[Federal Register Volume 89, Number 73 (Monday, April 15, 2024)]

[Notices]

[Pages 26161-26167]

From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

[FR Doc No: 2024-07642]

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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

[Docket No. ICEB-2024-0004]

RIN 1653-ZA48

Employment Authorization for Ethiopian F-1 Nonimmigrant Students

Experiencing Severe Economic Hardship as a Direct Result of the Current

Armed Conflict and the Current Humanitarian Crisis in Ethiopia

AGENCY: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Department of

Homeland Security.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The Department of Homeland Security is suspending certain

regulatory requirements for F-1 nonimmigrant students from Ethiopia who

are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the

current armed conflict and the current humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

The Secretary is providing relief to these students who are in lawful

F-1 nonimmigrant status, so the students may request employment

authorization, work an increased number of hours while school is in

session, and reduce their course load while continuing to maintain

their F-1 nonimmigrant status.

DATES: This action is effective June 13, 2024, through December 12,

2025.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sharon Snyder, Unit Chief, Policy and

Response Unit, Student and Exchange Visitor Program, MS 5600, U.S.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 500 12th Street SW, Washington, DC

20536-5600; email: sevp@ice.dhs.gov, telephone: (703) 603-3400. This is

not a toll-free number. Program information can be found at https://www.ice.gov/sevis/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

What action is DHS taking under this notice?

The Secretary is exercising authority under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9) to

temporarily suspend the applicability of certain requirements governing

on-campus and off-campus employment for F-1 nonimmigrant students whose

country of citizenship is Ethiopia regardless of country of birth (or

individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in

Ethiopia), who are present in the United States in lawful F-1

nonimmigrant student status on the date of publication of this notice,

and who are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of

the current armed conflict and the current humanitarian crisis in

Ethiopia. The original notice, which applied to F-1 nonimmigrant

students who met certain criteria, including having been lawfully

present in the United States in F-1 nonimmigrant status on December 12,

2022, was effective from December 12, 2022, through June 12, 2024. See

87 FR 76068 (Dec. 12, 2022). Effective with this publication,

suspension of the employment limitations is available through December

12, 2025, for those who are in lawful F-1 nonimmigrant status on the

date of publication of this notice. DHS will deem an F-1 nonimmigrant

student granted employment authorization through this Notice to be

engaged in a ``full course of study'' for the duration of the

employment authorization, if the student satisfies the minimum course

load set forth in this notice.\1\ See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(F).

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\1\ Because the suspension of requirements under this notice

applies throughout an academic term during which the suspension is

in effect, DHS considers an F-1 nonimmigrant student who engages in

a reduced course load or employment (or both) after this notice is

effective to be engaging in a ``full course of study,'' see 8 CFR

214.2(f)(6), and eligible for employment authorization, through the

end of any academic term for which such student is matriculated as

of December 12, 2025, provided the student satisfies the minimum

course load requirements in this notice.

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Who is covered by this notice?

This notice applies exclusively to F-1 nonimmigrant students who

meet all of the following conditions:

(1) Are a citizen of Ethiopia regardless of country of birth (or an

individual having no nationality who last habitually resided in

Ethiopia);

(2) Were lawfully present in the United States on the date of

publication of this notice in F-1 nonimmigrant status under section

101(a)(15)(F)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C.

1101(a)(15)(F)(i);

(3) Are enrolled in an academic institution that is Student and

Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified for enrollment for F-1

nonimmigrant students;

(4) Are currently maintaining F-1 nonimmigrant status; and

(5) Are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of

the current armed conflict and the current humanitarian crisis in

Ethiopia.

This notice applies to F-1 nonimmigrant students in an approved

private school in kindergarten through grade 12, public school grades 9

through 12, and undergraduate and graduate education. An F-1

nonimmigrant student covered by this notice who

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transfers to another SEVP-certified academic institution remains

eligible for the relief provided by means of this notice.

Why is DHS taking this action?

DHS is taking action to provide relief to Ethiopian F-1

nonimmigrant students experiencing severe economic hardship due to the

current armed conflict and the current humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

Based on its review of country conditions in Ethiopia and input

received from the U.S. Department of State (DOS), DHS is taking action

to allow eligible F-1 nonimmigrant students from Ethiopia to request

employment authorization, work an increased number of hours while

school is in session, and reduce their course load while continuing to

maintain F-1 nonimmigrant student status.

In November 2020, fighting between the Ethiopian National Defense

Forces (ENDF) \2\ and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) \3\

resulted in a protracted conflict in the northern Tigray region, and

reports of serious and widespread abuses.\4\ Violence spread to

neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, resulting in ``mass displacement

and a worsening of the humanitarian situation'' in all three

regions.\5\ In November 2022, the Ethiopian federal government and the

TPLF signed the cessation of hostilities agreement (COHA) with the goal

of ensuring ``peace and improved access in Northern Ethiopia regions of

Afar, Amhara, and Tigray.'' \6\ However, in 2023, fighting broke out

between the ENDF and the Fano militia, a non-state militia in Amhara,

and violence elsewhere in Ethiopia has escalated. In addition to the

conflict in Ethiopia, the human rights situation in Ethiopia has

deteriorated in recent months. The humanitarian situation has also

degenerated, partially due to the uptick in armed clashes, as well as

other factors including significant food insecurity, disease, and

internal displacement.

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\2\ The Ethiopian National Defense Force is Ethiopia's military

comprised of an army and air force. ENDF currently has four regional

commands: Northern, Eastern, Western and Southern Commands. Security

situation in Tigray region between 1 March 2020-28 February 2021,

EASO, March 30, 2021, available at https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/2048047/2021_03_Q-02_EASO_COI_QUERY_Ethiopia_Tigray.pdf (last

visited on Dec. 13, 2023).

\3\ The TPLF was the ruling party of the Tigray regional

government, and between 1991 through 2018 was the dominant ruling

party in Ethiopia's former coalition government--the Ethiopian

People's Democratic Front (EPRDF). Security situation in Tigray

region between 1 March 2020-28 February 2021, EASO, March 30, 2021,

available at https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/2048047/2021_03_Q-02_EASO_COI_QUERY_Ethiopia_Tigray.pdf (last visited on Dec. 13,

2023).

\4\ 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ethiopia,

U.S Department of State, March 30, 2021, available at https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/ETHIOPIA-2020-HUMAN-RIGHTS-REPORT.pdf (last visited on Dec. 13, 2023).

\5\ Ethiopia Response to the Tigray Crisis--Situation Report, UN

Population Fund, August 15-31, 2021, available at https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/unfpa_extsitrep_15-31_august_tigrayresponse.pdf (last visited on

Dec. 13, 2023).

\6\ Ethiopia: Protection Cluster National Strategy 2023-2025,

Protection Cluster, UNHCR, Nov. 3, 2023, available at https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-protection-cluster-national-strategy-2023-2025 (last visited don Dec. 6, 2023).

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Security Concerns

Despite the COHA and improvements in the northern Tigray region,

violence has continued, or escalated, in other parts of the country.\7\

In the Amhara region, rising insecurity and violence led the Ethiopian

government to declare a state of emergency in August 2023.\8\ In Oromia

in May 2023, clashes between the Ethiopian federal government and Oromo

Liberation Army-Shane (OLA-Shane) \9\ led ``to violence levels

comparable to those throughout 2022.'' \10\ Moreover, in December 2023,

ACLED reported that political violence persisted along the regional

border between the Oromia and Amhara regions.\11\

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\7\ Humanitarian Response Plan Ethiopia, UNOCHA, February 2023,

available at https://humanitarianaction.info/plan/1128/article/ethiopia-hrp-2023#page-title (last visited Feb. 27, 2024).

\8\ UN International Commission of Human Rights Experts on

Ethiopia, UN Human Rights Council, October 3, 2023, available at

https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/hrbodies/hrcouncil/chreetiopia/A-HRC-54-CRP-2.pdf (last visited on Nov. 21,

2023).

\9\ In April 2019, OLA-Shane spilt from the main opposition

group from Oromia, the Oromo Liberation Front ``due to disagreement

over disarming its fighters'' as part of the peace agreements

between the EPP and OLF. EPO Actor Profiles--OLA-Shane, ACLED,

available at https://epo.acleddata.com/actor-profiles/#1622661802591-0e52a034-00f0 (last visited on Dec. 13, 2023).

\10\ Violence Returns to Oromia Despite Attempted Peace Talks,

ACLED-Ethiopia Peace Observatory, May 2023, available at https://epo.acleddata.com/2023/06/22/epo-may-2023-monthly-violence-returns-to-oromia-despite-attempted-peace-talks/ (last visited on Nov. 21,

2023).

\11\ EPO Weekly Report, ACLED, December 6, 2023, available at

https://epo.acleddata.com/2023/12/06/epo-weekly-25-november-1-december-2023/ (last visited on Dec. 6, 2023).

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Humanitarian Concerns

Though the COHA was signed in November 2022, Northern Ethiopia has

faced increasing demands for humanitarian and protection services.\12\

Rising insecurity also led to increased displacement and protection

risks in the Amhara region, and along its regional border with

Tigray.\13\ In October 2023, the International Commission of Human

Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) stated that state and non-state

armed groups in Ethiopia had committed human rights violations.\14\

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\12\ Ethiopia Protection Cluster Update, UNHCR, Protection

Cluster, November 9, 2023, available at https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-protection-cluster-update-third-quarter-2023, (last visited on Dec. 6, 2023).

\13\ Id.

\14\ International Commission of Human Rights Experts on

Ethiopia, UN Human Rights Council, October 3, 2023, available at

https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/hrbodies/hrcouncil/chreetiopia/A-HRC-54-CRP-2.pdf (last visited on Nov. 20,

2023).

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In November 2023, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

(UNHCR) assessed that ``children are increasingly resorting to harmful

activities to cope with the situation, including school drop-out, child

marriage, sexual exploitation, begging, child labor and theft.'' \15\

UNHCR further noted that ``children living in the conflict zones lack

adequate access to school, food, health care and other essential

services that meet their specific needs.'' \16\ In addition, in

Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia, Gambella, and Somali regions, individuals

reportedly face increasing protection needs due to inter-communal

conflict, conflict between government forces and unidentified armed

groups, drought, flooding, and cholera.\17\

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\15\ Ethiopia: Protection Cluster National Strategy 2023-2023,

Protection Cluster, UNHCR, November 3, 2023, available at https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-protection-cluster-national-strategy-2023-2025 (last visited on Dec. 6, 2023).

\16\ Concluding observations on the second periodic report of

Ethiopia, UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

December 7, 2022, available at https://www.ecoi.net/en/file/local/2083101/G2258918.pdf (last visited on Dec. 13, 2023).

\17\ Ethiopia Protection Cluster Update, UNHCR, Protection

Cluster, November 9, 2023, available at https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-protection-cluster-update-third-quarter-2023 (last visited on Dec. 6, 2023).

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In 2023, food insecurity continued to be a major concern in

Ethiopia due to multiple challenges, including high malnutrition rates,

and recent reports of drought-like conditions.\18\ As of September

2023, ``over 20 million people [are] in urgent need of food assistance

and agriculture support.'' \19\ This figure represents ``an increase of

about 150 percent over the last 5

[[Page 26163]]

years.'' \20\ Additionally, high levels of acute malnutrition of

children under five years of age continued in several regions of the

country.\21\

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\18\ Ethiopia Humanitarian Response Situation, UN Population

Fund, November 30, 2023, available at https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/unfpa-ethiopia-humanitarian-response-situation-report-october-2023, (last visited on Dec. 6, 2023).

\19\ Northern Ethiopia--Public Health Situation Analysis, World

Health Organization, September 22, 2023, available at https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/northern-ethiopia-public-health-situation-analysis-phsa-25-august-2023 (last visited on Dec. 6,

2023).

\20\ Id.

\21\ Ethiopia Acute Food Security, FEWS.NE T, October 2023,

available at https://fews.net/east-africa/ethiopia/food-security-outlook/october2023 (last visited on Dec. 8, 2023).

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Human Rights Concerns

The UNHCR reported in January 2024, that, ``Access for humanitarian

actors remains restricted in locations affected by violence (especially

in Amhara, Oromia, parts of Benishangul Gumuz), while the safety and

security of the civilian population, including IDPs, is

deteriorating.\22\ UNHCR further assessed that, ``in conflict-affected-

areas of Northern Ethiopia and Oromia, and in zones impacted by

recurrent ethnic violence (e.g., along the border between Somali and

Afar regions), civilians face indiscriminate attacks by both state

forces and non-state armed groups.'' \23\ There are also increasing

reports of violations by security forces, including those involving

excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings.\24\ The ICHREE

further noted that ``the Ethiopian Government continues to tolerate and

has failed to hold to account Amhara forces, including fano militia,

who have perpetrated serious violations against Tigrayan women, men and

children, in particular in Western Tigray.'' \25\

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\22\ Protection Cluster Advocacy Messages to address Critical

Protection Risks and Violations (January 2024), available at https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/protection-cluster-advocacy-messages-address-critical-protection-risks-and-violations-january-2024 (last

visited Feb. 02, 2024).

\23\ Ethiopia: Protection Cluster National Strategy 2023-2023,

Protection Cluster, UNHCR, November 3, 2023, available at https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-protection-cluster-national-strategy-2023-2025 (last visited on Dec. 6, 2023).

\24\ Id.

\25\ International Commission on HR Experts on Ethiopia, UN

Human Rights Council, October 3, 2023, available at https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/hrbodies/hrcouncil/chreetiopia/A-HRC-54-CRP-2.pdf (last visited on Nov. 20, 2023).

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In March 2023, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated the

following regarding atrocities committed in Tigray, ``members of

[ENDF], Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), [TPLF] forces, and Amhara forces

committed war crimes during the conflict in northern Ethiopia. Members

of ENDF, EDF, and Amhara forces also committed crimes against humanity,

including murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and

persecution.'' \26\ Secretary Blinken also stated that members of the

Amhara forces committed the crime against humanity of deportation or

forcible transfer of people in western Tigray and also committed ethnic

cleansing in western Tigray.\27\

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\26\ War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Ethnic Cleansing

in Ethiopia, Press Statement from U.S. Secretary of State, March 20,

2023, available at https://www.state.gov/war-crimes-crimes-against-humanity-and-ethnic-cleansing-in-ethiopia/ (last visited on Dec. 4,

2023).

\27\ Id.

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Economic Concerns

In 2022, Ethiopia's real GDP growth fell to 5.3 percent from 5.6

percent in 2021.\28\ However, Ethiopia's GDP remained above the average

GDP in East Africa.\29\ In 2022, inflation in Ethiopia rose

significantly to 34 percent from 26.6 percent in the previous year. The

rise in inflation and decline in growth is largely attributed to the

impacted caused by internal conflict, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and

drought. The African Development Bank Group stated that, ``The fiscal

deficit widened to 4.2 percent of GDP in 2022 from 2.8 percent in 2021

due to higher defense spending and weak revenue performance.''

Additionally, income per capita in Ethiopia grew by 2.7 percent in

2022, ``but internal conflict and drought increased humanitarian

support requirements from 15.8 million people in 2021 to 20 million in

2022.'' \30\ Other potential impacts on Ethiopia's economic conditions

include increased internal conflict, growing numbers of displaced

persons, drought, and outbreak of disease.

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\28\ Ethiopia Economic Outlook, African Development Bank Group,

May 24, 2023, available at https://www.afdb.org/en/countries/east-africa/ethiopia/ethiopia-economic-outlook (last visited Jan. 5,

2024).

\29\ Id.

\30\ Id.

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As of March 19, 2024, 3,620 F-1 nonimmigrant students from Ethiopia

are enrolled at SEVP-certified academic institutions in the United

States. Given the extent of the current armed conflict and the current

humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, affected students whose primary means

of financial support comes from Ethiopia may need to be exempt from the

normal student employment requirements to continue their studies in the

United States. The current armed conflict and the current humanitarian

crisis has made it unfeasible for many students to safely return to

Ethiopia for the foreseeable future. Without employment authorization,

these students may lack the means to meet basic living expenses.

What is the minimum course load requirement to maintain valid F-1

nonimmigrant status under this notice?

Undergraduate F-1 nonimmigrant students who receive on-campus or

off-campus employment authorization under this notice must remain

registered for a minimum of six semester or quarter hours of

instruction per academic term. Undergraduate F-1 nonimmigrant students

enrolled in a term of different duration must register for at least one

half of the credit hours normally required under a ``full course of

study.'' See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(B) and (F). A graduate-level F-1

nonimmigrant student who receives on-campus or off-campus employment

authorization under this notice must remain registered for a minimum of

three semester or quarter hours of instruction per academic term. See 8

CFR 214.2(f)(5)(v). Nothing in this notice affects the applicability of

other minimum course load requirements set by the academic institution.

In addition, an F-1 nonimmigrant student (either undergraduate or

graduate) granted on-campus or off-campus employment authorization

under this notice may count up to the equivalent of one class or three

credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter of online or

distance education toward satisfying this minimum course load

requirement, unless their course of study is in an English language

study program. See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G). An F-1 nonimmigrant student

attending an approved private school in kindergarten through grade 12

or public school in grades 9 through 12 must maintain ``class

attendance for not less than the minimum number of hours a week

prescribed by the school for normal progress toward graduation,'' as

required under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(E). Nothing in this notice affects

the applicability of federal and state labor laws limiting the

employment of minors.

May an eligible F-1 nonimmigrant student who already has on-campus or

off-campus employment authorization benefit from the suspension of

regulatory requirements under this notice?

Yes. An F-1 nonimmigrant student who is an Ethiopian citizen,

regardless of country of birth (or an individual having no nationality

who last habitually resided in Ethiopia), who already has on-campus or

off-campus employment authorization and is otherwise eligible may

benefit under this notice, which suspends certain regulatory

requirements relating to the minimum course load requirement under 8

CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i) and certain employment eligibility requirements

under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9). Such an eligible F-1 nonimmigrant student may

benefit without having to apply for a new Form I-766, Employment

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Authorization Document (EAD). To benefit from this notice, the F-1

nonimmigrant student must request that their designated school official

(DSO) enter the following statement in the remarks field of the

student's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)

record, which the student's Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for

Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status, will reflect:

Approved for more than 20 hours per week of [DSO must insert

``on-campus'' or ``off-campus,'' depending upon the type of

employment authorization the student already has] employment

authorization and reduced course load under the Special Student

Relief authorization from [DSO must insert the beginning date of the

notice or the beginning date of the student's employment, whichever

date is later] until [DSO must insert either the student's program

end date, the current EAD expiration date (if the student is

currently authorized for off-campus employment), or the end date of

this notice, whichever date comes first].\31\

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\31\ See note 1, supra.

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Must the F-1 nonimmigrant student apply for reinstatement after

expiration of this special employment authorization if the student

reduces his or her ``full course of study''?

No. DHS will deem an F-1 nonimmigrant student who receives and

comports with the employment authorization permitted under this notice

to be engaged in a ``full course of study'' \32\ for the duration of

the student's employment authorization, provided that a qualifying

undergraduate level F-1 nonimmigrant student remains registered for a

minimum of six semester or quarter hours of instruction per academic

term, and a qualifying graduate level F-1 nonimmigrant student remains

registered for a minimum of three semester or quarter hours of

instruction per academic term. See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(v) and

(f)(6)(i)(F). Undergraduate F-1 nonimmigrant students enrolled in a

term of different duration must register for at least one half of the

credit hours normally required under a ``full course of study.'' See 8

CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(B) and (F). DHS will not require such students to

apply for reinstatement under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(16) if they are otherwise

maintaining F-1 nonimmigrant status.

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\32\ See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6).

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Will an F-2 dependent (spouse or minor child) of an F-1 nonimmigrant

student covered by this notice be eligible for employment

authorization?

No. An F-2 spouse or minor child of an F-1 nonimmigrant student is

not authorized to work in the United States and, therefore, may not

accept employment under the F-2 nonimmigrant status, consistent with 8

CFR 214.2(f)(15)(i).

Will the suspension of the applicability of the standard student

employment requirements apply to an individual who receives an initial

F-1 visa and makes an initial entry into the United States after the

effective date of this notice in the Federal Register?

No. The suspension of the applicability of the standard regulatory

requirements only applies to certain F-1 nonimmigrant students who meet

the following conditions:

(1) Are a citizen of Ethiopia regardless of country of birth (or an

individual having no nationality who last habitually resided in

Ethiopia);

(2) Were lawfully present in the United States on the date of

publication of this notice in F-1 nonimmigrant status, under section

101(a)(15)(F)(i) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(F)(i);

(3) Are enrolled in an academic institution that is SEVP-certified

for enrollment of F-1 nonimmigrant students;

(4) Are maintaining F-1 nonimmigrant status; and

(5) Are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of

the current armed conflict and the current humanitarian crisis in

Ethiopia.

An F-1 nonimmigrant student who does not meet all these

requirements is ineligible for the suspension of the applicability of

the standard regulatory requirements (even if experiencing severe

economic hardship as a direct result of the current armed conflict and

the current humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia).

Does this notice apply to a continuing F-1 nonimmigrant student who

departs the United States after the effective date of this notice in

the Federal Register and who needs to obtain a new F-1 visa before

returning to the United States to continue an educational program?

Yes. This notice applies to such an F-1 nonimmigrant student, but

only if the DSO has properly notated the student's SEVIS record, which

will then appear on the student's Form I-20. The normal rules for visa

issuance remain applicable to a nonimmigrant who needs to apply for a

new F-1 visa to continue an educational program in the United States.

Does this notice apply to elementary school, middle school, and high

school students in F-1 status?

Yes. However, this notice does not by itself reduce the required

course load for F-1 nonimmigrant students from Ethiopia enrolled in

kindergarten through grade 12 at a private school, or grades 9 through

12 at a public high school. Such students must maintain the minimum

number of hours of class attendance per week prescribed by the academic

institution for normal progress toward graduation, as required under

8CFR214.2(f)(6)(i)(E). The suspension of certain regulatory

requirements related to employment through this notice is applicable to

all eligible F-1 nonimmigrant students regardless of educational level.

Eligible F-1 nonimmigrant students from Ethiopia enrolled in an

elementary school, middle school, or high school may benefit from the

suspension of the requirement in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(i) that limits on-

campus employment to 20 hours per week while school is in session.

On-Campus Employment Authorization

Will an F-1 nonimmigrant student who receives on-campus employment

authorization under this notice be authorized to work more than 20

hours per week while school is in session?

Yes. For an F-1 nonimmigrant student covered in this notice, the

Secretary is suspending the applicability of the requirement in 8 CFR

214.2(f)(9)(i) that limits an F-1 nonimmigrant student's on-campus

employment to 20 hours per week while school is in session. An eligible

F-1 nonimmigrant student has authorization to work more than 20 hours

per week while school is in session if the DSO has entered the

following statement in the remarks field of the student's SEVIS record,

which will be reflected on the student's Form I-20:

Approved for more than 20 hours per week of on-campus employment

and reduced course load, under the Special Student Relief

authorization from [DSO must insert the beginning date of this

notice or the beginning date of the student's employment, whichever

date is later] until [DSO must insert the student's program end date

or the end date of this notice, whichever date comes first].\33\

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\33\ See note 1, supra.

To obtain on-campus employment authorization, the F-1 nonimmigrant

student must demonstrate to the DSO that the employment is necessary to

avoid severe economic hardship directly resulting from the current

armed conflict and the current humanitarian

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crisis in Ethiopia. An F-1 nonimmigrant student authorized by the DSO

to engage in on-campus employment by means of this notice does not need

to file any applications with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

(USCIS). The standard rules permitting full-time on-campus employment

when school is not in session or during school vacations apply, as

described in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(i).

Will an F-1 nonimmigrant student who receives on-campus employment

authorization under this notice have authorization to reduce the normal

course load and still maintain his or her F-1 nonimmigrant student

status?

Yes. DHS will deem an F-1 nonimmigrant student who receives on-

campus employment authorization under this notice to be engaged in a

``full course of study'' \34\ for the purpose of maintaining their F-1

nonimmigrant student status for the duration of the on-campus

employment, if the student satisfies the minimum course load

requirement described in this notice, consistent with 8 CFR

214.2(f)(6)(i)(F). However, the authorization to reduce the normal

course load is solely for DHS purposes of determining valid F-1

nonimmigrant student status. Nothing in this notice mandates that

school officials allow an F-1 nonimmigrant student to take a reduced

course load if the reduction would not meet the academic institution's

minimum course load requirement for continued enrollment.\35\

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\34\ See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6).

\35\ Minimum course load requirement for enrollment in a school

must be established in a publicly available document (e.g., catalog,

website, or operating procedure), and it must be a standard

applicable to all students (U.S. citizens and foreign students)

enrolled at the school.

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Off-Campus Employment Authorization

What regulatory requirements does this notice temporarily suspend

relating to off-campus employment?

For an F-1 nonimmigrant student covered by this notice, as provided

under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(ii)(A), the Secretary is suspending the

following regulatory requirements relating to off-campus employment:

(a) The requirement that a student must have been in F-1

nonimmigrant student status for one full academic year to be eligible

for off-campus employment;

(b) The requirement that an F-1 nonimmigrant student must

demonstrate that acceptance of employment will not interfere with the

student's carrying a full course of study;

(c) The requirement that limits an F-1 nonimmigrant student's

employment authorization to no more than 20 hours per week of off-

campus employment while the school is in session; and

(d) The requirement that the student demonstrate that employment

under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9)(i) is unavailable or otherwise insufficient to

meet the needs that have arisen as a result of the unforeseen

circumstances.

Will an F-1 nonimmigrant student who receives off-campus employment

authorization under this notice have authorization to reduce the normal

course load and still maintain F-1 nonimmigrant status?

Yes. DHS will deem an F-1 nonimmigrant student who receives off-

campus employment authorization by means of this notice to be engaged

in a ``full course of study'' \36\ for the purpose of maintaining F-1

nonimmigrant student status for the duration of the student's

employment authorization if the student satisfies the minimum course

load requirement described in this notice, consistent with 8 CFR

214.2(f)(6)(i)(F). The authorization for a reduced course load is

solely for DHS purposes of determining valid F-1 nonimmigrant student

status. Nothing in this notice mandates that school officials allow an

F-1 nonimmigrant student to take a reduced course load if such reduced

course load would not meet the school's minimum course load

requirement.\37\

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\36\ See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6).

\37\ See note 35, supra.

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How may an eligible F-1 nonimmigrant student obtain employment

authorization for off-campus employment with a reduced course load

under this notice?

An F-1 nonimmigrant student must file a Form I-765, Application for

Employment Authorization, with USCIS to apply for off-campus employment

authorization based on severe economic hardship directly resulting from

the current armed conflict and the current humanitarian crisis in

Ethiopia.\38\ Filing instructions are located at https://www.uscis.gov/i-765.

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\38\ See 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(iii).

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Fee considerations. Submission of a Form I-765 currently requires

payment of a $520 fee. An applicant who is unable to pay the fee may

submit a completed Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, along with the

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. See https://www.uscis.gov/i-912. The submission must include an explanation about

why USCIS should grant the fee waiver and the reason(s) for the

inability to pay, and any evidence to support the reason(s). See 8 CFR

106.2 and 106.3.

Supporting documentation. An F-1 nonimmigrant student seeking off-

campus employment authorization due to severe economic hardship must

demonstrate the following to their DSO:

(1) This employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship;

and

(2) The hardship is a direct result of the current armed conflict

and the current humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

If the DSO agrees that the F-1 nonimmigrant student is entitled to

receive such employment authorization, the DSO must recommend

application approval to USCIS by entering the following statement in

the remarks field of the student's SEVIS record, which will then appear

on that student's Form I-20:

Recommended for off-campus employment authorization in excess of

20 hours per week and reduced course load under the Special Student

Relief authorization from the date of the USCIS authorization noted

on Form I-766 until [DSO must insert the program end date or the end

date of this notice, whichever date comes first].\39\

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\39\ See note 1, supra.

The F-1 nonimmigrant student must then file the properly endorsed

Form I-20 and Form I-765 according to the instructions for the Form I-

  1. The F-1 nonimmigrant student may begin working off campus only

upon receipt of the EAD from USCIS.

DSO recommendation. In making a recommendation that an F-1

nonimmigrant student be approved for Special Student Relief, the DSO

certifies that:

(a) The F-1 nonimmigrant student is in good academic standing and

is carrying a ``full course of study'' \40\ at the time of the request

for employment authorization;

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\40\ See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6).

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(b) The F-1 nonimmigrant student is a citizen of Ethiopia,

regardless of country of birth (or an individual having no nationality

who last habitually resided in Ethiopia), and is experiencing severe

economic hardship as a direct result of the current armed conflict and

the current humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, as documented on the Form

I-20;

(c) The F-1 nonimmigrant student has confirmed that the student

will comply with the reduced course load requirements of this notice

and register for the duration of the authorized employment for a

minimum of six semester or quarter hours of instruction per academic

term if at the

[[Page 26166]]

undergraduate level, or for a minimum of three semester or quarter

hours of instruction per academic term if the student is at the

graduate level; \41\ and

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\41\ 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(v).

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(d) The off-campus employment is necessary to alleviate severe

economic hardship to the individual as a direct result of the current

armed conflict and the current humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

Processing. To facilitate prompt adjudication of the student's

application for off-campus employment authorization under 8 CFR

214.2(f)(9)(ii)(C), the F-1 nonimmigrant student should do both of the

following:

(a) Ensure that the application package includes the following

documents:

(1) A completed Form I-765 with all applicable supporting evidence;

(2) The required fee or properly documented fee waiver request as

defined in 8 CFR 106.2 and 106.3; and

(3) A signed and dated copy of the student's Form I-20 with the

appropriate DSO recommendation, as previously described in this notice;

and

(b) Send the application in an envelope which is clearly marked on

the front of the envelope, bottom right-hand side, with the phrase

``SPECIAL STUDENT RELIEF.'' \42\ Failure to include this notation may

result in significant processing delays.

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\42\ Guidance for direct filing addresses can be found here:

https://www.uscis.gov/i-765-addresses.

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If USCIS approves the student's Form I-765, USCIS will send the

student a Form I-766 EAD as evidence of employment authorization. The

EAD will contain an expiration date that does not exceed the end of the

granted temporary relief.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Considerations

Can an F-1 nonimmigrant student apply for TPS and for benefits under

this notice at the same time?

Yes. An F-1 nonimmigrant student who has not yet applied for TPS or

for other relief that reduces the student's course load per term and

permits an increased number of work hours per week, such as Special

Student Relief,\43\ under this notice has two options.

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\43\ See DHS Study in the States, Special Student Relief,

https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students/special-student-relief

(last visited Dec. 17, 2023).

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Under the first option, the F-1 nonimmigrant student may apply for

TPS according to the instructions in the USCIS notice designating

Ethiopia for TPS elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register. All

TPS applicants must file a Form I-821, Application for Temporary

Protected Status, with the appropriate fee (or request a fee waiver).

Although not required to do so, if F-1 nonimmigrant students want to

obtain a new TPS-related EAD that is valid through December 12, 2025,

and to be eligible for automatic EAD extensions that may be available

to certain EADs with an A-12 or C-19 category code, they must file Form

I-765 and pay the Form I-765 fee (or request a fee waiver). After

receiving the TPS-related EAD, an F-1 nonimmigrant student may request

that their DSO make the required entry in SEVIS and issue an updated

Form I-20, which notates that the nonimmigrant student has been

authorized to carry a reduced course load, as described in this notice.

As long as the F-1 nonimmigrant student maintains the minimum course

load described in this notice, does not otherwise violate their

nonimmigrant status, including as provided under 8 CFR 214.1(g), and

maintains TPS, then the student maintains F-1 status and TPS

concurrently.

Under the second option, the F-1 nonimmigrant student may apply for

an EAD under Special Student Relief by filing Form I-765 with the

location specified in the filing instructions. At the same time, the F-

1 nonimmigrant student may file a separate TPS application but must

submit the Form I-821 according to the instructions provided in the

Federal Register notice designating Ethiopia for TPS. If the F-1

nonimmigrant student has already applied for employment authorization

under Special Student Relief, they are not required to submit the Form

I-765 as part of the TPS application. However, some nonimmigrant

students may wish to obtain a TPS-related EAD in light of certain

extensions that may be available to EADs with an A-12 or C-19 category

code that are not available to the C-3 category under which Special

Student Relief falls. The F-1 nonimmigrant student should check the

appropriate box when filling out Form I-821 to indicate whether a TPS-

related EAD is being requested. Again, as long as the F-1 nonimmigrant

student maintains the minimum course load described in this notice and

does not otherwise violate the student's nonimmigrant status, included

as provided under 8 CFR 214.1(g), the nonimmigrant will be able to

maintain compliance requirements for F-1 nonimmigrant student status

while having TPS.

When a student applies simultaneously for TPS and benefits under this

notice, what is the minimum course load requirement while an

application for employment authorization is pending?

The F-1 nonimmigrant student must maintain normal course load

requirements for a ``full course of study'' \44\ unless or until the

nonimmigrant student receives employment authorization under this

notice. TPS-related employment authorization, by itself, does not

authorize a nonimmigrant student to drop below twelve credit hours, or

otherwise applicable minimum requirements (e.g., clock hours for non-

traditional academic programs). Once approved for a TPS-related EAD and

Special Student Relief employment authorization, as indicated by the

DSO's required entry in SEVIS and issuance of an updated Form I-20, the

F-1 nonimmigrant student may drop below twelve credit hours, or

otherwise applicable minimum requirements (with a minimum of six

semester or quarter hours of instruction per academic term if at the

undergraduate level, or for a minimum of three semester or quarter

hours of instruction per academic term if at the graduate level). See 8

CFR 214.2(f)(5)(v), (f)(6), and (f)(9)(i) and (ii).

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\44\ See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6).

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How does a student who has received a TPS-related EAD then apply for

authorization to take a reduced course load under this notice?

There is no further application process with USCIS if a student has

been approved for a TPS-related EAD. The F-1 nonimmigrant student must

demonstrate and provide documentation to the DSO of the direct economic

hardship resulting from the current armed conflict and the current

humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia. The DSO will then verify and update

the student's record in SEVIS to enable the F-1 nonimmigrant student

with TPS to reduce the course load without any further action or

application. No other EAD needs to be issued for the F-1 nonimmigrant

student to have employment authorization.

Can a noncitizen who has been granted TPS apply for reinstatement of F-

1 nonimmigrant student status after the noncitizen's F-1 nonimmigrant

student status has lapsed?

Yes. Regulations permit certain students who fall out of F-1

nonimmigrant student status to apply for reinstatement. See 8 CFR

214.2(f)(16). This provision may apply to students who worked on a TPS-

[[Page 26167]]

related EAD or dropped their course load before publication of this

notice, and therefore fell out of student status. These students must

satisfy the criteria set forth in the F-1 nonimmigrant student status

reinstatement regulations.

How long will this notice remain in effect?

This notice grants temporary relief until December 12, 2025,\45\ to

eligible F-1 nonimmigrant students. DHS will continue to monitor the

situation in Ethiopia. Should the special provisions authorized by this

notice need modification or extension, DHS will announce such changes

in the Federal Register.

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\45\ See note 1, supra.

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Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)

An F-1 nonimmigrant student seeking off-campus employment

authorization due to severe economic hardship resulting from the

current armed conflict and the current humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia

must demonstrate to the DSO that this employment is necessary to avoid

severe economic hardship. A DSO who agrees that a nonimmigrant student

should receive such employment authorization must recommend an

application approval to USCIS by entering information in the remarks

field of the student's SEVIS record. The authority to collect this

information is in the SEVIS collection of information currently

approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB Control

Number 1653-0038.

This notice also allows an eligible F-1 nonimmigrant student to

request employment authorization, work an increased number of hours

while the academic institution is in session, and reduce their course

load while continuing to maintain F-1 nonimmigrant student status.

To apply for employment authorization, certain F-1 nonimmigrant

students must complete and submit a currently approved Form I-765

according to the instructions on the form. OMB has previously approved

the collection of information contained on the current Form I-765,

consistent with the PRA (OMB Control Number 1615-0040). Although there

will be a slight increase in the number of Form I-765 filings because

of this notice, the number of filings currently contained in the OMB

annual inventory for Form I-765 is sufficient to cover the additional

filings. Accordingly, there is no further action required under the

PRA.

Alejandro Mayorkas,

Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

[FR Doc. 2024-07642 Filed 4-12-24; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 9111-CB-P