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Greenhandshake is a trusted community marketplace for new US arrivals to connect, find local help of the same ethnic group, offering us to live smarter.

Potential Loss of School Accreditation – Impact on F-1 Students, Even After Graduation

Taking effect on May 10, 2016, the STEM OPT extension regulation included a new provision requires school F-1 student attending the accredited school. The regulation specifically stated that the following requirement:

  1. The degree serving as bases for the 24-month OPT extension is from an educational institution in the United States and accredited by a recognized accrediting agency.
  2. The accrediting agency must be recognized by the Department of Education at the time of application.

Very recently, one of the accrediting agencies recognized has been given notice that its Department of Education recognition might be lost. On September 22, 2016, both the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) were told that their approval may not be renewed.

The loss of this agency recognition would mean that for F-1 international students, who already graduated from ACICS accredited schools, would not be eligible to apply for the STEM OPT (Optional Practical Training). The 24-month extension is no longer applicable unless the school attended is able to obtain accreditation from an agency duly recognized.

There might still be good news for affected students as the decision is not yet final. ACICS plans to appeal for positive decision and while on appeal, the agency is recognized by the Department of Education. The issue needs close monitoring.  For more information, students may consider directly contacting their schools to know the school plans to resolve the situation in case of accreditation ultimately loss

They have to clarify if losing the accreditation now will affect those who have earned their degrees from these schools with applications of immigrations who have taken as master capH-1B and the petition in I-140 for the green card process. USCIS has to look back to determine whether the school has been accredited at the issuance of the degree. Those concerned are hoping that the loss of accreditation if it does happen will not be considered as retroactive to degrees already granted.

Students who graduated from schools accredited by ACICS should watched developments closely especially if they are planning to file an H-1B petition next April for a master’s degree.


Foreign STEM students are allowed by OPT to prolong their studies in their stay in the US after completing 6-12 months studies under a student visa. Hey used OPT to either look for jobs or apply for further education or simply wait until OPT term expires. Former President Barack Obama planned to extend the same to over three years but with the election, he ran out of time.

New US president Donald Trump’s had no plan for the extension of the STEM OPT. Standing for  to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM grads could benefit immigrant-friendly nations like Australia, Canada and New Zealand, among others.

However, not extending OPT by Trump does not affect students going to top schools like Stanford or MIT for their graduates are given priority in securing jobs after graduation. The impact hits students going to tier-2 and tier-3 universities in the US.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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How to Live Off-Campus as an International Student

Living in the room of the University residence halls deprives you of your privacy. You feel crammed sharing a bathroom with twenty other students. If you want your privacy, it is time to look for a place outside the dorm. Again, it might not be easy but it could be done!

You need to prepare and make certain decisions. Remember you have to fulfill some responsibilities: like doing your own laundry, learning how to prepare your meals and setting up your cable or internet. Here are some tips on starting to search for your own place:

Find roommates

If you cannot afford to pay your own place, a roommate can take off 50% of your load. You can recruit some of your friends to live off campus with you. Living off campus gives you the opportunity to learn to handle responsibilities and assume the role of an adult. Using your Math, you will realize that the more roommates you have, the lower the cost for a bigger house will be. Plus enjoying the the benefit of having your own room and bathroom.

Start an early search

Do you know that the 20 people sharing your bathroom in the dorm might also be thinking of finding their own place with friends? So you have competition, start an early search! Landlords know which units are available by February or March every year and give leases as early as May. The internet is the best place to start searching. Companies like CORT helps students to find apartments near campuses. Your school might also recommend certain landlords or apartment complexes nearby as upperclassmen move out.

Which is better – house or apartment?

A home has bigger space but it demands great responsibility. Living in a school dorm frees you from various payments in running a household. Under “Room and Board,” your payment covers everything. Your meals, utilities, furniture, and others are all included. Renting a house or apartment is a big decision. Ask yourself these questions before you make a decision.

Can you assume all these responsibilities?

Houses are more expensive to operate as they require more energy to cool during summer and warm up during winter. In a house, your obligation in utilities include: electricity, gas, sewage and water, electricity, gas, and sewage.

An apartment is cheaper since most apartments already include water and sewage in the rental. You pay for electricity. In either case, you have also to set up your internet.

Are there enough friends to fill in a house?

A house is rented out with only a single lease. If one of your recruits decided to backs out, you will have to fill in that spot or divide the cost with the others. Unless you can recruit another friend, all your share of the rental will be increased.

Is the place near the campus?

Houses near the campus are more expensive and most are apartments. Decide how far you want your place to be? Biking to the campus is convenient. However, are you willing to bike or to drive your way to the campus? Remember the changing weather patterns especially in the place where you live. Biking in bad weather is never fun.

Do you want plenty of space?

Houses are spacious and give you the luxury of having your own yard. In an apartment, only a wall separates you from the neighbors. But a house needs more work and expense to maintain. You have to mow the lawn and clean the gutters. In an apartment, it is often the landlord or leasing office that takes exterior care of the building.

If you live off-campus, will it be a house or apartment?

Nghi Tran – CFO/ Marketing Manager in Vietnam

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How Will Trump Presidency Impact High-Skilled Immigration?

When Donald Trump became 45th President of the United States, people were concerned about many issues. One of the issues that propelled his victory during the Republican nomination and ultimate victory as President was immigration. There were many sides discussed on immigration debate and Trump’s standpoint immigration has changed over time. In President Trump’s 10 Point Plan, 9 were focused on the reducing and preventing entry of illegal immigration. So the question is about his stand on legal immigration, especially high-skilled workers.

Trump’s 10th and final point on immigration plan emphasized that he only the best interests of America and its workers is on top of his priorities while preserving levels of immigration within historic norms. This statement is a clear indication that there will be no forthcoming increase in the H-1B visa numbers or any more expectations of employment-based green card availability.

Trump indicated clearly that former President Obama’s executive actions on immigration issues are no longer applicable. Many people questioned whether H-4 EAD is included and how far is its impact on the forth-coming compelling circumstances EAD rule. They do not expect elimination either of these programs by President Trump as the programs were regulatory actions from Department of Homeland Security implementation. They were not created as through an Executive Order. It is expected that termination of DACA is the main focus.

DACA means Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that is an American immigration policy started by the Obama administration in June 2012. It allows a number of undocumented immigrants who were still minors while entering the U.S. They were given renewable period of two-years as action deferred for working permit eligibility and action deferred from deportation.

This question needs an answer. Will there be more restrictions on legal immigration without any increase in immigration levels, particularly referring to the H-1B visa category? Some reforms are needed in this area considering the many stories that big American companies are replacing their US workers with H-1B holders from several outsourcing firms. However, this may not end the H-1B based on the light of business background of Trump. Being a businessman, he has been using workers holding H-1B and H-2B visas in his companies. Previously, he talked against the J-1 visa program. This study-based exchange visitor programs allows visitors to work while studying for a degree. President Trump suggested that it be replaced with resume bank for inner-city youth.

With the House and Senate controlled by Republicans, it is possible to see smaller reforms that are targeted in formalizing an immigration system that is legal and more feasible for employers and its purpose is advantageous to the American economy.  Previously, the President Trump has invited graduating international students especially in STEM fields to stay. There will be no increase in the levels of immigration by exempting STEM graduates of U.S. schools from the green card quota.

Trump is facing lots of issues to resolve during his first 100 days in office. He will have to return to the drawing board involving reforms on health care, trade agreements and financial reform. Immigration is tops on the list but the issue on legal immigration is still top priority to be addressed.

Mike Lee – Social Media Assistant

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With Trump’s Deportation Plan, Is Immigration Reform Dead?

President-elect Donald Trump has promised during his campaign to build a “big beautiful wall” along the U.S. border with Mexico and deport millions of the nation’s immigrants. Now that he is about to take his seat in the White House, what will happen to undocumented people residing illegally in the U.S.?

Trump’s proposal includes tripling Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, removing the estimated 690,000 undocumented residents who have committed crimes, and expelling immigrants overstaying their visas.

According to an analysis by the Washington Post, the total number of deportations is somewhere between 5 million and 6.5 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. The cost of these policies, along with the construction of the proposed border wall, will be between $51.2 billion and $66.9 billion.

The insane numbers that are attached to Trump’s immigration proposal has been criticized by many economists and political analysts. However, Trump still has not changed his mind.

His proposed immigration-related tasks also include plans to “immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties” and to ensure that “anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation,” according to his campaign website.

By stating “Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties,” Trump is likely referring to the outgoing president’s 2012 and 2014 executive actions on immigration, which granted temporary deportation stays to some immigrants. Republican governors argued the proposals were not approved by Congress and were therefore not legal.

Executive actions, unlike executive orders, are varied and more directed toward enforcement rather than legislation, but both can be discarded by an incoming president, according to Georgetown University Government Affairs Institute (GAI) Senior Fellow Susan Sullivan.

“When there’s a change in party control at the White House, it’s become de rigeur for the incoming president to dispense with a few Executive Orders issued by his predecessor at the first possible opportunity,” Sullivan wrote in a GAI post comparing executive orders and actions.

This means that President Obama’s efforts to create immigration reforms may soon be put to waste by Trump’s administration. Two of his immigration policies have already been blocked by the Supreme Court: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

In a 4-4 split ruling, the Supreme Court upheld earlier this year the decision to strike down the DACA expansion and DAPA. Due to this blockage, more than 5 million people who would have been eligible for protection are now left vulnerable to deportation.

DACA, a 2012 action delaying deportation for people brought to the U.S. before June 2007 and prior to their 16th birthdays, still stands. Its expansion, initiated in 2014, have allowed people brought to the U.S. when they were younger than 16 and have only been residing in the country since the start of 2010 to stay and work for another three years in the country. Meanwhile, DAPA, also enacted in 2014, would have delayed deportation for undocumented parents of American citizens.

So, in terms of slashing Obama Administration’s immigration reform, only the original version of DACA is left, for which 1.2 million people qualify.

Nghi Tran – CFO of Greenhandshake

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