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Roberts ’83 advises international students on visa applications

Nelson Center Lecture addresses “Public Charge rule,” quotas, changes under Trump

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Standing at the front of the Liz Lange Lecture Hall in the Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, Peter Roberts ’83, founder and principal of Roberts Immigration Law Group, addressed the evolving challenges facing U.S. foreign national and immigrant entrepreneurs.

“Our great leader recently killed what was a huge gift to the immigrant entrepreneurial community,” Roberts said, referencing President Donald Trump’s removal of the Obama administration’s International Entrepreneur Rule.

In addressing the termination of this program, along with the Trump administration’s new “public charge rule” implemented only Monday, “it’s all pretty scary. You have to educate yourselves about what these rules are,” Roberts said.

The public charge rule, which prohibits immigrants and foreign nationals who have accepted certain types of government benefits from receiving green cards, “is here to stay,” according to Roberts. “It’s like the bane of our existence now,” he said. The rule is broadly interpreted as a measure to reduce the number of people eligible for visas, including green cards and H-1B. A foreign national describes a person with a non-immigrant visa, and an immigrant describes a person with a green card.

“They accomplish this by essentially redefining what it means to be dependent on government benefits, which makes you ineligible” for visas, Roberts said.

According to Roberts, those interested in applying for a green card can see what government benefits could make them ineligible on the “Declaration of Self-Sufficiency” form, which “lists out the services that, if you took advantage of them, you could have a problem” with the green card application. For those applying to other non-immigrant visas, the “Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker” form lists other services that would make those applicants ineligible.

Those with pending green card applications are not exempted from this new set of rules. “Even though you didn’t have to answer the questions on your application, they will ask you them in the interview,” Roberts said, referencing the interview every green card candidate must go through before their eligibility is finalized.

Another obstacle facing green card applicants is the “quota-based system,” Roberts said. “If you are from India or China, there is a limited number of green cards made available each year,” he said. “It has to be fixed because it’s such a joke now. If you’re from India, it’s about a 10-year wait. China is less, but not by much.”

Regarding visa applications, “one of three things can happen when you apply: They approve it, they deny it or they put you through administrative processing and extensive background checks,” Roberts said. Cases are being put through administrative processing more and more frequently under the Trump administration, he added.

“You have to understand some things about what you do, especially with research,” he said. “Fields like artificial intelligence, biomedical engineering, genetic engineering have all begun to trigger background checks.”

Roberts also explained the many types of visas available to U.S. foreign nationals, the restrictions they have and what distinguishes them. He informed the crowd that foreign nationals can start their own businesses. “They want you to think it’s impossible but it isn’t. Not really.”

Attendees of the talk said that they found it helpful. “My significant other is an immigrant from Turkey, and he’s in the process of applying for a green card,” said Dana Biechele PhD’25. “It’s good because I learned about a lot of different visas he would be eligible for if the green card were to fall through,” she added.

“I just moved here and my wife is a citizen, and I’m not,” said Gatot Hendrabudra, whose wife works for the University. “I’m thinking of starting a business, and I just want to know the laws.” Hendrabudra added that he recently applied for a green card and now knows about changes to the “Declaration of Self-Sufficiency” form and things he will need to look out for in his interview.

“As someone who advises F-1 and J-1 students, … I am glad I attended the event,” Kelsey Dennis, assistant director for International Student Services, wrote in an email to The Herald. “It is interesting to learn more about visa options for foreign national entrepreneurs after graduation,” she added.

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