  • Do you have a valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019? A travel signature is generally valid for one year, and can be used for multiple trips abroad. (The signature is valid for six months only for F-1 students on approved F-1 Optional Practical Training.) More information about Travel Signatures can be found on our current Travel Advisory.

COVID Considerations

While international travel has resumed, COVID related travel restrictions and visa processing is still being impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It is imperative that you review the CDC website for US COVID entry requirements as Proof of a US CDC acceptable vaccination is still required for nonimmigrant travel to the US.

It is critical that you monitor the situation and follow our Current Travel Advisory for the latest updates as the situation continues to change without advance warning.

For example: visa processing in China was suspended on 12/15/2022 due to a surge in COVID cases. Visa processing resumed at most posts in China on 1/3/2023. In addition, the USCDC announced that proof of a negative COVID test will be required for all air passengers travelling to the US from China, Hong Kong and Macau with 10 days effective at 12:01am on January 5, 2023. This will also include travelers who have been in China, Hong Kong and Macau who travel through Seoul, Toronto and Vancouver.

It is important that you plan ahead so you can ensure that you can return to campus before the spring semester begins. If you are unable to return on time, you may be required to take a leave of absence for the spring semester.

Please plan in advance the ISSO will be closed during for winter intersession beginning at 12pm Friday, 12/23/2022 until 9am Tuesday, January 3, 2023.

Spring 2023 Workshops

December 21st, 2022 in Uncategorized

Please find our virtual immigration workshop series below. Join us at one of our scheduled workshops to learn about maintaining status and employment benefits as an F-1 student and ask questions. In addition, do access one of our on-demand workshops available on our website about OPT or on-campus student employment.

Spring 2023 Workshop Series

Post Completion OPT Application Basics and Q&A

This workshop covers topics for students preparing to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), including eligibility factors and timing of application, considerations for travel and employment, and tips for preparing and submitting the OPT application. Questions will be taken via chat at the end.

STEM OPT Basics and Q&A

This workshop is designed for students who have already applied for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and who may already be working on OPT. Covers advanced OPT topics including an overview of STEM OPT, allowing OPT extensions for certain Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. After this workshop, students should be prepared to apply for the STEM OPT extension. Questions will be taken via chat at the end.

Employment Authorizations for Internships

It’s not too early to begin planning for a summer internship. This workshop covers F-1 student employment authorization options for off-campus work and internships including: Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Pre-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Life After F-1- Transitioning to Other Immigration Options

Join the ISSO to learn more about what happens when you reach the end of your F-1 or J-1 path. Learn about possible next steps if you would like to continue living and working in the United States.

Special Topics in Immigration with Featured Immigration Attorneys

Join ISSO and local attorneys who specialize in immigration to learn more about special immigration topics;

Immigration Considerations for Entrepreneurs and Non-Traditional Employment

Immigration Considerations for BUSM MD Students

On-Demand Workshops – access them anytime!

Student Employment

This workshop covers tips for finding a job on campus, U.S. work permission, your rights and expectations as a U.S. worker, Social Security numbers, getting paid and taxes. It is now offered online in an on-demand format. If you are interested in learning about how to work at BU, you can watch the video any time!

You're Hired! On Campus Employment for International Students- on demand workshop

OPT Application Basics

Want to know more about the OPT Application process? Check out the OPT Application Basics Workshop below. This video is a 25 minute overview intended to introduce you to basic concepts and terms. You will learn more about what OPT is, when you should apply, and how to maintain your status while on OPT. We recommend that you watch this video when you are starting to think about OPT as it gives you a good overview of the entire process.

OPT Applications Basics – on demand workshop

Two International Students Share their Successes Interning at CBS News and Boston Medical Center

October 5th, 2022 in Uncategorized

Phoebe Chen and Vaibhavi Hansrajani gained valuable experience in their industries

While enrolled at Boston University, many international students go on to participate in high-impact internships that give them relevant experience before graduating. We recently sat down with two international students to learn about their recent successes while interning over the summer at CBS News and with Boston Medical Center’s nephrology team.

Phoebe Chen (COM '23), who was born and raised in Taiwan, is studying Journalism at BU. She has a double minor in Advertising and Computer Science, and she interned with CBS News this summer as a Rotational News Intern at CBS’ New York flagship station. During her two-month-long internship, she rotated through multiple areas in the newsroom, including production, engineering operations, sales, and creative services.

Q&A with Phoebe Chen:

Phoebe Chen pictured at her internship at CBS News

This interview with Chen has been condensed and edited.

  1. What did you learn or accomplish in your role at your internship?

Chen: Since my sophomore year in college, I have taken every opportunity to gain experience that prepares me for a career in journalism. I’ve taken numerous news-related classes, written for my school’s newspaper and local newspaper, reported and produced packages for BU’s television station and interned with other news media. I thought that I’d pretty much covered everything needed to work in this industry. But the two months at CBS proved me completely wrong. Everything I know about news production was superficial, and what I had learned is only the tip of the iceberg. A 30-minute-news-cast that seems straightforward—with anchors reading the script and B-roll playing on screen— is a product of collaborative efforts among different departments. With any single part missing, the newscast would go wrong.

What I saw over the two month internship was completely new to me. It is the foundation of the whole broadcast system, and people from each department in the industry should know, or at least have a brief idea of how things work out.

As an intern, I spent most of my time in the newsroom, studios, and the control rooms. I got to shadow and work with the producers, directors, reporters and photographers, where they shared their knowledge and responsibilities. I felt lucky that we got to witness how they dealt with breaking news during my last days in the newsroom. The importance of immediate response is another thing I learned. We never know what will happen, so the best thing to do is to always be ready and take in a tense situation calmly.

  1. Did you find anything surprising or unexpected? Either about the culture or the work that you did?

Chen: During our internship, we got to help CBS set up New York's primary debate in the broadcast center. This was an opportunity that we did not expect, but it was amazing to witness how much "behind the scenes" effort the crew put in before the candidates arrived at the studio and went on camera.

  1. How do you hope to apply your experience for your future career goals?

Chen: In my opinion, the Asian perspective is immensely underrepresented in most American media, and I have witnessed how news media made a difference. The advancement of news inclusiveness is one of the main drives of my passion for television news production, and I believe I can do so through media production companies' demonstrated commitment towards diversity. I consider broadcast journalism to be one of the most important tools for creating positive change in the world and establishing an informed global citizenry, and I believe that journalism plays a leading role in this process.

  1. What did this experience teach you about working in the U.S.? Was this your first time interning/working in the U.S.?

Chen: This wasn't my first time working in the U.S. I interned with Fox News Media last spring as a College Associate, and had several other internships at smaller companies before that. These experiences not only serve as a pipeline for full-time opportunities, but also help me explore different aspects in the industry, thus deciding which path I will focus on pursuing. Last but not least, I considered these internships to be "workplace 101," a lesson we didn't have exposure to without stepping out of the classroom. Coming from a foreign country, I made good use of my time working in U.S. to observe and adapt to the work culture I might encounter in the future.

Another student, Vaibhavi Hansrajani (ENG ’23), who is studying Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Machine Learning and Nanotechnology, interned with the Boston Medical Center (BMC). Hansrajani is originally from Mumbai, India.  

 

Q&A with Vaibhavi Hansrajani:

Vaibhavi Hansrajani pictured at her internship (2nd from left)

This interview with Hansrajani has been condensed and edited.

  1. Where did you intern this summer and what were your responsibilities?

Hansrajani: I was enrolled in the BU-KIDMEP Program, which stands for Boston University Kidney and Medical Engineering Program.This was a clinical immersion program that focused on technology development for kidney diseases. I worked closely with the care providers and patients in the hospitals to understand kidney disease from their perspectives. After a brief training period of observing interventional nephrology procedures, and visiting dialysis centers and medical device manufacturing sites, I was paired with a professor at Boston University to work on multiple projects like creating a real-time calculator that predicts a patient’s kidney function and modeling the working of an artificial kidney. 

  1. What did you learn or accomplish in your role at your internship? 

Hansrajani: I was finally able to get hands-on research experience to solve a crucial issue that would benefit the healthcare field. This experience also made me more comfortable in taking interviews and interacting with clients.   

  1. Did you find anything surprising or unexpected? Either about the culture or work that you did?

Hansrajani: I was very surprised by how all interns' opinions and ideas were taken into serious consideration. It was a learning platform where even the ideas I suggested as a university student to doctors and professors were not dismissed. Moreover, it was a great networking opportunity.

  1. How do you hope to apply your experience to your future career goals?

HansrajaniAs a rising senior, I have several doubts about what I would like to do after graduation and this internship helped me learn about all the opportunities students in my field engage in. I also learned how it is very important to be present at all times and be flexible to work in a new environment. As an engineer, I never saw myself taking rounds in a hospital but it was a rewarding experience for the research I am currently working on. It also made me more comfortable asking questions and knowing it’s alright to make mistakes. I certainly feel more prepared and excited for my full-time employment after graduation.

  1. What did this experience teach you about working in the U.S.? Was this your first time interning/working in the U.S.?

Hansrajani: This being my very first in-person internship in the United States, I was a little apprehensive about voicing my ideas and opinions. However, having worked with so many people of diverse cultures I am confident and know that I do not have to worry about being international and having a different opinion, this is rather appreciated. I also learned that there is always going to be competition and it is important to step out of one’s comfort zone and try your hand at new projects to stand out. Lastly, this experience also taught me about all the visa regulations and paperwork I need to be mindful of while working in the U.S, be it internships or getting a full-time job after graduation. The Center for Career Development collaborates with the ISSO each semester on a number of workshops and events to educate international students regarding this and was certainly my guide in knowing everything I should about working in the U.S.