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International and Postdoctoral Services Office newsletter for department managers.
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IPSO Facto
March 2020
In this issue: 

IPSO open for business, taking precautionary measures due to COVID-19

The ISPO office remains open for business, but as a result of precautionary measures concerning COVID-19, all in-person meetings are being significantly reduced. Rest assured that we are on the job full-time, coming to the office when necessary and committed to maintaining high levels of customer service during these unique times.
We are still processing all immigration cases and, to date, have received no word of a reduction of immigration services by government entities that would impact our case processing.

Whenever possible we will communicate with you via email or phone and use Box folders for document exchange. Should original documents be required, we will arrange for you to either drop off or pick up the documents in our office at specific times. Our phone is being monitored and voice mails are retrieved several times daily.  

F-1 STEM OPT audits and the responsibilities of employers

Departments employing recent F-1 graduates in STEM-OPT status (a 24-month extension of employment eligibility available to STEM field graduates) must remain cognizant of their obligations as employers of this special group. Federal Form I-983 requires supervisors to make attestations about the students training and salary and requires that any material change to the student’s employment be reported within 5 business days. IPSO has been advised that employers should expect audits from ICE agents to verify the veracity of the information provided on the Form I-983. For more information on your obligations as an employer, please visit Study in the States. For further information, please contact Jonathan Harwood
J-1 NEWS

Minimum funding amount for J Exchange Visitors to increase

Effective September 1, 2020, for the first time in over a decade, the AU J program minimum funding amount will increase to $27,000 per year. Beginning with this increase and going forward, the minimum support amount for a J EV in any category will align to match the Graduate Research Assistant stipend amount set annually by The Graduate School at Augusta University. The effective date for the future adjustments will be September 1 each year.
 
 Status
 (Visa Type)
 J Exchange Visitor Program Minimum Funding
 Current  Effective
 September 1, 2020
 Per year  Per month  Per year  Per month
 J-1 Exchange Visitor   $ 23,660  $ 1,972  $ 27,000  $ 2,250
 J-2 spouse  $ 6,000  $ 500  $ 6,000  $ 500
 Each J-2 child
 (under 21 years old)
 $ 2,400  $ 200  $ 2,400  $ 200
The new minimum funding amount will be required for J EV requests for initials (new or transfer in to Augusta University) and extensions completed on or after September 1, 2020.
H-1B NEWS

Implication of travel restrictions on immigration processes

While many immigration processes are unaffected by the travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 virus, there are some cases where travel restrictions will limit options for immigration sponsorship. 

Inviting sponsored personnel from countries under U.S. travel restrictions will be delayed indefinitely. However, there are also certain circumstances for personnel already in the U.S. where the current travel restrictions could make sponsorship difficult or impossible.

There are several circumstances which require people to exit the country to effect a change of status. This may not be possible for the foreseeable future. One such circumstance includes foreign trained physicians who have received a waiver of their 2 year home requirement through means other than the Conrad program (i.e. hardship waivers). IPSO will consult with departments regarding these restrictions on a case-by-case basis.

IPSO advises premium processing for all H-1B cases

Given the ever-changing landscape of immigration processes and travel bans in response to COVID-19 concerns, IPSO advises sponsoring departments to premium process all H-1B cases. On Monday, March 16, USCIS announced a suspension of premium processing for cap-subject cases. Fortunately, as an institution of higher education, Augusta University is not considered ”cap-subject,” and therefore our cases are not part of this suspension.

However, our fast-changing environment could see further suspension of services and increased processing times. For this reason, IPSO is advising all departments to premium process cases whenever possible. IPSO is committed to providing the fastest possible service during these times and will continue to endeavor to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on immigration sponsorship.
Changes to H-1B employment must be vetted by IPSO

Sponsoring departments, supervisors and H-1B employees are all responsible for updating the H-1B status of sponsored personnel as required by federal regulations. H-1B sponsorship is specific to job title, location and salary. Any change to these conditions may require an amendment of H-1B sponsorship, with corresponding costs. Sponsored employees' H-1B status is only valid for the conditions as reported to the government. Unreported changes can result in loss of status for the sponsored employee, fines for the university, and a loss of the university's privilege for H-1B sponsorship. To request a change in H-1B employment, submit a H-1B Change of Duties Form no later than six weeks prior to the requested change.
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