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ICE tells students on visas they must leave US if schools go online-only

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Monday that international students in the U.S. whose schools switch to online classes for the fall semester will have to leave the country or risk violating their visa status.

Under the new rule, foreign nationals enrolled in U.S. educational institutions will have to leave the country unless part of their course load this fall is taken in-person.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) had allowed for foreign students to take their spring and summer 2020 courses online while remaining in the United States, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEVP, the institution that sets the rules for student visas, is run by ICE, which is generally dedicated to immigration enforcement.

In its announcement, SEVP said foreign students who do not transfer to in-person programs and remain in the United States while enrolled in online courses could face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

Students taking in-person programs will be allowed to remain in the country, while schools with hybrid online/in-person courses will be required to certify their programs are not entirely online.

Students in English language courses and certain students pursuing vocational degrees will not be allowed to take online courses.

In Brief:

As part of this notification, ICE announced that:

  • “Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” SEVP’s press release states. “The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.
  • Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending in-person instruction only are bound by existing federal regulations, including the three-credit limit for online courses.
  • “Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model — that is, a mixture of online and in person classes — will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online,” the release reads. “These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, ‘Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,’ certifying that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.
  • US embassy will not issue any new F1 or M1 study visa if the school is offering only online classes.
  • If you have an existing stamped visa in the passport, you will not be allowed to enter the US.
  • Students who are currently inside the US should leave the US.

Exceptions:

If you can change your school to the one which is offering a mix of online and in-person classes, you can stay in the US.

You can take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online to stay in the USA.

Your school must certify to SEVP using the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,”

A ‘reduced course load’ option is only available for:

  • Academic difficulties;
  • Medical conditions; and
  • Completion of a course of study.

Due to COVID-19, SEVP had instituted a temporary exemption regarding online courses for the spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted nonimmigrant students to take more online courses than normally permitted by federal regulation to maintain their nonimmigrant status during the COVID-19 emergency.

Problems with Studying Outside the United States 

1. Many students may not be able to return to the US if they leave now. This may be due to any future restrictions, re-entry requirements, expired student visas etc.

2. Another issue is internet connection availability in the home countries. It wasn’t easy to transition into the online classes, when in-person classes were suspended. Now students will have to grapple with trying to access materials, lectures etc with slow internet connections.

3. Online content is highly regulated by regional copyright licenses and students may or may not be able to access their school’s content from outside the United States. This may cause the student to take a long time to complete their course of study.

4. Condusive conditions and environment to study back home. With the pandemic hitting hard and with the many lockdowns in place, finding the best environment to study in may be a challenge for some students.

F-1 nonimmigrant students pursue academic coursework and M-1 nonimmigrant students pursue vocational coursework while studying in the United States.

How much time do I have to Update their School?

Schools should update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 10 days of the change if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to only online classes, or a student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an entirely online course load.

Will Schools refund Fees If one leaves the US?

The school may not refund the tuition fee as they are conducting classes online. One can take those classes from their home country online if they decide to leave the US. Schools like Harvard and Princeton announced that all course instructions will be taught online for the 2020-21 academic year without any reduction in their tuition fee.

Finally, while it may be a wait and see situation, it is possible that someone will file an injunction or a lawsuit and students may not be required to leave the US immediately.

USCIS is reopening amid the coronavirus.

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Most immigration regular services in the United States will resume on June 4, when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reopens some field offices and resumes routine in-person services that were suspended on March 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The agency said that it will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s health protocols to protect its staff and the immigrant community. Therefore, immigration procedures in USCIS facilities, including asylum offices and application support centers, will no longer be as they were before the coronavirus pandemic.

As services are restored, the Department of Homeland Security agency plans to reduce the number of appointments and interviews to ensure social distancing rules, leaving more time for cleaning tasks and reducing the occupancy of waiting rooms.

“Appointment notices will contain information on safety precautions that visitors to USCIS facilities must follow,” the agency said in a news release on Wednesday, urging immigrants to cancel their appointments if they feel ill.

For immigrants in the United States, becoming a citizen is often a long and stressful process. USCIS explained that it will send notices to reschedule the ceremonies that were canceled, although it anticipates that these “may be shorter to limit exposure to those in attendance.”

“Instead of playing videos during naturalization ceremonies, attendees will receive a flyer with information and links directing them to the videos on the USCIS website.,” the federal agency said, clarifying that all legally required portions of the naturalization ceremonies will be carried out.

IMMIGRATION APPOINTMENTS AND INTERVIEWS AT USCIS

Immigration benefits applicants whose appointments and interviews were already scheduled and then canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic will automatically receive new appointment and interview notifications, according to the agency that last week told Congress it needs $1.2 billion in emergency funding amid plans to raise application fees.

People who had other appointments will need to reschedule them through the USCIS Contact Center once local offices are open to the public, the agency stipulated, without providing further details on which appointments.

“Visitors are limited to the applicant, one representative, one family member and one individual providing disability accommodations. The applicant should arrange to have their interpreter available by phone,” said the agency, which handles citizenship, green card, visa, work permit and asylum claims.

Regarding asylum applications, USCIS explained that the interviews that were canceled during the closure will be rescheduled automatically. Applicants will then receive a notice with the new time, date and place.

The interviews may be carried out via video, with the applicants in one room and the official in charge in another one, in order to comply with social distancing rules.

“For affirmative asylum interviews, applicants must bring all immediate family members listed as dependents on the application and an interpreter, if the applicant does not speak English,” the authorities said.

However, the statement does not mention court hearings for thousands of asylum-seekers waiting in Mexico under a program known as “Remain in Mexico.” Those hearings were first postponed from March 24 to April 22, and then through June 1, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

   GUIDELINES FOR ENTERING USCIS FACILITIES DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

According to the new USCIS protocol, visitors cannot enter an agency compound if they:

Present COVID-19 symptoms, such as cough, fever, or breathing difficulties.

Have had close contact in the last 14 days with a person who is known or suspected to have contracted COVID-19.

Have been quarantined or isolated by a healthcare provider or public health authority in the past 14 days.

Read more: Green cards are only available to immigrants who fall under one of these categories

For people who do enter:

USCIS will not allow them to enter the offices more than 15 minutes before an appointment, or 30 minutes before if the person will participate in a citizenship ceremony.

The agency will provide hand sanitizer at the entry points.

People must wear masks to enter, although they might be asked to remove them briefly to confirm their identity.

The agency asks immigration benefits applicants to bring their own black or blue ink pens.

           HOW TO CONTACT USCIS DURING CLOSURE

USCIS continues to provide limited emergency services while their offices remain closed to the public.

Individuals needing assistance with an immediate immigration need can call the USCIS Contact Center toll-free 1-800-375-5283 or 1-800-767-1833 (TDD) or visit the agency’s Contact Us page.

There are also many digital resources and tools provided by USCIS to help immigrants obtain and track benefits.

 

 

 

 

 

Visa, OCI card suspension prevents several Indians in US from flying back home

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Several Indians in the US, either on the H-1B work visa or Green Card having children who are American citizens by birth, are being prevented from travelling to India aboard the special repatriation flights being run by Air India amidst the coronavirus-linked global travel restrictions.

According to the regulations issued by the Indian government last month and updated last week, visas of foreign nationals and OCI cards, that provide visa-free travel privileges to the people of Indian-origin, have been suspended as part of the new international travel restrictions.

For some of the Indian citizens like the Pandey couple in New Jersey (name and place changed at request), it’s a double whammy. Having lost their H-1B job, they have to go back to India within the stipulated 60 days as required by law. The couple has two kids aged one and six years who are American citizens.

In the wee hours of Monday, they had to return from Newark airport as Air India refused to give their kids a ticket to fly to India along with them, despite them having a valid Indian visa. The young mother and father are Indian citizens.

They said that the officials from Air India and (Indian) Consulate (in New York) were very cooperative.

But they could not do anything as their hands were tied by the latest regulation issued by the Indian government, a shocked Ratna Pandey told PTI.

“I would like to urge the Indian government to reconsider their decision on the humanitarian basis,” said the Indian national who has lost her job but could not leave the US within the stipulated 60 days to avoid any future visa complications.

She now plans to make an appeal to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to extend their stay.

Last month, H-1B visa holders, mostly Indians, launched a White House petition urging US President Donald Trump to extend their permissible stay from 60 to 180 days after job loss. However, there has been no decision from the White House so far.

While there is no official statistics of how many Indian H-1B visa holders have lost their jobs, it is believed to be substantial.

The US, due to the coronavirus pandemic, is experiencing an unprecedented unemployment rate and more than 33 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last two months. Given this massive job loss, Indians, who have lost their jobs, are unlikely to get one and thus many would have no other option but to travel back home.

In the case of single mother Mamta (name changed), the situation is graver as her son is just three-month old. Only she was given the ticket and the infant was not allowed to fly along with her because he carried an American passport.

“I would like to request the Indian government to let us fly back home. I don’t want to stay in the US any longer,” she told PTI hours after being prevented from boarding her hometown Ahmedabad-bound flight from Newark on Sunday.

“I am alone here. I don’t have a relative here. It’s a difficult situation,” she said.

“Vande Bharat Mission is a humanitarian mission. But this is certainly inhuman,” said Rakesh Gupta (name changed) from Washington DC.

An H-1B professional, Gupta has lost his job and needs to return to India within the stipulated 60 days. He and his wife, Geeta (name changed) being Indian citizens, received the confirmation of their seats in the flight but have been told that their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter cannot travel with them as she carried an OCI card.

“I don’t believe this,” he said.

Unlike the Pandey couple and Mamta, who had made the payment of USD 1,361 per ticket for their flight back home, Rakesh has not made the payment. Ai India has said that the money would be refunded.

All the three Indian citizens requested the Indian government to help them travel back home by making necessary changes in the current regulations.

As per a recent government notification, all existing Indian visa holders, and visa-free travel facility, granted to OCI card holders who are not in India, have been suspended till restrictions on international air travel remains.

New York-based community leader Prem Bhandari said that the May 5 travel advisory has created multiple painful issues for the OCI card holders in the US and also to Indian citizens who are either on Green Card or H-1B visas and want to travel back home, but cannot leave their kids who are Americans by birth.

“We would like to express our disappointment with the discrimination between OCIs and citizens in respect of entering India at this critical stage when many OCIs have lawfully built their homes, families and businesses in India,” Bhandari said in a letter to Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla on Monday.

 

 

 

 

U.S. Supreme Court makes deporting immigrants for crimes easier.

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The court ruled 5-4 to uphold a lower court decision that found a legal permanent resident from Jamaica named Andre Martello Barton ineligible to have his deportation canceled under a U.S. law that lets some longtime legal residents avoid expulsion. The conservative justices were in the majority, with the liberal justices dissenting.

Barton, a 42-year-old car repair shop manager and father of four, was targeted for deportation after criminal convictions in Georgia for drug and gun crimes.

The decision could affect thousands of immigrants with criminal convictions – many for minor offenses – who reside legally in the United States. There are more than 13 million legal U.S. permanent residents, also known as “green card” holders, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Glenn Fogle, an attorney for Barton, called the ruling “extremely disappointing” and expressed concern for his client, who has already been sent back to Jamaica.

“My heart goes out to Mr. Barton and his family as he is now effectively barred from ever rejoining them in the United States,” Fogle said.

The Trump administration argued against Barton’s bid to avoid deportation.

Trump’s hardline stance on both legal and illegal immigration has been a key feature of his presidency and his 2020 re-election campaign. He has justified his immigration crackdown in part by citing crimes committed by immigrants.

Permanent residents selected for deportation may apply to have their removal canceled if they have been living continuously in the United States for at least seven years, except if they have committed certain serious felonies.

At issue in the case was the meaning of a 1996 change – known as the “stop-time rule” – in U.S. immigration law. This provision disqualifies immigrants who commit certain crimes from this discretionary benefit by stopping the clock on their period of continuous residency.

The federal government had said the rule was triggered in Barton’s case because his assault charge would bar his admission into the country, even though as of 1996 he had resided in the United States too long to be declared deportable for that crime.

Barton argued that he could not be found inadmissible because he had already been lawfully admitted.

While noting that deporting a permanent resident is a “wrenching process,” conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority on Thursday, disagreed.

“Removal is particularly difficult when it involves someone such as Barton who has spent most of his life in the United States,” wrote Kavanaugh, appointed to the court by Trump in 2018. “Congress made a choice, however, to authorize removal of noncitizens – even lawful permanent residents – who have committed certain serious crimes.”

In a dissent, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the ruling “at odds with common sense.” Sotomayor noted that the immigration judge who heard Barton’s case said she would have preferred to grant Barton’s bid to avoid deportation, noting that he had rehabilitated and that his four children were all U.S. citizens.

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Barton came to the United States as a teenager with his mother in 1989. He was convicted in Georgia in 1996 of assault and possession of a firearm in an incident in which his friend shot at a house from a car he was driving. Barton also was convicted of drug possession in 2007 and 2008.

In 2017, immigration authorities decided Barton’s deportation could not be canceled because the 1996 assault charges triggered the stop-time rule, just months before he reached the seven-year milestone. The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision in 2018.

Of the estimated 1.9 million non-citizens the government has deemed deportable based on a criminal convictions, most are legal residents or those in the country on temporary visas, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a research organization.

The ruling came a day after another immigration crackdown by Trump, who ordered a temporary block on some foreigners from permanent residence in the United States, saying he wanted to protect American workers and jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maraga succession intrigues simmering eight months to his exit

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The retirement of Chief Justice David Maraga in the just eight months is already triggering high-states succession intrigues.

Questions about as to whether Kenya needs an insider and conservative CJ like Maraga, who shocked the world by nullifying the 2017 presidential election, or a liberal judiciary head.

CJs and other judges, though described as conservative or liberal, often surprise with their rulings once they sit on the bench.

Maraga’s predecessor, CJ Willy Mutunga, widely considered a revolutionary, opened a new chapter when he failed to nullify the disputed 2013 presidential election.

The 2022 General Election is expected to be a fierce battle and an election petition challenging the results is likely. The Chief Justice will play a key role in determining the outcome.

Mutunga’s appointment as CJ in 2011 had been heralded as a new dawn for the country’s justice system given his strong legal philosophy and implacable integrity. He and fellow angered President Uhuru Kenyatta when the election was annulled.

Though a one-sided rerun upheld Uhuru’s victory, the nullification was remembered.

“I think we will most likely get a more conservative chief justice who would be responsive to the dominant political class,” city lawyer Steve Ogolla told the Star.

Ogola said the recruitment of the next CJ would borrow heavily from the Mutunga and Maraga experiences and involve a balance of law and politics.

“A chief justice’s ideology can preserve or disrupt a political agenda. That is why politicians would be very keen on who succeeds Maraga,” Ogolla said.

Maraga’s recruitment in 2016 was preceded by intense political manoeuvres.

The Jubilee Party sought to amend the Judicial Service Act to have the president given three names of the top CJ candidates from which to pick one.

That was to be the case for the DCJ as well.

The move was informed by the fact that the President had no room to manoeuvre once the JSC submitted a single name to him for the appointment.

With the amendment having been felled by the courts, the focus shifted to control the recruitment at the point of interviews.

If Maraga decides to retire earlier like Mutunga, the decision could not only spark vicious succession politics but also jolt the Supreme Court after Justice Jackton Ojwang’ retired on February 5.

Maraga, a deeply religious man, was born on January 12, 1951, and will have attained the mandatory retirement age for judges of 70 years in January 2021.

However, Maraga’s retirement is keenly watched amid claims that senior lawyers, judges and influential politicians have started scheming about who will succeed him.

Powerful individuals are said to be holding secret meetings to strategise on Maraga’s succession, the clock fast ticking down to his retirement.

The CJ holds a powerful position not just as the chairperson of the influential Judicial Service Commission, which employs and pays judges, but also as the President of the Supreme Court.

The seven-judge Supreme Court decides on presidential election disputes, making it an influential organ of the judiciary that attracts a lot of political interest in both its composition and its decisions

The succession is a high-stakes race since DCJ Philomena Mwilu is facing legal challenges over a petition filed at the JSC. She would have scored high as a logical successor.

The petition seeking Mwilu’s removal was filed by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director of Criminal Investigations.

If Maraga were to leave early, Mwilu would act as CJ for a maximum of six months to allow the next chief justice to be recruited by the JSC.

In the 2017 Maraga-led Supreme Court, judges Mwilu, Smokin Wanjala and Isaac Lenaola supported the historic invalidation of the presidential election results, throwing the CJ into the spotlight.

This was the first presidential election to be annulled by the Supreme Court not just in Kenya but in  Africa as well. It was the sixth presidential result invalidation after Austria, Haiti, Ukraine, Serbia and the Maldives.

Mutunga’s bench in 2013 validated Uhuru’s election as Kenya’s fourth president despite protests from the opposition coalition Cord and a section of civil society.

The invalidation of President Kenyatta’s election in 2017 lifted the lid on the immense power wielded by the apex court and raised the country’s political temperature.

It is against this backdrop that the recruitment of the next CJ, and filling justice Ojwang’s slot, would not just be a judicial process but also a political affair with eyes on the 2022 presidential duel and possible subsequent petition.

One of the intrigues likely to play out in the search for Maraga’s successor would be age, as the CJ appointed next year would serve for a maximum term of 10 years unless he or she retires at age 70 or exits early.

Politicians would not want a CJ who is too young to continue being a Supreme Court judge, even after completing his 10-year tenure. His impact would be long felt and they would likely want to influence the choice of his successor.

That would create two centres of power, with a CJ emeritus on the bench as well as the CJ in office.

When he was appointed CJ, Maraga was age 66, making him legible to only preside over one presidential dispute at the Supreme Court before hitting 70.

Mutunga was appointed in 2011 when he was aged 64. He was born on June 22, 1947. Maybe he wanted to avoid that 2017 petition, some say.

Mutunga and Maraga’s ages on appointment to office expose the deep-seated intrigues involving age.

The appointment of a younger judge as CJ would trigger succession acrimony at the apex court as the holder of such an office would serve a full term of 10 years, ‘holding others back’.

The Constitution states if the CJ’s term of office expires before retirement, the Chief Justice may continue in office as a judge of the Supreme Court.

“If on the expiry of the term of office of a Chief Justice, the Chief Justice opts to remain on the Supreme Court under Clause (3), the next person appointed as Chief Justice may be selected in accordance with Article 166 (1), even though that appointment may result in there being more than the maximum permitted number of Supreme Court judges holding office,” reads Article 167(4).

In February, the  JSC indicated in its Medium-Term Framework Report that it would prioritise the recruitment of the Chief Justice in the 2020-21 financial year.

The document published by Judiciary Registrar Ann Amadi was the clearest indication that the JSC was readying itself to hire Maraga’s successor as a matter of priority in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

“To enhance service delivery in the Judiciary, the Commission intends to recruit the next Chief Justice and one Supreme Court judge, 30 superior court judges (High Court, Environment and Land Court, and Employment and Labour Relations Court), 100 magistrates and 300 judicial officers and staff to address case backlog in the judiciary,” Amadi stated in the MTEF report.

There have been claims that Magara could opt for early retirement to allow the JSC to begin the recruitment process well in time for the 2022 General Election.

The CJ’s recruitment is expected to take not less than three months, a lengthy period that analysts say may inform Maraga’s possible early exit, tentatively by October.

Maraga’s predecessor Mutunga left office in June 2016 – a year earlier – kicking off a succession battle that culminated in Maraga’s appointment by President Kenyatta on October 19 that year.

The law requires that the recruitment of a CJ can only begin once the officeholder formally vacates, either at retirement age or in an early exit.

It cannot start even when he is on terminal leave.

This provision that the CJ must formally vacate before recruitment can start has been criticised for hampering certain key offices whose holders wield powers that no other person can have unless they are substantive officeholders.

Former Auditor General Edward Ouko had called on MPs to amend the laws to allow recruitment key State officers to start months before the incumbent’s term expires so there will be no void in the office.

The JSC that will recruit the next CJ is comprised of Law Society of Kenya representative Mercy Deche who deputises Maraga at the commission.

Other commissioners are DCJ Mwilu, Emily Ominde (chief magistrate), Justice Mohamed Warsame (Court of Appeal) and Justice David Majanja (High Court).

Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki is also a commissioner, together with lawyer Macharia Njeru (representing LSK), Patrick Gichohi (representing the Public Service Commission), Felix Koskei (the public representative) and Prof Olive Mugenda (the public representative).

There have been attempts to control the composition of the 11-member JSC to influence the recruitment of the next CJ.

Despite Justice Warsame having been re-elected to the JSC by his Court of Appeal colleagues, external political players tried to influence the process.

Warsame was finally sworn in as a member of JSC on January 23 following a protracted battle between the three arms of government that lasted close to a year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawyers move to court to challenge ‘unconstitutional’ curfew.

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The Law Society of Kenya will on Monday move to court to challenge the government-sanctioned curfew which they say will only aid in spreading the coronavirus.

LSK President Nelson Havi, in a public statement, termed the 7pm to 5am curfew as unconstitutional, further accusing police officers of abusing their authority in effecting it.

Havi also urged Kenyan citizens to document all incidences of police brutality and forward them to LSK for purposes of prosecuting the responsible police officers.

“Law Society of Kenya will move to Court on Monday to challenge the curfew which is not only unconstitutional but has been abused by the police. It is evident that Covid-19 will be spread more by actions of police than of those claimed to have contravened the curfew,” said Havi.

“Members of the public are requested to document all incidences of aggravated assault by the police and forward the same to the Law Society of Kenya. We will take action against the said officers and or their superiors in charge of the commands where the offenses are being committed.”

The LSK boss, while condemning the actions of the police witnessed across the country on the first day of the curfew, called upon Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i to take personal responsibility and resign for contravening Article 10 of the Constitution.

“The penalty for contravening a curfew is a fine of not more than Ksh 1,000 or imprisonment for not more than 3 months, or to both,” he added.

The National Police Service have no right or justification whatsoever substituting the penalty with corporal punishment. Their action amounts to aggravated assault.”

“The 7pm to 5am curfew which was announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta a few days ago officially took effect on Friday.

Chaos was witnessed throughout the country as police were documented beating up Kenyan citizens found on the streets within the stipulated periods.

 

COVID-19: Special Relief for F-1 Students Experiencing Severe Financial Hardship and Relief for Applicants Seeking Extension/Change of Status.

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With the ongoing lockdowns and limited travel due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic visitors, students and certain visa holders who have been impacted by the pandemic are eligible for special reliefs that would enable them extend their stay in the United States. However, considerations for the same will be had based on individual cases and situations.

According to the USCIS, if a situation has occurs, that would prevent one from timely departing from the United States at the expiry of the authorized period of stay, then the  Special relief assistance is available to those individuals. This also applies to individuals who have petitions/ applications pending with the USCIS.

Be informed though, that when applying for an extension or change of status due to a special situation that has prevented a planned and timely departure from the United States, the USCIS will take into consideration how the special situation prevented your departure. Further, If you do not apply for the extension or change of status before your authorized period of admission expires, your request may be denied. However, such a delay in filing will only be excused if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control. An example would be failure to timely file your paperwork due to the on going office closures, natural calamities, sickness etc. Considerations are had on a case by case basis, at the discretion of the USCIS.

A person applying for an extension of stay or adjustment of status based on the Special Relief, will be required to provide documentary evidence of those extraordinary circumstances. Depending on the applicant’s situation, the type of documentary evidence that will be required for production will vary.

Relief for Students with F1 Visas

Students who may experience severe economic hardship because of unforeseen circumstances beyond their control caused by Covid-19, may request for employment authorization so that they can be able to find work and work off-campus. An applicant will however be required to confirm that they meet certain regulatory requirements (See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)). Some of the reasons why a student would want to apply for a work authorization permit are:Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment, substantial fluctuations in currency value or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition or living costs, unexpected changes in financial condition from the source of support, medical bills or other substantial and unexpected expenses. The USCIS however notes that this is not an exhaustive or limiting list.

Students will be required to submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with a copy of Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, and any other supporting materials to USCIS. The student’s Form I-20 must include the employment page completed by an authorized school official, certifying eligibility for off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship caused by the unforeseen circumstances, like in this case the Covid-19 pandemic that has led to school closures. Applicants whose applications are approved, may be able to work off-campus in one-year intervals up to the expected date of completion of the student’s current course of study. See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(ii).

Other Student Relief

Special Student Relief

The USCIS has certain discretionary special student relief program, where it may request  the suspension of certain regulatory requirements by the secretary of Homeland Security for F‑1 students from parts of the world that are experiencing emergent circumstances. Examples of emergent circumstances include natural catastrophes, war, military conflicts, and national or international financial crises. In this scenario, a student may also be eligible to apply for off-campus employment authorization if they are a citizen of any such country specified in a Federal Register notice, has been lawfully present in the United States for the period indicated in the Federal Register notice, has reported on time to the designated school official and been enrolled in a student or exchange visitor program-certified school since the special situation, is currently maintaining F-1 status and experiencing severe economic hardship.

To apply, one must submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with a copy of Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, and any other supporting materials to USCIS.

Applicants Failing to Appear at Interview, Biometrics Appointment, or Failing to Respond to RFE

Applicants who may fail to appear for an in-person interview, biometrics appointment, or respond to a request for evidence in a timely manner for reasons that are not within the applicant’s control and are tied to the special situation, may be excused from any penalty if they can show how the disrupting event affected their ability to appear or submit documents as required.

Fee Waiver

       If one is unable to pay the fee for a USCIS service or benefit, he/she may request a fee waiver by filing Form I-912 (Request for Fee Waiver). Note however that, the Fee waiver forms must be accompanied by your complete application for extension or adjustment of status and all other supporting documents.

Expedite Requests

Applicants may also file a request to expedite a service or benefit at the time of filing an application/petition, or after filing.

Wakili: Paul Nzengu
Paul Nzengu, Attorney

 

In case you need any assistance with this filing and any other immigration matter, you can reach out to me at:
Email: info@thewakilibrief.com
Phone No. (916) 399-3415‬

7 Years Later, Nirbhaya’s Killers Hanged.

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New Delhi:

Seven years after a young medical student was gang-raped and tortured on a moving bus in Delhi, a crime that shocked India, four of her killers were hanged at 5.30 am on Friday. The pre-dawn execution took place less than two hours after the Supreme Court dismissed the final petition of the convicts.

In the hours before that, the convicts had also petitioned the Delhi High Court, where their lawyer cited coronavirus for the lack of proper documents for a hurriedly-filed appeal.

Akshay Thakur, 31, Pawan Gupta, 25, Vinay Sharma, 26, and Mukesh Singh, 32, were hanged at Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where they spent the last few hours in isolation in separate cells, barely eating.

They hardly slept and refused a last meal or any last wish, said officials. One of them begged for his life as he was led to the gallows.

The entire jail was on lockdown since last night, and officials said, few other prisoners in Asia’s largest prison facility could sleep a wink ahead of the first execution since 2015.

The convicts were woken at 3.30 am, around the time they learnt they had reached the end of the road in courts.

The four filed multiple petitions over the past few months, managing to stall their execution thrice at the eleventh hour. “Send them to the India-Pakistan border, send them to Doklam (at the border with China), but don’t hang them,” pleaded the lawyer of Akshay Thakur.

“We all have waited so long for this day. Today is a new dawn for daughters of India. The beasts have been hanged,” said Asha Devi, the mother of the young woman who came to be known as “Nirbhaya” or fearless. After the Supreme Court’s verdict, she went home and hugged her daughter’s photo.

On December 16, 2012, the 23-year-old woman had watched a movie with her friend and boarded a private bus to reach home. Six men on the bus beat the friend unconscious before attacking the woman.

For nearly an hour, the woman was subjected to a savage assault and tortured with an iron rod before being dumped for dead, naked, bleeding and her intestines spilling out. She survived long enough to identify her attackers but died a few days later in a Singapore hospital amid angry street protests across India and international revulsion.

The woman was studying physiotherapy and worked at a call centre. Her father worked as an airport baggage handler. Her killers lived in a slum in south Delhi.

Of the six arrested, one, Ram Singh, was found dead in his jail cell and a minor who was just short of 18 was freed after three years in a reform home.

India changed its laws on crimes against women after the horrific gang-rape and killing. Earlier this year, the government also asked the Supreme Court to make it harder for convicts in such brutal crimes to use legal loopholes to stall their sentence.

 

 

Man Filmed Licking Products At Walmart Charged With Making Terrorist Threat.

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A man in Missouri has been charged with making a terrorist threat in the second degree after filming what was, at best, a very bad joke about the coronavirus.

The Warren County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Cody Lee Pfister, 26, on Tuesday after he posted a video of himself licking merchandise inside a Walmart, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In the video (above), which has gone viral online, Pfister looks at the camera and says, “Who’s afraid of coronavirus? Don’t touch your mouth,” before licking a row of deodorant sticks on the store’s shelf.

Cody Lee Pfister at a Walmart on March 11, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Cody Lee Pfister at a Walmart on March 11, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that the coronavirus could stay on various surfaces for hours or days, meaning someone who comes in contact with something that an infected person has already touched could become infected.

Pfister — whom the Post-Dispatch reports has quite a rap sheet, including burglary and driving while intoxicated — “knowingly caused a false belief or fear that a condition involving danger to life existed,” court documents state, according to the Post-Dispatch. He also acted “with reckless disregard of the risk causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure of any portion” of Walmart.

A statement from the City of Warrenton Police Department on Monday said that “a local resident who took a video of themselves licking the merchandise after making a ‘Corona Virus’ statement at Walmart and posting it to social media has been taken into custody.” The statement noted that concerned people around the world have contacted the department about the video.

Unfortunately, videos of people touching, coughing and licking public surfaces since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have appeared across social media platforms. Some were part of a social media trend called the “Corona Challenge.”

Yet currently, many videos with a #coronachallenge hashtag are jokes about quarantine, lack of necessities or people poking fun at those who put the public at risk.

On Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen released a memorandum suggesting that federal law enforcement officials across the country use terrorism laws to investigate and prosecute individuals who try to intentionally infect others with the coronavirus, The Washington Post reports.

Pfister’s docket hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, the Post-Dispatch reports. The Warren County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s request for Pfister’s court documents.

Sacramento-area eviction protections.

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Concerned that a wave of renters could suddenly become homeless after losing their jobs or wages amid the coronavirus pandemic, California cities and counties have begun halting evictions against tenants who cannot afford rent.

So far, only the city of Sacramento and Davis have passed emergency ordinances to protect renters from evictions if they’ve been financially impacted by COVID-19, the potentially deadly disease caused by the virus that has infected more than 2,300 people in California as of Tuesday.

Here’s how those renter protections work, and where they may be expanded in the Sacramento region.

WHICH SACRAMENTO-AREA COMMUNITIES HAVE EVICTION MORATORIUMS?

According to the California Apartment Association, the city of Sacramento, Davis, West Sacramento, Woodland and Yolo County have passed legally enforceable ordinances regarding temporary eviction bans.

But more municipalities in the coming weeks will consider or may propose similar bans.

A moratorium protecting renters in Sacramento County will go into effect May 1. Elk Grove is reconsidering an eviction ban that it initially rejected last week. Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova are also considering bans, according to the California Apartment Association.

San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles are among the many local governments in California that have already passed eviction moratoriums.

As of now, if you don’t live in a city or county with temporary moratoriums on evictions, you must still pay rent.

WHO DO EVICTION BANS APPLY TO?

The protections currently in place in the region apply to residential and commercial tenants who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus or the associated county and state stay-at-home orders. (Woodland’s ban does not apply to commercial tenants, though the city is considering expanding those protections next month.)

Renters must have documentation proving they lost significant income because:

They are sick with COVID-19 or are caring for a household or family member who is sick with the virus

They were laid off, lost hours at work or had income reduced in any way as a result of the coronavirus or the state of emergency

They were complying with the recommendations from government agencies to stay home, self quarantine and avoid congregating

They needed to miss work to care for a home-bound school-age child

Extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses (Yolo County and cities only)

WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO BE COVERED BY EVICTION PROTECTIONS?

In Sacramento, tenants must notify their landlord in writing prior to the day the rent is due that they have a covered reason for a delayed payment and provide the landlord with verifiable documentation to support the covered reason.

In Davis, renters have to notify their landlord on or within ten days after rent is due that they will be delaying payment. Renters have up to 30 days after rent is due to provide documentation that they cannot pay because they’ve been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In West Sacramento, renters must notify their landlord in writing before the day rent is due. They must also provide proof of the loss of income, though it can be after the notification of deferred rent payments.

In Woodland, renters must notify their landlord within 30 days after the date that rent is due about the lost income and provides documentation to support the claim.

DOES THIS MEAN I DON’T HAVE TO PAY RENT?

No. Under the temporary eviction bans passed in the region, tenants who wish to be covered under the moratorium still have to pay as much rent as they are able to, and all deferred rent will be due at a later date.

WHEN IS DEFERRED RENT DUE?

In the city of Sacramento, renters will have up to four months after the California state of emergency declaration ends to pay the deferred rent. The declaration is currently set to end May 31, meaning the rent would be due Sept. 31.

In Davis, renters have up to six months after the local emergency declaration ends to pay back deferred rent. The declaration currently has no end date, but will be announced by the Davis City Council.

In Woodland, renters have up to six months after the local emergency declaration ends to pay back deferred rent. The declaration currently has no end date, but will be announced by the Woodland City Council.

The eviction moratorium in Yolo County and Woodland does not specify an exact deadline to pay back deferred rent, only that deferred rent must be paid after the emergency ordinance is terminated. The moratoriums in Yolo County and West Sacramento are set to end May 31.

WILL POWER BE SHUT OFF IF I CAN’T PAY THE BILLS?

No. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District and PG&E have suspended power shut offs.

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