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Special Student Relief for Ukrainian J-1 Students

The Pinjuh Law Firm, LLC > Immigration News > News > Special Student Relief for Ukrainian J-1 Students

lApril 5, 2023

Topics International Student and Scholar ServicesRegulatory Information

Competencies Compliance Management

On April 5, 2023, the Department of State (DOS) finally published a notice in the Federal Register describing the details of Special Student Relief (SSR) arrangements for eligible Ukrainian J-1 exchange visitors in the College and University Student category, effective until October 23, 2023.

J-1 SSR Notice at 88 FR 20202 (April 5, 2023)

Effective Dates under the Notice

In effect until October 23, 2023. The SSR notice states it is “effective on August 18, 2022, and will remain in effect until October 23, 2023, unless the U.S. Government unilaterally ends the arrangement early or the U.S. Government and the Government of Ukraine together extend its termination date.” However, the Federal Register notice was not published until April 5, 2023.

A DOS email sent months earlier, on August 24, 2022, also confirmed that “Exchange visitors who are on program pursuant to the terms of the arrangement when the arrangement ends may continue working and studying according to those terms through the end of that academic term.”

Eligibility Criteria under the Notice

To qualify for J-1 SSR under the April 5, 2023 Federal Register notice, a J-1 exchange visitor:

  • Must be “from Ukraine”
  • Must “have continuously resided in the United States since April 11, 2022”
  • Must be maintaining valid immigration and program status in the J-1 College and University Student category
  • Must “remain in good academic standing at the post-secondary accredited academic institutions at which they are registered”

SSR Benefits and Procedures under the Notice

The Federal Register notice waives or modifies certain aspects of the J-1 regulations governing J-1 college and university student full course of study and employment, as follows:

Modifications to on and off-campus employment employment requirementsSponsor may give advance written permission for J-1 students to work on or off-campus for more than 20 hours per week and for longer than twelve months (or until October 23, 2023, whichever is sooner). The notice requires this written permission to be done in SEVIS, in advance, by the Responsible Officer (RO) (see “processes,” below). Basis:

“With respect to Special Student Relief, the Department temporarily waives all subsections of § 62.23(g) except (g)(2)(i) and (iv). By retaining § 62.23(g)(2)(i), Ukrainian students are required to remain in good academic standing at the post-secondary accredited academic institutions at which they are registered. By modifying § 62.23(g)(2)(iv), sponsors may grant advanced, written employment approval to last beyond the twelve months that the provision currently allows, i.e., for the duration of the arrangement between the United States and Ukraine. Waiver and modification of these provisions allow eligible Ukrainian students to work on- or off-campus, for more than 20 hours a week, and for longer than twelve months.”

Modifications to full course of study requirementPart-time enrollment permitted. Applies to both degree students and students pursuing a prescribed course of study. The RO must notate the reduced course load authorization in the student’s SEVIS record (see “processes,” below). Basis:

“For purposes of Special Student Relief, the Department modifies § 62.23(h)(1)(i)(A) to allow eligible Ukrainian students to pursue course work equivalent to half of the full course of study requirement as defined in § 62.2 and further explained in paragraph (e) of § 62.23. The Department similarly modifies § 62.23(h)(2)(i)(A) to allow eligible Ukrainian students to participate half-time in a prescribed course of study. In other words, degree- seeking students may limit their course work to half of their academic institutions’ definition of a full-course of study. Similarly, non-degree-seeking students may reduce participation in their academic programs from full- to part-time.”

Processes for ROs to grant the SSR benefits

The notice requires Responsible Officers to grant the SSR benefits by updating the J-1 student’s SEVIS record, as follows:

“To authorize on-campus or off- campus employment for these students, Responsible Officers should update the students’ records in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) by notating the following text in the “Remarks” field: “Special Student Relief work authorization granted until October 19, 2023.””

“To authorize a reduced course load due to such employment, Responsible Officers should also notate the “Comment” field in the SEVIS record with the following text: “reduced course load authorized.””

Benefit monitoring requirement

The notice also contains this unusual monitoring requirement regarding the SSR benefits an RO grants:

“Responsible Officers should monitor students at the start of each term to confirm that students seeking to reduce their course loads intend to work more than 20 hours a week or that students who availed themselves of reduced course loads intend to continue to work more than 20 hours a week.”

Background on J-1 Special Student Relief

On Ukrainian National Day, August 24, 2022, the Department of State (DOS) informed Exchange Visitor Program sponsors in an email that it will soon issue a Federal Register notice describing the details of Special Student Relief (SSR) arrangements for eligible Ukrainian J-1 college and university students.

In the August 24, 2022 email, DOS asked sponsors to “[p]lease read the upcoming Federal Register Notice that will articulate in more detail the regulatory provisions at 22 CFR Part 62 that are being waived or modified for this relief,” and states that “[u]pon its publication in the Federal Register, sponsors should review the Department’s Notice on Special Student Relief and follow the terms set forth therein.” 

On that same day, NAFSA confirmed with the BridgeUSA Office of Private Sector Exchange Designation that sponsors had to wait until the Federal Register notice was published before approving Special Student Relief benefits for eligible J-1 students. It was hoped that the Federal Register notice would be published in the next two or three weeks, but the notice was ultimately not published until months later, on April 5, 2023. The delay in publication may have had something to do with the intricacies of the “arrangement between the United States and Ukraine” that DOS mentions in its email and the notice. The notice implies that it considers this to be “an educational and cultural exchange program established pursuant to an arrangement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Ukraine,” which may give DOS more discretion than with purely private programs.

This is only the second time that DOS has established SSR benefits for J-1 students. The first time was in 2011, when DOS provided SSR to J-1 students whose means of financial support came from Libya [see 76 FR 33993 (June 10, 2011)]. Prior to that, the DOS predecessor United States Information Agency (USIA), had established SSR benefits for certain J-1 students due to the 1998 Asian economic crisis [see 63 FR 34276 (June 24, 1998)].

NAFSA had advocated for SSR for J-1 Ukrainian students. See:

  • NAFSA Joins ACE Letter to DOS and DHS Asking Agencies to Provide Flexibility and Support. On February 28, 2022, NAFSA joined a letter led by the American Council on Education (ACE), asking the Departments of State and Homeland Security to “provide as much flexibility and support as possible for Ukrainian students and scholars currently in the United States, and for students and scholars seeking to leave Ukraine during the current crisis.”
  • NAFSA Asks ECA for SSR for Ukrainian J-1 Students. On February 28, 2022, NAFSA Executive Director & CEO, Dr. Esther D. Brimmer, sent a request to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), asking the agency to grant Special Student Relief benefits to J-1 college and university students from Ukraine. On March 8, 2022, ECA responded by thanking NAFSA for its request, and to confirm that the agency is aware of the  serious circumstances students are facing, and working with agency partners to promptly identify options to address these concerns.

Related: DHS SSR Authorization for F-1 Ukrainian Students

Note: DHS has already separately authorized SSR benefits for F-1 Ukrainian students. For more information on that, see NAFSA’s page Special Student Relief For F-1 Students: Essential Concepts.

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