Changes on the Horizon for Students Studying on F, J and M Non-Immigrant Visas

Changes on the Horizon for Students Studying on F, J and M Non-Immigrant Visas
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr's Higher Education Highlights Summer 2018
Amy Link
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr's Higher Education Highlights Summer 2018

There has been an important change in USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) policy that can create significant problems for students studying on F, J and M non-immigrant visas.

Commencing August 9, 2018, those students who fail to maintain their student status will begin to accrue unlawful presence if they: (1) no longer pursue a course of study; or (2) engage in unauthorized activity.  For example, an F1 student who does not pursue a full course of study or is engaged in unauthorized work will accrue unlawful presence upon the violation of his/her status.  After August 9, 2018, that student will start to accrue unlawful presence.

Accruing unlawful presence status can have dire consequences.  

  • If an individual accrues more than six months of unlawful presence status, it will trigger a three-year bar to re-entry or adjustment of status;
  • If an individual accrues more than one year of unlawful presence status, it will trigger a 10-year bar to re-entry or adjustment of status.

This is a major policy shift, and one that aligns with President Trump's Executive Order titled "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States" to enforce the immigration laws of the country.  

Previously, these students could file with USCIS to reinstate their student status or change their status to another visa category at any time while still in the United States. These students could also leave the United States and pick up a new nonimmigrant visa abroad without triggering a bar to re-enter.  Not anymore.

Now, it is critical for students who have violated their status to work quickly with their DSO (Designated School Official) or attorney to be reinstated within six months so they do not trigger any bars to re-entry.