The latest on the President's Executive Order impacting non-immigrants, immigrants and U.S. businesses

On Friday January 27, 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order that contained sweeping changes to processing arrivals at our nation's airports and land borders of non-immigrants with a variety of work and travel visas, immigrants, lawful permanent residents, and refugees. Although styled as imposing temporary measures, it is having a dramatic impact on thousands of individuals in the U.S. and abroad, and contains language that suggests long-lasting changes to the visa application process abroad and the adjudication of immigration-related applications within the U.S. This news release summarizes the Executive Order, the litigation that has followed, and the Order's effect on individuals and employers in the coming weeks.

What is in the Executive Order?

  • Major items in the Executive Order include a temporary suspension of visa issuance abroad and entry into the U.S. for individuals from 7 countries, a temporary suspension of admission of all refugees, an indefinite suspension of refugees from Syria, and suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program for all non-immigrant visa renewals (by citizens of all countries).
  • The Order covers "immigrants and non-immigrants" and includes anyone with a valid visa (including professional work visas, student visas, and tourist visas) and returning lawful permanent residents. The Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") later released a statement indicating the entry of lawful permanent residents would be considered in "the national interest" but it did not assure their entry. Rather, the statement included the caveat "absent derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations."
  • Section 5 of Order directs the Secretary of State to suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program ("USRAP") for 120 days, and specifically states that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is suspended indefinitely, with exceptions for 1) if admitting the individual would be in the national interest; 2) if the person seeking admission is from a religious minority facing religious persecution; 3) to conform to international agreement; or 4) if the person is in transit and there would be undue hardship if he/she were denied admission to the U.S.
  • Section 8 of the Order requires the Secretary of State to immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program ("VIWP"), a worldwide program which allows U.S. consuls to waive in-person visa interviews for nationals of any country who have been recently vetted for security clearances and who seek a visa renewal.

What is the status of litigation regarding the Executive Order?

  • Attorneys with the American Immigration Lawyers Association ("AILA") and the American Civil Liberties Union ("ACLU") have filed lawsuits on behalf of affected individuals in federal district courts in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington state. Judges in those federal courts have issued Temporary Restraining Orders ("TROs") based on plaintiffs' likelihood of success on Constitutional grounds.
  • New York's TRO provides a nationwide stay of removal preventing deportation for individuals with valid visas and approved refugee applications affected by the Executive Order.
  • Massachusetts' TRO has barred federal officials from detaining or removing anyone affected by the Executive Order for 7 days (until February 4), and further instructs Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") to notify international airlines that passengers flying into Boston's Logan Airport will not be subject to the Executive Order. Airlines had been refusing to board affected individuals.
  • Virginia's TRO specifically orders federal officials to allow lawyers access to "all legal permanent residents detained in Dulles International Airport."
  • Washington state's TRO bars federal officials from deporting two unnamed individuals in the U.S.
  • Judges in the federal district courts in these jurisdictions will hold hearings this week on these pending suits to determine whether to extend, modify or cancel the TROs. The outcomes are difficult to predict. If the judges are persuaded on the merits of the case, it is possible the TROs may be converted into preliminary injunctions while awaiting further judicial review, effectively stopping the Executive Order or parts of it from taking effect until the matter can be argued and decided by the court. Alternatively, attorneys for the Trump Administration may succeed in their argument that the President's broad discretion on matters of national security permits the actions contained in the Order. If a judge permits the TROs to expire without issuing a preliminary injunction, the Executive Order would be in effect until either a successful appeal by the immigrants to a higher court or possibly an ultimate decision by the Supreme Court.
  • In addition, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced she is filing a lawsuit today to challenge the Executive Order as unconstitutional.

What are the consequences of this Executive Order on individuals and employers?

  • Foreign nationals from one of the seven countries affected by this Executive Order -- either lawful permanent residents or holders of valid visas -- should not travel. There is no guarantee these individuals will be permitted back into the U.S. after travel abroad. This could have disastrous consequences for individuals, their families, and their employers, as they risk being unable to re-enter the U.S. for at least 90 days, if not longer based on how quickly they might be able to obtain a new visa (if needed). 
  • For those foreign nationals affected by this Executive Order who are currently outside the U.S., they should consider returning to the U.S. immediately via a direct flight into Boston's Logan Airport if possible before February 4 when the TRO expires.
  • If foreign nationals are asked to relinquish U.S. permanent residence, the returning lawful permanent residents should be aware they have a right to request a hearing before an immigration judge. Green card holders should not sign a Form I-407 to relinquish their residence if they desire a hearing.
  • Credible reports indicate that applications by nationals from these seven countries for immigration benefits with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") such as Adjustment of Status, Petitions for Non-Immigrant Workers, Applications for Employment Authorization, etc. have been suspended. Currently, issuance of visas abroad for these foreign nationals is also suspended, and sources indicate USCIS will accept but not complete final adjudication until further notice of applications filed by or on behalf of foreign nationals from those seven countries.
  • Employers should be aware of both the risk for delays with adjudication of applications and the risk travel presents for any employee needing to apply for a visa abroad. The suspension of Visa Interview Waiver Program will affect students and professional visa holders across the globe, as appointments for visa renewals in all countries will likely experience increased wait times since all visas applicants are now required to attend an in-person visa interview. There is also a greater likelihood of administrative processing (security) delays, given the additional information the Department of State will be seeking as contemplated by the Executive Order.
  • In addition, the broad language in Section 3 of the  Order states that the Secretary of DHS and the Secretary of State shall conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission or other benefit under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), including adjudications. This language suggests a full revisiting of the current processing procedures, which may also result in delays.

We will bring you further updates on this and other immigration-related news in our February newsletter next week. 


ACICS loss of accreditation: ESL Programs and OPT students must take immediate action

On December 12, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it no longer recognizes the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as an accrediting agency. This decision to no longer recognize ACICS will affect more than 16,000 international students attending nearly 130 SEVP-certified schools and programs. While the majority of SEVP-certified schools are not required to obtain accreditation and can provide evidence in lieu of accreditation, there are two instances when SEVP-certified schools must be accredited:   

  • English as a Second Language (ESL) programs; and,
  • F-1 students applying for a 24-month Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension.

The Department of Education has issued an 18-month timeline for schools and students affected.  Schools must either obtain accreditation from a different Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency and update their Form I-17 or they will receive a notification to remove the ESL program from their Form I-17 petition. Affected students enrolled in a STEM degree should contact their school to find out if they plan to obtain accreditation elsewhere or should consider transferring if they wish to pursue an OPT STEM extension in the future.  For more information, please visit SEVP's website

Tips for temporary visa holders for entering the U.S.

Each time foreign nationals re-enter the U.S. after temporary travel abroad, they should check their I-94 expiration date online at Previously, U.S. Customs & Border Protection ("CBP") officers issued nonimmigrant air travelers a physical Form I-94 card (in the form of a small, white piece of paper) after conducting inspection.  Although physical I-94 cards are still completed at US land borders, CBP has been employing the electronic I-94 system for those traveling by air and sea since April 2013. Foreign nationals should always check their electronic I-94 records to ensure that their name, date of entry and expiration of stay has been properly entered into the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's database correctly to avoid any problems with future legal status in the U.S.  If a foreign national is unable to find her/his I-94 record online after entering their passport details correctly, or if the date displayed for period of admission is incorrect, the foreign national may return to the airport's international section and request to see a CBP officer at the Deferred Inspection office. Some CBP offices will entertain requests via email, while others only accept I-94 corrections in person with an appointment. 
With summer coming to a close and October approaching, many international students are returning to classes and soon many new H-1B visa holders will be arriving or looking to travel.  We remind F-1 students to always check with their school's international student office before undertaking any international travel, as they must have an up-to-date I-20, and if in their period of Optional Practical Training ("OPT"), proof they are maintaining their F-1 status by working (with an employment letter and/or paystubs) and not incurring more than the authorized number of days of unemployment. New H-1B arrivals should be reminded they can be admitted into the U.S. no earlier than 10 days before the start date listed on their I-797 approval notices. Those in other non-immigrant status (such as F-1, H-4, or L-1 or L-2), whose employers filed H-1B change of status petitions to take effect October 1 should remember to plan their next international trip carefully, ensuring that once they depart the U.S. they have made arrangements for obtaining a new H-1B visa abroad for re-entry into the U.S.


Reminder: STEM OPT extension deadline fast approaching

F-1 students on 17-month STEM OPT and their employers should be aware of the fast-approaching deadline for applying to extend STEM OPT to the new 24-month maximum. Eligible F-1 students with at least 150 days of OPT remaining have until August 8, 2016 to apply for the additional 7 months of work authorization permitted under the Department of Homeland Security's ("DHS") final STEM OPT rule. For further details about applying for this STEM extension, please visit our website.

Lengthy wait times for visa appointments in India

U.S. Consular Posts in India began reporting lengthy wait times for nonimmigrant visa interview appointments in June.  These substantial waiting periods continue and affect all nonimmigrant visa applicants other than B1/B2 visitors, F-1 students, and J-1 exchange visitors and their dependents.  Current wait times for appointments (as listed on the Department of State's website) for H-1B, L-1, O-1, and other affected nonimmigrant visa categories are:

  • 82 days in Chennai;
  • 118 days in Hyderabad;
  • 96 days in Kolkata;
  • 67 days in Mumbai; and,
  • 90 days in New Delhi.

F-1 student visa appointments at some of the above-listed offices are taking as long as 36 days for scheduling. Accordingly, F-1 students should make visa appointments as early as possible to ensure timely visa processing for arrival to the U.S. for the fall semester.

The Department of State ("DOS") reports that demand for U.S. visas has increased by 80% since 2011 and DOS is currently requesting approval to add consular positions in an effort to decrease visa wait times. Until wait times subside, Indian nationals in the U.S. with expiring or expired visas should keep in mind the lengthy periods for obtaining an appointment and plan accordingly - perhaps even deferring international travel unless absolutely necessary to avoid extended waiting time abroad.  Although expedite requests are available for humanitarian issues and business emergencies, such requests should be made sparingly and with sufficient documentation to demonstrate the exigent circumstances. Additionally, visa applicants should also consider Third Country National (typically, Canada) processing (particularly for H-1B and L-1 visa holders) as a more efficient alternative.  Please note that Indian nationals require a Canadian visitor visa to enter Canada.

STEM OPT deadline

F-1 students on 17-month STEM OPT and their employers should be mindful of the upcoming August 8, 2016 deadline for applying to extend their STEM OPT to the new 24-month maximum. The Department of Homeland Security's ("DHS") final STEM OPT rule, published in March, allows many F-1 students with STEM degrees to take advantage of a two-year extension to their Optional Practical Training ("OPT"). As stated in the new rule, any 17-month STEM OPT Employment Authorization Document ("EAD") issued on or before May 9, 2016 will remain valid until the EAD's expiration date. However, students should keep in mind DHS will not automatically convert 17-month STEM OPT EADs to 24-month EADs. Instead, F-1 students with at least 150 days of OPT remaining have until August 8, 2016 to apply for the additional 7 months of work authorization permitted under the new rule. 

Eligible F-1 students, along with their employers, will need to complete and sign the new, required STEM OPT Training Plan when requesting the OPT extension from their schools' international student offices. Once students obtain the updated Form I-20 from their schools, they will then need to file a new Form I-765 with USCIS before the August 8, 2016 deadline.

Before signing the Training Plan, employers should be aware of the attestation and reporting requirements under the DHS's new rule. Please contact the attorneys at Iandoli Desai and Cronin by email at if you have questions regarding STEM OPT extension requests, the upcoming deadline, or the new employer reporting and attestation requirements.

Determining whether a bona-fide employer-employee relationship exists under the new STEM OPT regulations

The Department of Homeland Security's new 24 month STEM OPT rule went into effect on May 10, 2016. Employers and F-1 students should be aware of the major changes to the STEM OPT program.  In particular, some employers may no longer be able to hire F-1 STEM OPT students. In response to public comments concerning whether self-employed students, temporary staffing agencies, and start-up companies (formed and staffed by the F-1 student) would qualify as "employers" under the new regulations, DHS stated: 

Response. There are several aspects of the STEM OPT extension that do not make it apt for certain types of arrangements, including multiple employer arrangements, sole proprietorships, employment through "temp" agencies, employment through consulting firm arrangements that provide labor for hire, and other relationships that do not constitute a bona fide employer-employee relationship. One concern arises from the difficulty individuals employed through such arrangements would face in complying with, among other things, the training plan requirements of this rule. Another concern is the potential for visa fraud arising from such arrangements. Furthermore, evaluating the merits of such arrangements would be difficult and create additional burdens for DSOs. Accordingly, DHS clarifies that students cannot qualify for STEM OPT extensions unless they will be bona fide employees of the employer signing the Training Plan, and the employer that signs the Training Plan must be the same entity that employs the student and provides the practical training experience. DHS recognizes that this outcome is a departure from SEVP's April 23, 2010 Policy Guidance (1004-03). (emphasis added)

A full copy of the new OPT STEM regulations is available on the Federal Register's website. If you have questions regarding whether your employer-employee relationship will qualify for the new 24-month STEM OPT extension, please contact an attorney at Iandoli Desai & Cronin P.C. at

DHS announced major changes for employers and F-1 students on STEM OPT

On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") published its new rule on STEM OPT. Previously, F-1 students who came to the U.S. and graduated with a degree in a STEM field were eligible for a 17 month extension to the existing one year of work authorization for their period of Optional Practical Training ("OPT"). As a result of litigation over the 2008 rule that authorized STEM OPT, DHS published a new rule that includes significant changes for employers, F-1 students, and Designated School Officials ("DSOs") at U.S. colleges and universities. The new regulations include a 24 month extension to OPT, a new requirement for a training plan signed by employers, a requirement employers report wages offered to F-1 students on STEM OPT, and provisions for the transition period between now and the rule taking effect on May 10, 2016 for students currently on STEM OPT. To read a detailed summary of the new rules, visit our firm's website and click the News and Updates tab.

DHS set to publish new, final rule on OPT STEM this month

Last month we brought you news about the January 23, 2016 order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that allowed the Department of Homeland Security's ("DHS") 2008 regulations on Optional Practical Training ("OPT") and the available 17-month STEM extension to remain in effect through May 10, 2016. 

On February 5, 2016, DHS sent its final STEM OPT rule to the Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") for review before publication in the Federal Register. We expect the final rule to be published in the Federal Register this month in order for DHS to accommodate the May 10, 2016 vacatur date of the current rule (if the new rule is to be effective 60 days after publication). This new, final rule will include a number of important changes to the STEM OPT program. To review DHS's proposed (not final) regulations, click here.  To review our firm's re-cap of the ongoing litigation and view a copy of the most recent order, click here.

The attorneys of Iandoli, Desai & Cronin P.C. will continue to post updates on this important news at You can contact us at with your questions about STEM OPT, the proposed regulations, and any other immigration related questions.

OPT STEM Update - Current STEM OPT rules stay in place until May 10, 2016

On Friday, January 23, 2016, the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the vacatur of the present STEM OPT rules be stayed until May 10, 2016.  This action comes as a relief to international students currently on F-1 OPT STEM extension or who are eligible for such extension, as well as their employers and their schools' international student offices.  Pursuant to this latest order, the current 17-month extension of OPT, available to students who graduated from a U.S. college or university with a STEM degree, will remain in place until at least May 10, 2016 while we await publication of the final rule on STEM OPT from the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS").

To recap, the Washington Alliance of Technology workers sued DHS last year, arguing that DHS had not engaged in proper notice and comment when it promulgated the 2008 regulations that enabled F-1 students to seek an 17-month extension of work authorization pursuant to their period of Optional Practical Training ("OPT")  after completing their studies in the U.S.  In August 2015, the U.S. District Court agreed with the Washington Alliance of Technology workers and ordered the current STEM OPT rules that allowed for a 17 month extension in work authorization be vacated as of February 12, 2016 unless DHS corrected its procedural deficiency.  In October 2015, DHS published the new proposed STEM OPT rule and received over 50,000 comments in response. On December 22, 2015, DHS filed a motion requesting the court permit the existing STEM OPT extension program to continue until May 10, 2016 to enable the agency time to address a majority of the comments received when publishing its final rule.  This most recent order, dated January 23, 2016 and available to view here, allows DHS's motion and thus extends the existing STEM OPT program rules from 2008 through the spring.  

We expect DHS will publish its final rule in the coming months with a number of important changes to the STEM OPT program.  The attorneys of Iandoli, Desai & Cronin P.C. will continue to post updates on this important news at  You can contact us at with your questions about STEM OPT, the proposed regulations, and any other immigration related questions.