As we are sure you are aware, immigration policy in the U.S. is rapidly shifting and our international students are impacted by many of these changes. One particular area of concern that could have a major impact on your undergraduate and graduate students is known as “Unlawful Presence.” In plain language, “Unlawful Presence” rules governs how and when a student stays within the legal boundaries of his or her visa to remain in the U.S.
These recent changes in immigration policy change the timing of “Unlawful Presence” and could place students at greater risk for non-compliance of their immigration status, requirements, and activities permitted on their F and J Visa types. We feel that it is important to inform you of these changes, as they could impact our international students at the College and there is plenty of confusion and rumor surrounding this new policy.
The most common situation that we anticipate as an issue for international students will be for those who drop classes and are not registered full time. For example, undergraduate students who drop below 12 credits and graduate students who drop below nine credits (in some cases MA programs are eight credits full time) without approval would be considered “out of status.” This situation could jeopardize their stay in the U.S., their F-1 or J-1 current immigration status, and their ability to return to the U.S. if they are found to be in violation. Therefore, please help us protect our students who may wish to drop below full-time by advising them that they must seek approval from their academic advisor, department chair, and faculty as well as visit the Center for Global Engagement to meet with an advisor to discuss this issue or any other academic or non-academic issues related to the students F-1 or J-1 status.
Below is additional general information about the policy change and what it means for our international students. This information comes directly from USCIS. Please contact me if you have any questions.
Accrual of Unlawful Presence by F and M Nonimmigrants
On May 10, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted a policy memorandum, “Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants,” changing how the agency will calculate unlawful presence for students and exchange visitors in F, J, and M nonimmigrant status, including F-2, J-2, or M-2 dependents, who fail to maintain their status in the United States, effective Aug. 9, 2018.
Individuals in F, J, and M status who failed to maintain their status before Aug. 9, 2018, will start accruing unlawful presence on that date based on that failure, unless they already started accruing unlawful presence on the earliest of any of the following:
- The day after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) denied the request for an immigration benefit, if DHS made a formal finding that the individual violated their nonimmigrant status while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit;
- The day after their Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” expired; or
- The day after an immigration judge ordered them excluded, deported or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).
Individuals in F, J, or M status who fail to maintain their status on or after Aug. 9, 2018, will start accruing unlawful presence on the earliest of any of the following:
- The day after they no longer pursue the course of study or the authorized activity, or the day after they engage in an unauthorized activity;
- The day after completing the course of study or program, including any authorized practical training, plus any authorized grace period;
- The day after the Form I-94 expires; or
- The day after an immigration judge orders them excluded, deported or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).
Note that the change in policy by USCIS means that, beginning Aug. 9, 2018, certain actions by an F, M, or J nonimmigrant may cause them to accrue unlawful presence, where previously such actions did not. Accrual of unlawful presence can, under certain circumstances, render the nonimmigrant ineligible for certain immigration benefits and may make them inadmissible to the United States.