A memo released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) this year may result in many international students who unknowingly violate their immigration status being barred from the United States for 10 years.
International students in the country on F, J or M visas now have less leeway regarding unlawful presence, a legal term used to describe the time spent in the United States after a foreign national’s time of authorized stay has expired.
Before the memo, students who failed to maintain the minimum credit hours or dropped out of school would not fall out of good standing for unlawful presence until the government notified them of a violation, but not anymore.
The new policy will impact how unlawful presence is calculated, causing non-citizens to accrue unlawful presence at an earlier time. For example, among other accrual triggers, F, J, or M nonimmigrants will start accruing unlawful presence the day after the nonimmigrant stops pursuing their course of study or the day after completing their course of study.
Spouses and children in F, J or M dependent status are also impacted by the change. Spouses and children, unless they are under 18, can start accruing unlawful presence solely because their relative or spouse violated their visa. For example, an F-1 student dropped below the required credit hours for their study and the USICS determines the F-1’s mistake was a status violation, the spouse or child would also be in violation and begin accruing unlawful presence.
The accrual of unlawful presence will also come with harsh consequences. Typically, a nonimmigrant that left the United States for being unlawfully present for more than 180 days, but less than a year was barred from returning to the United States for three years. Now, if a foreign national is unlawfully present for a year or longer, they can be barred from the United States for ten years.