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Unshackled #10: F-1 visa good news, USCIS fee hikes, & free webinar

March 8, 2023
Happy International Women’s day (and happy holi!). I spent the past weekend at my alma mater, NIT Trichy, delivering a talk to a room full of mostly women students. It felt great to interact with young, curious minds, who asked such thought-provoking questions. Are you doing something special today? Hit reply and let me know. Also, a big welcome to the 44 new members of our newsletter since last week. It’s great to have you. AND, we’re almost close to hitting 5,000 subscribers! Thank you if you forwarded this to a friend last week. 💚 You're receiving this email as part of the Unshackled weekly newsletter. Immigration is a complex world. So every Wednesday, I try to simplify that by sharing top stories, curated resources, & fun tweets from the internet that matter to you. I also sprinkle it with updates on my upcoming book, Unshackled, at the end. If you find value reading it, forward this to a lucky friend. If this was forwarded to you, get your own here! Read all the past editions here. 💃

This week's TL;DR

📌 Stories you should know about

USCIS fee hike: comment period closes in a week (March 13th, 2023)Have you heard about the proposed increases in US visa fees? It’s been causing quite a stir over the past two months! USCIS plans to raise the filing fees required to process most visa applications, including the H-1B, O-1, L-1, and the likes. Many are worried that raising fees during an economic downturn would hurt people and companies — especially immigrants who often work in minimum-wage jobs. Over 5,000 people have already voiced their feedback by submitting a comment on the proposal. If you haven’t, this is your final chance as they’re closing all comments by March 13th! It only takes 2 minutes: click here, click on “Submit a formal comment”, and share your feedback.​​U.S. now allows F-1 applications up to one year in advance!Great news for students applying for F and M visas! The U.S. government has announced that these visas can now be issued up to 365 days in advance of the program start date. This change will give students more time to apply for their visas, find stamping slots, and allow both students and U.S. institutions to plan ahead. However, students still cannot enter the US on a student visa more than 30 days before their program start date. While we have to wait and see whether this successfully reduces visa processing backlogs, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.​​Will Biden act on his campaign promises for immigration reform?Immigrant rights groups are pushing President Biden to deliver on his campaign promise of meaningful immigration reform ahead of the 2024 election. So far, there’s been no hope of comprehensive immigration reform, especially around giving a legal pathway to residency for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, strengthening the policy to let in asylum seekers from Central America, and of course revamping the legal immigration system (you know, increasing H-1B caps, removing green card country caps, etc). Unless the President acts soon to issue some executive orders to address at least some of these issues, he might not get the Latino votes in the 2024 elections.

🎁 Resources curated for you

Webinar [March 29th, 11 AM EST]: How to start a business in the U.S. on an L-1 visaThe L-1 visa is meant for multinational companies to transfer their employees across borders into the U.S. But, little known fact: it can also be used by entrepreneurs to expand their startup into the U.S. and move here through something called a “new office” L-1 visa. If you’re reading this from outside the U.S., or know someone who’d be interested, check out this upcoming webinar by Visapro that helps you through this process!​​A simple trick to understand the O-1 / EB-1 criteria with examplesIt can be daunting to read the verbose text on the USCIS page around the requirements for O-1 and EB-1 talent visas. Tess Douglas has shared a simple trick to understand the criteria with concrete examples!​​O-1 visa: breaking down the steps, timeline, and costWe’ve been slowly publishing articles on the Unshackled website over the past few weeks, with a lot more coming up soon! In case you’re thinking about beginning the O-1 process soon, here’s a brief overview of the steps, timeline, and cost involved in the process.💡 None of the information shared in this newsletter is meant to be legal advice. If you're looking for legal advice, speak to a lawyer, or email me and let me know so I can connect you with one.

📕 What's the latest on Unshackled?

Editing, editing, and more editing!I’m heading to Bangalore tomorrow for a week to spend it with my close friend, who’s gonna help me edit the book thoroughly. I also began working with Anaik Alcasas, a professional editor from Australia who I’ve hired to work with me on the developmental and copy editing for the book over the next seven weeks.My current estimate for getting the book printed is by the third week of May. Post printing, it would take a few more weeks until they can be shipped to the U.S. This is almost a month later than my original plan. I’ll be honest: I’ve been feeling quite anxious the past week about the shifting deadlines. Mainly, I feel anxious about not keeping up the promises I made to the Kickstarter supporters. But, I also know this is the right decision. As my mentor, Rajesh Setty, keeps telling me, “This is the only book you’re gonna write this year. Don’t compromise on its quality in the last mile.” That’s what I keep reminding myself.To all of you who agreed to proof-read the book, thank you so much. Expect to hear from me towards the end of April when we’re ready with the final manuscript.This is the only thing I’m focusing on right now, and I can’t wait to get to the finish line.Hey, by the way, if you haven't yet, be the 800th (!!!) person to pre-order the book below. 👇

Get Unshackled

Thank you so much for reading till here.Got a burning question? Did you come across a resource that seemed useful? Want to say hi?Whatever it is, email me. I read and respond to every email.And, if you enjoyed reading this email, forward it to one friend. It helps more than you know.Until next week, stay awesome.​Yours truly,Soundarya 💚

👀 Fun corners of the internet

Lifting 100 lbs sounds simpler… Source: Aditi Paul


Unshackled is the name of a book and its accompanying online community. On here, you’ll find articles on everything from building your profile for an O-1A visa to starting a company on your H-1B. Want to get such resources directly in your Inbox? Join 7000 immigrants who hear from us every Wednesday.

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