Legal Updates for Students and Scholars

Information and resources regarding immigration issues

Northeastern is a global university comprised of diverse identities, backgrounds, and beliefs. We embrace all members of our community, regardless of their national origin or religious affiliation. The University works to address student needs on an individual basis as permissible under law. All members of our community who have immigration concerns should rest assured that Northeastern will continue to stand with you. Northeastern has charged an interdisciplinary cross-functional Immigration Issues team—led by Madeleine Estabrook, Sr. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, and Jigisha Patel, Associate General Counsel and Chief Advisor of International & Immigration Services—with monitoring and responding to immigration policy changes and providing support to our global community of students and scholars.

The information gathered here is intended to provide guidance and resources to all members of our community regarding immigration policies, executive orders on immigration, and the rescission of DACA. As Northeastern learns more information this page will be updated.

Policy Updates

DHS Publishes PROPOSED Rule Impacting Visa Stays for F and J International Student and Scholars
On Friday, September 25, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a Proposed Rule to change the period of admission to the United States for F and J students and scholars from Duration of Status (“D/S”) of one’s academic program to a fixed period of stay.

There are many elements to the proposed rule, but at its essence DHS is proposing that F and J visa holders, upon entry to the United States, be granted a period of stay of no more than 2 years or 4 years. Currently, F and J visa holders are granted D/S, which allows a period of stay for as long as their Form I-20 or DS-2019 are valid and they remain engaged in the academic program for which they were admitted to the United States. Under this proposal some international students and scholars would only be granted a 2-year stay, others a 4-year stay, and then they would then have to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and pay a fee to request an extension without leaving the United States.

The proposed rule wrongly takes away academic determinations from educational institutions and places additional burdens on international students, including by potentially limiting their ability to change programs or majors and decreasing the amount of time they may remain in the United States after completing their studies, among other changes. Under the current D/S rule, international students may stay in the United States as long as they remain enrolled and are making “normal progress” in their academic program, and are otherwise compliant with the requirements of their F or J visa status.

It is important to note that this announcement does not mean that these changes have gone into effect nor that they will necessarily go into effect on a specific date. The announcement of the proposed rule triggers a thirty day comment period, during which DHS will hear from the public, including colleges and universities, medical/research institutions, students, employers, and others.

Northeastern is unwavering in its commitment to advocating for and supporting international students and scholars as invaluable members of its diverse, global community. As President Aoun wrote in his message on June 1, “our core values of inclusion, equality and harmony will be our guiding lights” as we move forward. These values are written into our DNA as an institution.

Northeastern plans to submit an official statement on behalf of the university community during this comment period. We will also be working with our congressional delegations and other higher education associations to prevent the proposed rule from taking effect and to highlight the importance of continuing the D/S policy for F and J international students and scholars.

Northeastern will closely monitor this proposed rule and provide updates as more information becomes available.

Executive Order on Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices With the Interests of American Workers
On Monday, August 3, President Trump signed an Executive Order requiring government agencies to conduct a review of federal contractors’ use of nonimmigrant workers and overseas labor on federal contracts awarded in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, including whether U.S. workers were adversely affected by the hiring of such foreign nationals.

The executive order also directs the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Homeland Security (DHS) to take steps to further ensure that U.S. workers are not adversely affected by H-1B workers. By September 17, the two government agencies are required to take action to ensure that the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers are not adversely affected by the hiring of H-1B workers. The executive order does not provide any details or specification as to the action except that it must be “appropriate and consistent with applicable law”.

Northeastern will closely monitor this executive order and provide updates as more information becomes available.

Please contact the Office of the General Counsel at OGCImmigration@northeastern.edu or the Office of Global Services at ogs@northeastern.edu for additional information or questions.

DHS Rescinds July 6th Guidance on F-1 International Students
On July 6, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced plans to make modifications to temporary exemptions for F-1 students taking online classes due to COVID-19 for the Fall 2020 academic term. These new rules would have required international students whose college or university has moved to a fully online education for Fall 2020 to either transfer to an institution that offers in-person classes or leave the United States.

In response, President Aoun wrote that “this new guidance from Homeland Security creates chaos for international students and has the effect of weakening American higher education—one of our nation’s signature strength. While we believe the hybrid-flexible model we have developed at Northeastern will insulate our international students from the pernicious effects of the new rule, we steadfastly oppose this divisive approach.”

On July 14, under pressure from a lawsuit supported by Northeastern, DHS rescinded its July 6th order.

Northeastern continues to work with federal agencies to help international students navigate these rules and prioritize visa processing for international students.

Please visit this FAQ from the Office of Global Services for the latest updated information:

Additional Resources:


UPDATE: Traveling to the U.S. from International Destinations
On July 16, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs announced that individuals traveling to the U.S. from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland in certain visa statuses may enter the U.S. The “National Interest Exceptions” allows certain individuals to “apply for an exemption from the travel restrictions imposed by the Presidential Proclamations 9993 (Countries that comprise the Schengen), and 9996 (The Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom)."

  • The U.S. Department of State provides the following information to travelers attempting to depart for the U.S. from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland:
    • Students with valid F-1 visas do not need to submit an exception request.
    • Students who are traveling on J-1 visas may contact their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to request an exemption from the travel restriction. Please review the guidance on the website of your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. (For example, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid provides this guidance on J-1 travel in their FAQs: https://es.usembassy.gov/covid-19-related-faq/)
    • Students who are already in these areas are not required to quarantine prior to departing for the U. S.
    • Students who decide to depart for the U.S. from other prohibited entry countries – namely Brazil, China and Iran – via the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland, must stay outside the departure country for 14 days prior to traveling to the U.S. Students must also adhere to the local COVID-19 entry requirements for the countries they plan to transit through for this 14-day period.
  • The “National Interest Exceptions” do NOT apply to travel from Brazil, China, and/or Iran. Therefore, travelers attempting to depart for the U.S. from these areas are still required to do the following:
    • Upon departure from one of the countries listed above, students must remain outside the U.S. for 14 days prior to entering the U.S.
    • Students must adhere to the local COVID-19 entry requirements of the country they will travel to prior to entering the U.S.
    • Please note the prohibition applies to all non-US citizens/legal permanent residents located in these countries regardless of citizenship or nationality (e.g. Indian national visiting Brazil would be subject to this requirement).
  • For individuals traveling back to the U.S. from countries NOT mentioned above, we recommend the following:

Northeastern recommends that international students obtain a travel support letter. The university is developing a support letter portal. If you need a support letter for travel prior to 31 July, please contact the Office of Global Services (OGS) at OGSCoronavirus@northeastern.edu or the International Safety Office at MyTravelPlans@northeastern.edu.


Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Certain Nonimmigrants
On June 22, the Trump Administration amended and expanded its April 22, 2020 Immigration Proclamation. This new order is effective June 24, 2020, and extends to December 31, 2020.

  • The proclamation restricts the entry into the United States of persons in the following non-immigrant visa categories and also applies to their dependent family members:
    • H-1B or H-2B visa holders and their H-4 dependents;
    • J visa holders ONLY in the following categories: intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program, and their J-2 dependents; and
    • L visa holders and their L-2 dependents.
  • The suspension applies to individuals seeking entry into the United States in the visa categories noted above who:
    • are outside the United States as of June 24, 2020;
    • do not already have a valid non-immigrant visa; and,
    • do not have a valid official travel document other than a visa (such as transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document) as of the June 24, 2020 or issued thereafter.
  • The suspension does not apply to:
    • Lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders);
    • Any foreign national who is the spouse or unmarried child under 21 of a United States citizen;
    • Foreign nationals seeking entry to the United States to provide temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain;
    • Foreign nationals whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.
  • The proclamation directs the Secretary of State, Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Homeland Security to establish standards for which foreign nationals meet the criteria of "national interest" exemption above, and specifically includes:
    • Foreign nationals critical to the defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, or national security of the United States;
    • Foreign nationals involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized;
    • Foreign nationals involved with the provision of medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19; and,
    • Foreign nationals who are necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.

The proclamation also automatically extends the April 22, 2020 order suspending entry by certain new immigrants until December 31, 2020.

Importantly, the proclamation does not restrict the filing, adjudication, or approval of immigration sponsorship applications and petitions filed in the United States with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Therefore, the filing with USCIS of applications by employers for H-1B, H-2B, L-1 status or institutions authorized to issue documents under the J-1 exchange program, or individuals seeking to change to or extend these nonimmigrant statuses are not impacted by this proclamation.

Northeastern’s Office of Global Services and Office of the General Counsel are available to anyone who believes they may be impacted by this new proclamation.

DACA Supreme Court Decision
On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, holding that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) September 2017 rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was arbitrary and capricious.

As a result, existing DACA recipients remain eligible for deferral from removal and continuing work authorization so long as they continue to meet the guidelines for DACA protection and warrant a favorable exercise of discretion. The scope of the Supreme Court’s decision also appears to restore the ability of new DACA recipients (referring to individuals who have never previously held DACA protection) to apply for such protection again. Further guidance from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is anticipated in response to this decision.

DACA recipients are individuals who entered the United States as youth, have completed high school or their GED, and have not been convicted of significant misdemeanors. Many DACA recipients are employed on the frontlines of our healthcare system as doctors, nurses, and physician assistants, and have played an essential role in our nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Northeastern, together with 165 colleges and universities, joined an amicus brief filing on October 4, 2019 in support of DACA in this case before the Supreme Court. You can view and download the brief at this link.

Northeastern continues to express its support for the DACA program and—given that the Court’s decision does not preclude additional action by the Administration—calls on Congress to provide permanent relief to these “Dreamers.” While Northeastern welcomes the temporary relief that this decision will bring to the approximately 700,000 DACA recipients currently in the United States, we reiterate the call for Congress to legislate a permanent solution for DACA recipients.

For additional information or support from Northeastern, please contact We Care.

Additional Resources:

Presidential Proclamation Impacting Certain Chinese Graduate Students and Scholars
On Friday May 29, President Trump signed a presidential proclamation restricting certain Chinese nationals holding F or J visas from seeking entry to the United States effective June 1 if they will engage in graduate study or research in the United States AND have been funded by, studied at, been employed by or conducted research at or on behalf of an entity in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that implements or supports the Chinese government's military-civil fusion (MCF) strategy. The proclamation defines the MCF strategy as "actions by or at the behest of the PRC to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities."

The proclamation expressly exempts Chinese undergraduate students. Also exempted are United States permanent residents (green card holders), spouses of United States citizens and permanent residents, members of the United States Armed Forces and their immediate family members, and individuals whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives or is in the United States national interest.

In addition, the proclamation currently does not apply to individuals inside the United States pursuing study or research in F or J status. However, the proclamation states that the Secretary of State will review and determine if current visa holders subject to the proclamation conditions should have their visas revoked.

The Departments of State and Homeland Security are expected to provide further detail on how the proclamation will be applied and to more clearly define who is subject to the suspension of entry.

Northeastern is unwavering in its commitment to advocating for and supporting international students and scholars as invaluable members of its diverse, global community. As President Aoun wrote in his message on June 1, “Our core values of inclusion, equality and harmony will be our guiding lights” as we move forward. These values are written into our DNA as an institution. To that end, Northeastern’s Office of Global Services (OGS), is available to anyone who believes they may be impacted by this proclamation.

Northeastern is closely monitoring the proclamation and will provide updates as more information becomes available.

Travel Ban Update
Several Presidential proclamations have established restrictions on the entry of certain travelers into the United States in an effort to help slow the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). See the CDC website for up-to-date information at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html

With specific exceptions, foreign nationals who have been in any of the following countries during the past 14 days may not enter the United States. For a full list of exceptions, please refer to the relevant proclamations in the links below.

  • China
  • Iran
  • European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Brazil

As further provided in each proclamation, citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States, certain family members, and other individuals who meet specified exceptions who have been in one of the countries listed above in the past 14 days will be allowed to enter the United States through one of 13 airports. After arriving to the United States from one of these countries, CDC recommends that travelers stay home and monitor their health for 14 days. More information about what to do after arriving to the United States is available on CDC’s Returning from International Travel webpage.

To safeguard the health and wellbeing of the university community, Northeastern suspended all non-essential university-sponsored travel—both international and domestic. In select cases where in-person participation remains vital, decisions to approve air travel will be determined by one of the university’s six senior vice presidents, with input from Northeastern’s Global Safety and Security Assessment Committee.

Northeastern has resources to help students, faculty and staff if they need assistance while traveling abroad. If you plan to travel anywhere in the world for either personal or approved university-sponsored travel, we encourage you to register your travel through the NU Travel Registry at https://provost.northeastern.edu/international-travel/travel-guidance/travel-registry/.

New Immigration Executive Order
Earlier this week, President Trump signed an executive order restricting entry into the United States for certain individuals. The executive order bars certain individuals who are holders of permanent residence visas that were issued after April 23, 2020, and who are currently outside the United States, from entering the United States for sixty days. The executive order does not restrict entry to the United States for individuals who currently hold valid nonimmigrant visas, including F-1, J-1, H-1B or O-1 visas, nor does it bar the issuance of new immigrant or nonimmigrant visas.

We are deeply concerned about the message that this executive order sends to our global community. However, it is important to emphasize that this particular directive is very narrow in scope. Please know that Northeastern’s Office of Global Services, Office of Student Life, and Office of the General Counsel are all available to anyone who believes they may be impacted by this new directive or has any questions about their particular situation.

Immigration Policy
OPT Litigation Update
Northeastern University, together with over 110 colleges and universities, joined an amicus brief filing on November 21, 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in support of international students, Optional Practical Training (OPT), and STEM OPT in Washtech vs. DHS. You can download the brief here. This case involves a legal challenge to the OPT program. OPT represents valuable experiential learning for our international students and scholars holding F-1 status, allowing them to obtain practical training that complements and expands upon their academic studies. Specifically, the lawsuit argues that DHS lacked authority to allow F-1 international students to be work-authorized and that the regulation unfairly disadvantaged American workers by increasing global competition for jobs. We joined this “friend of the court” brief to demonstrate our unwavering support for our international students and OPT. On April 9, 2020, the court postponed until September 4, 2020 the status conference that had been scheduled for May 1, 2020. Judge Wilson's order stated that the court needed "additional time to consider the pending motions in this case," which includes WashTech's February 17, 2020 motion to strike the November 21, 2019 amicus brief filed by public and private universities and colleges. The amici schools filed an opposition to WashTech's motion which the court will also consider.

The Public Charge Rule
New Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS) public charge regulations were originally scheduled to go into effect on October 15, 2019. A preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and other district courts halted enforcement of the DHS rule. On January 27, 2020, and February 21, 2020, however, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the injunctions in 5-4 votes, allowing DHS to enforce its rule nationwide. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it implemented its Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule on February 24, 2020. DOS also announced that it implemented its own public charge form and rule on February 24, 2020.

The new rules require DHS and DOS to consider the totality of the circumstances and make a prospective, forward-looking determination of whether applicants for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, applicants for admission to the United States, and applicants for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence are likely to become a public charge "at any time" in the future. The DHS regulation also introduces a related (but different) public benefits condition for change of status (COS) and extension of stay (EOS) nonimmigrant applicants, who will have to demonstrate that "since obtaining the nonimmigrant status" they seek to extend or change, until the date USCIS adjudicates the COS or EOS application, they have not received one or more of the listed public benefits over the designated duration threshold."

DHS and DOS will generally only consider public benefits received on or after February 24, 2020 for petitions or applications postmarked on or after that date. On March 14, 2020, USCIS placed a Coronavirus alert on its public charge page, that states: "USCIS encourages all those…with symptoms that resemble Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services. Such treatment or preventive services will not negatively affect … as part of a future Public Charge analysis." (See https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/final-rules-public-charge-determinations.)

Northeastern will continue to monitor immigration policy changes closely and update this page as more information becomes available. Northeastern encourages members of our community to reach out to any of the offices listed in the “Northeastern Resources” section for assistance.