Immigration advising is available for visa-related support during this time. Immigration Advisors are working as usual but physical access to our offices is restricted due to health and safety concerns.
Please see COVID-19 Immigration Advising Updates for up-to-date information regarding immigration procedures and resources.
For updated information regarding returning to campus for spring semester 2021, view Return to Campus FAQS.
On October 21, 2020, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, an agency of the US Department of Homeland Security, or DHS) announced plans for enhanced scrutiny of applications (including approved applications) for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT to ensure that applicants are employed in positions related to their major field of study.
OPT provides US employment authorization for F-1 visa students. The most common form of OPT is post-completion OPT for use after a student completes their degree. Students in all majors are eligible for 12 months of post-completion OPT. Students in STEM majors are eligible for an additional 24 months of post-completion OPT (STEM OPT).
When USCIS approves a student’s OPT or STEM OPT application, they issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD, or “work card”) to the student, which can be used to authorize employment in the US for a specified period of time.
Post-completion OPT regulations require that graduated students be employed in the US in positions related to their major field of study. Penalties for failing to comply with OPT regulations include immediate cancellation of the EAD issued for OPT or STEM OPT; denial of a subsequent OPT (STEM OPT) application; and, in extreme cases, prosecution for fraud.
USCIS announced that it has so far identified 1,100+ students nationally who had violated the OPT regulations and that these students’ EAD would either be cancelled or their STEM OPT applications denied. USCIS will be informing affected students directly. USCIS also announced that they have arrested 15 students on suspicion of fraud.
GEO is monitoring the situation closely and will provide further information to the university community. If you have questions or concerns about USCIS’ action, please send an email to GEOIS@vcu.edu
On October 6, 2020, the US Department of Labor (DOL) announced increases to the Prevailing Wages (PWs) applicable for the ETA 9035 Labor Condition Application (LCA) stage of the H-1B visa process and for the ETA 9089 Labor Certification Application (PERM) stage of some Permanent Residence (green card) applications. The increased PWs are effective for any LCA or PERM submitted to DOL on or after October 8, 2020. The rule does not apply retroactively to LCAs or PERMs submitted to, or certified (approved) by, DOL prior to October 8, 2020.
In a related move, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would apply a restricted definition of specialty occupation operative in the H-1B visa eligibility criteria and would also now require H-1B employees to possess a degree in a field directly relevant to the occupation. The rule is effective for any I-129 H-1B petition submitted to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, a DHS agency) by a US employer on behalf of an international employee on or after December 7, 2020. The rule does not apply retroactively to I-129 H-1B petitions submitted to, or approved by, USCIS prior to December 7, 2020.
GEO is monitoring the situation closely and will provide further information to the university community. If you have questions or concerns about these rules, please send an email to GEOIS@vcu.edu.
On Friday, September 25, 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a proposed rule to replace the current "duration of status" (commonly abbreviated as D/S; students can stay as long as they maintain nonimmigrant student status--an open date contingent on other factors) with a fixed period of stay.
Under the DHS proposal:
This proposal has not been finalized or implemented. If implemented, the plan will take effect after a period of public comment submitted to DHS plus the time required for DHS to review the comments and make changes. It is not clear if or when the proposal will become effective.
GEO is monitoring developments. VCU is committed to international students, and will advocate for regulations that advance international education.
Please send your visa-related questions and concerns to our general email account GEOIS@vcu.edu
We check this email account constantly during normal business hours (Monday-Friday 8 AM-4 PM and often after hours, as well) and can get back to you quickly.
Please only come to GEO in person unless you are directed to do so by an Immigration Advisor.
912 West Grace Street, 4th Floor, Richmond, Virginia 23284
Suspended until further notice.
GEO, 912 West Grace Street, 4th Floor, Richmond, Virginia 23284
Regular US Mail Address
GEO, Box 843043, Richmond, Virginia 23284
If you need urgent immigration support when our office is closed, please call VCU Police. Identify yourself as a VCU international student or scholar and VCU Police will contact the appropriate immigration staff member.
Non-Emergency: (804) 828-1196
Emergency: (804) 828-1234