FAQ: Immigration; Michigan Immigration Clerical Assistant Act

On October 1, 2004, the Michigan Immigration Clerical Assistant Act (MICAA) went into effect. Initially, MICAA required non-attorneys who provide immigration services or advice to register with the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth and, later, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. In June 2014, MICAA was revised, eliminating the State’s obligation to maintain a list of registered practitioners, while authorizing triple damages for lawsuits against practitioners previously required to register with the state..

Certain individuals are exempt from MICAA, including (1) individuals serving as designated school officials and responsible officers for foreign student and exchange visitor programs, and (2) those individuals preparing immigration documents on behalf of their employers. At U-M, only designated non-legal professionals have the authority to provide immigration services and advice, as described here.

Foreign Student and Exchange Visitor Programs

The following officials have the authority to provide immigration services and advice in support of U-M’s sponsored foreign exchange and visitors programs. For the F-visa program (foreign students), those officials are the Primary Designated School Official (PDSO) or the Designated School Official (DSO). For the J-visa program (exchange visitors) those officials are the Responsible Officer (RO) or the Alternate Responsible Officers (ARO). These officials are exempt from the MICAA provisions but only when they are acting within the scope of their authority as defined by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (specifically the Student and Exchange Visitor Program) or the Department of State. The following offices on each campus have primary authority to sign immigration documents related to F-visas and J-visas and to advise on F and J visa issues.

  • Ann Arbor Campus — International Center (734) 764-9310
  • Dearborn Campus — Office of International Affairs (313) 593-5100
  • Flint Campus — International Center (810) 762-0869

In addition to MICAA, federal law prohibits individuals from signing immigration paperwork for international students and scholars, unless authorized by U-M and the federal government to do so. This means that it is illegal for non-designated employees to sign the SEVIS Form I-20 (F-visa holders) or the SEVIS Form DS-2019 (J-visa holders) on behalf of U-M. Only the PDSO, DSO, RO and ARO for each campus are permitted to authorize travel outside of the United States, authorize immigration transfers to or from other institutions, allow students to drop below a full-time course load, or authorize employment for foreign students and exchange visitors.

Return to top of page

Employment of Foreign Nationals

Non-attorneys who prepare immigration paperwork on behalf of their employer are also exempt from MICAA. At U-M, only those individuals employed in the Faculty and Staff Immigration Services Office of the Ann Arbor International Center and retained immigration counsel supervised by the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel are authorized to prepare immigration paperwork on behalf of U-M. The Ann Arbor Campus International Center provides employment-based immigration services on behalf of all U-M campuses.

Return to top of page

Consequences of Non-compliance

Unauthorized signatures and unqualified immigration advice can result in serious negative consequences. For example, a foreign national may be denied entry to the United States or denied other benefits (e.g., transfer to another institution, taking a reduced course load, etc.), U-M’s authorization to enroll F-1 students or sponsor an exchange visitor program could be revoked, and unauthorized signers or advisors could face serious legal difficulties for failing to comply with federal regulations and state law.

The International Offices on the three campuses are charged with the responsibility of representing the U-M on immigration matters, in consultation with the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel. We encourage you to consult with the International Office on your campus regarding policy development and implementation that will affect our foreign national community members.

Return to top of page