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ISSS Updates from the Region VI and VIII Bi-Regional Conference


Region VI and VIII attendees on their way to the Pittsburgh Port of Entry Tour.

Department of State Exchange Visitor Program Update
  • Electronic DS-2019s may be on the way! BridgeUSA says that they are at the final clearance for electronic signatures on DS-2019s and permitting AROs to send via email. Once approved, it will go into effect immediately.
  • The Office of Designation continues to work with our sponsors in giving the flexibility to extend programs beyond maximum duration or change the exchange visitor’s category for those participants affected by the war in Ukraine.
  • STEM Academic Training Extension is now available to eligible exchange visitors (must be undergraduate and pre-doctoral degree-seeking) who are pursuing or recently completed STEM-related studies.
    • STEM Initiative will run for two academic years (2021-22 and 2022-23), and academic training extensions granted until December 31, 2024.

CIS Ombudsman Update

  • Reminder: CIS Ombudsman office is not USCIS, but acts as liaison between stakeholders and the agency.
  • CIS Ombudsman cannot assist once a congressional inquiry is opened, as there is only one physical file per case. Once the inquiry is opened, any work completed by the ombudsman is duplicative.
  • Both USCIS and CIS Ombudsman are working to reduce processing times for open cases. Some services may be impacted by understaffing, but USCIS is actively hiring to fill these vacancies.
  • Use specific email address for SAVE concerns:

Department of State Consular Affairs Update

  • Student adjudications for the month of July were the highest in any month since 2016. So far this calendar year DoS has issued more than 470,000 student visas.
  • The Department is also actively addressing consular staffing gaps created by the pandemic by onboarding and training new employees. The Department has doubled consular hiring of U.S. direct hires in FY 2022 over FY 2021, and newly trained employees are making their way to overseas consular adjudicator positions
  • In 2021, the Department of State updated FAM guidance to direct officers to focus on a student's immediate or present intent to depart the US after completing studies, and to consider a student’s unique profile.
  • Waivers of in person interview for F, M and academic J applicants are available to applicants who:
    • were previously issued a visa in any visa class; or 
    • are citizens or nationals of a Visa Waiver Program Country and have previously traveled to US on ESTA

Applicants must be a national or resident of the country where they are applying


SEVP Field Representative Update

  • Some universities in Region VIII are still without an SEVP Field Rep, but they are working to hire one for our territory.
    • There are a number of large territories without reps at this time, and they recognize that this is an issue.
  • In-person site visits are resuming, though there is a possibility for virtual site visits, depending on circumstances
  • SEVP requests that any trends or patterns (issues at SSN/DMV appointments, visa denials from a certain embassy, high number of fraudulent applications from a given region) be reported to your SEVP Field Rep.

Customs and Border Protection Update