Wednesday, October 28, 2015

DHS verifications may delay a driver license or renewal

If you, a non-U.S. citizen, seek a new or renewal driver’s license, and you meet all requirements, including documents, then you might be successful on your first visit to your state’s driver license center. However, be aware that you might need to return a second time.

In most if not all states, driver licenses are available to non-U.S. citizens, provided that such persons have all required documents and meet other requirements. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), for example, publishes a chart that identifies, by type of status, documents required for licenses.

 Please be aware that each state has its own specific requirements. That is, what is true for Pennsylvania may not necessarily be true for another state, and vice-versa.

More importantly, please be aware that having all required documents still might not be enough. A client of mine, who is seeking adjustment of status, recently went to a Pennsylvania driver license center to renew her license. She had all the documents she was supposed to have, after consulting the above chart. However, the driver license center staff told her that she was “not recognized” by the system. After I made inquiries to a department official, the matter was cleared up. It turned out that my client, at the time, had not been verified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and thus could not get the renewal at that time. However, this official personally followed up on this verification, and later my client did get her renewal.

Be aware that something similar may happen to you. If you go to get your license or renewal, and your state’s licensing bureau is able to verify your status with DHS, then you may be able to get your license then and there. On the other hand, if the verification cannot immediately occur, you might have to return to the center a second time. In Pennsylvania, once verification occurs, the person will receive a letter stating that he or she now is eligible. My client received such a letter, but for her it was unnecessary because she already had been verified through the PennDOT official.

Your own state most likely has similar procedures for verifying information with DHS.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law
We Chat calvin_t_sun

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The issues and uncertainty about OPT STEM extensions might be resolved

The recent uncertainty about the continued availability of OPT STEM extensions might be resolved. The result, in fact, could be even better than the current STEM extension provisions.

A few days ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a proposed rule regarding the OPT STEM extension program. One major change involves an increased length of the extension, from the current 17 months to 24 months. In other words, a STEM-eligible OPT participant, under the new rule, could have an total OPT period of as long as 36 months, as opposed to the current maximum 29 months.

As important as this increased length for STEM OPT is, however, an even MORE important aspect is the fact that DHS has proposed this rule in the first place. Their doing so addressed a key concern of the Federal judge who, a few months ago, struck down the OPT STEM extension program while delaying the effect of the striking down until February 2016.  The judge actually had no problems with either OPT or the OPT STEM extension themselves. Rather, she was unhappy because DHS failed to follow the proper procedure when originally setting up the OPT STEM extension option. The judge delayed the effect of the striking down in order to give DHS time to fix this earlier mistake—that is, to give DHS time to create a regulation and to do it properly.

The advertising in the Federal Register is the first step toward properly creating a rule, and should encourage those of you who have been concerned over the future of the OPT STEM extension. No one knows the future, of course. However, barring any unforeseen developments or problems, and specifically, assuming the judge finds no issues with the new rule or the process, the OPT STEM extension should continue, this time with an even longer period than before.

For further details of the proposed rule:

The information above does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Calvin Sun, attorney at law
215-983-3723 (note: you may get a Spamarrest challenge message in response)
We Chat: calvin_t_sun