Effective April 22, the DHS will provide relief to Syrian and Venezuelan citizens who are in the United States as lawful F-1 nonimmigrant status. DHS has recognized that due to the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Syria and the current humanitarian crises in Venezuela, F-1 nonimmigrant students who rely on financial support from Syria and Venezuela may be exempt from the typical nonimmigrant student visa requirements. Specifically, F-1 students may request employment authorization to work an increased number of hours when school is in session and to reduce their course load while maintaining F-1 status. This relief extends to students in private K–12, public school grades 9–12, and undergraduate and graduation education.
Here’s What You Need to Know
The suspension of the employment limitations is available through September 30, 2022, for Syrians, and September 9, 2022, for Venezuelans. To be eligible, the applicant must: (1) be a Syrian or Venezuelan citizen, regardless of country of birth; (2) be lawfully present in the United States in an F-1 nonimmigrant status as of April 22, 2021; (3) be enrolled in an academic institution that is SEVP—certified for enrollment of F-1 nonimmigrant students; (4) be maintaining F-1 nonimmigrant status; and (5) be experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the ongoing civil arrest in Syria or be experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the current humanitarian crises in Venezuela.
The minimum course requirements vary depending on education level. Undergraduates who receive on-campus or off-campus employment authorization must remain registered for a minimum of six semester or quarter hours of instruction per academic term. Graduate students who receive on-campus or off-campus employment authorization must remain registered for a minimum of three semesters or quarter hours of instruction per academic term. And, if the course is online, undergraduate and graduate students may count up to the equivalent of one class or three credits per session/term to meet the minimum course load requirement, unless the online course is in a language-study program. Private elementary school, middle school, and public or private high school students must attend class for the minimum number of hours a week required by their respective schools.
The new guidance includes other key facts for eligibility. Affected students should consult with their designated student officer (DSO) or an immigration attorney.
Finally, F-1 students may also consider applying for Temporary Protected Status. (See below)