International and Postdoctoral Services Office newsletter for department managers.
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IPSO Facto
November 2021
In this issue: 
COVID vaccine proof now required for nonimmigrants entering the U.S.
Please note that all nonimmigrants (includes anyone in H-1B, J-1 or F-1 status) will be required to show proof of vaccination in addition to a negative COVID-19 test before their return flight to the U.S. 
On Nov. 8, U.S. federal authorities lifted the geographic restrictions on air travelers but are now requiring proof of vaccination in addition to a negative COVID-19 test (taken within three days prior to departure for the U.S.) for any non-U.S. citizens who are nonimmigrants. This CDC webpage has details about air travel for non-U.S. citizens, nonimmigrants.

International employees, exchange visitors, and students can also check their airline and local embassy and consulate websites. In addition, this webpage of the NAFSA Association of International Educators connects to many federal agencies and provides very current information.  

Augusta University is offering the COVID vaccine. We encourage all international employees, exchange visitors, and students to get vaccinated.

Requesting new case processing

Department administrators are advised to submit requests for new case processing for any immigration status as early as possible. All immigration processing remains exceptionally slow. (Normal processing of H-1B cases is currently running at 5-6 months.) The earlier a department requests assistance with immigration processing, the more options are available and the less likely expensive premium processing for H-1B cases ($2,500) will be necessary.

In the spirit of equitable service to departments, IPSO’s general processing guideline is FIFO (First In, First Out). Requests with start dates that are unreasonably close to the submission date cannot be accommodated and will be revised by IPSO personnel. Generally speaking, we require 90 days to process H-1B requests and 60 days to process J-1 requests.    
All discussion of new cases should begin with the submission of either the:
  • Interview Consultation Request (when you are still in the interview or final candidates consideration stage of the process)
    Can be used by department chairs, search committee chairs, or hiring unit managers to request that an IPSO staff member participate in the interview process to aid in determining if a candidate for AU employment may have immigration needs, to provide an analysis of those needs and early intervention to promote timely response and cost management. 
  • Immigration Consultation Request Form (once a candidate has been selected and seems likely to accept)
    Can be used by mentors and department managers to request an immigration assessment for any personnel, scholar, or visitor you wish to employ or host at Augusta University.
Submitting a fully completed request will provide the details necessary for IPSO to make an informed decision about an appropriate start date, salary, position title, and expense to the department, saving the department and IPSO time by avoiding lengthy email correspondence over immigration status options.

Processing of H-1Bs delayed

USCIS processing for all H-1Bs not premium processed has slowed down to 5-6 months, with some cases taking even longer. Departments are advised any H-1B processing that needs to be done in a shorter time frame may require premium processing. The fee for premium processing is currently $2,500.

Research faculty requirements for H-1B sponsorship

Sponsorship for H-1B status for international employees requires defined minimum requirements that must be reported to the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security. IPSO has worked with Human Resources to delineate these requirements for research faculty positions.  Departments are advised that going forward, candidates must meet these requirements for H-1B sponsorship.
Assistant Research Scientist:        Ph.D.
Research Scientist                          Ph.D. + 3 years experience
Senior Research Scientist              Ph.D. + 5 years experience
Principal Research Scientist           Ph.D. + 7 years experience
Departments are reminded that H-1B sponsorship requires that sponsored employees salary meets or exceeds the average paid to their department peers (actual wage). Department managers and chairs are reminded that they are legally obligated to accurately report and calculate the actual wage for H-1B sponsorship.

Change of duties for
H-1B employees

Managers are reminded that H-1B employees are only authorized to work in the capacities and locations as described to the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security.  Any change to their employment circumstances must first be reported to IPSO via a change of duties form, which can be found in the employee portion of AU International. Significant change will typically require an H-1B amendment be submitted to USCIS.
H-1B Change of Duties Form

Extending passports

Managers can assist IPSO by reminding all international employees to be vigilant in keeping both their passports and those of their dependents current. Immigration processes often require that passports have a minimum of six months of validity left at the time of adjudication, and those entering the country with passports having less than six months validity will only be given status to the passport expiration date. This can result in new sponsorship fees for departments, including premium processing fees ($2,500). Several countries (particularly China) are experiencing severe delays in passport renewal processing that can imperil the valid status of sponsored employees and their dependents.

J Exchange Visitor insurance update

IPSO is auditing insurance records for J Exchange Visitor Program (J EVP) participants and dependents. As part of this review, we recently sent an email to all active J EVs requesting that they log in to AU International and upload proof of insurance. 
J EVP participants are required to maintain insurance for themselves and their J-2 dependents for the duration of the J EVP (through the end date on their most recent Form DS-2019). The insurance coverage must meet U.S. Department of State and Augusta University J EVP requirements under 22 CFR Part 62.14 Insurance.
Please remind J EVs that failure to maintain insurance or allowing insurance to lapse may result in cancellation of the J program. 

What does 'no element of patient care' mean?

Augusta University J Exchange Visitor Program (J EVP) participants in the J EVP categories of Research Scholar, Short-term Scholar, Specialist, and Professor are expected to observe, consult, teach, or research. This means that for AU J EVP participants, program activities are non-clinical and may include no element of patient care services, including patient contact.

Name standards for J Exchange Visitors

J Exchange Visitor Program participants should use the name as it appears in the machine-readable portion of the passport as their name of record or official name. A machine-readable passport has two lines of text as letters, numbers and chevrons (<<<) at the bottom of the personal information page, along with the bearer’s picture. See here.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) does not allow entry of diacritical marks such as ¨, ^, `, ´, °, ¸ in Form DS-2019 name fields. 
According to the Social Security Administration, the surname is the family name or, generally, the last name (i.e., the name which distinguishes members of one family from members of another). The given name is all, or any part, of the name except the surname.

J program extension reminder emails

Remember that automatic alert emails are now being sent to J-1s and their department managers starting at 90 days in advance of the end date on the exchange visitor's current DS-2019. 

The reminder emails will continue to go out (at 60 days and 30 days) even if you and the J exchange visitor have submitted all of the extension request e-forms. The reminder emails will stop only after Beverly has actually extended the J program. 

If you and the exchange visitor have submitted all of the e-forms for the extension request, you can disregard the reminder emails. Remember that the extension request is not complete until the department and exchange visitor forms have all been completed. After you complete your part of the extension request, the exchange visitor is notified that they should begin their part. However, you may want to follow up with the exchange visitor to make sure that they complete these forms. Our office is not notified until the entire extension request is complete, so we have no way of knowing that you completed the department portion of an extension request, but the exchange visitor has not completed their part. 

Reminder about Deemed Export Controls

When a department submits an H-1B Department Request (initial or extension/amendment) through AU International, all portions of the request must be completed and approved before the applicant is contacted.

The final portion of the request is the Deemed Exports Control Statement, which must be completed by the direct supervisor of the sponsored employee. Department managers are encouraged to remind supervisors that the H-1B process cannot proceed until they have completed and signed off on their portion of the form.

Update your contact information in AU International

Department administrators: Please click on "Update Your Information" in AU International to make sure that your phone number, email, and other info is correct in our system.

International Link available as a resource

International Link is a local faith-based Augusta community organization (not-AU governed) that is committed to offering assistance and support to international members of the Augusta community.
They provide a variety of services and activities through area volunteers and churches. If your new international visitors or employees need a ride, guidance finding an apartment, or some household furniture or supplies, they can check out their website and contact them there, or via text or call at 706-250-2097.
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