If you’re an international student attending college in the U.S., a new USCIS policy could have devastating consequences if you somehow violate your visa status. The new policy changes the way that F-1, J-1, and M students in the United States accrue unlawful presence as visa holders who have violated visa terms by staying in the U.S. past their duration of stay, failing to attend school, or participating in unsanctioned employment. If you fall into any of these three categories, you could be looking at deportation, but you may be able to prevent it with the help of a deportation defense attorney in Salt Lake City.
In 1996, Congress passed a law that non-immigrant visa holders overstaying their duration of stay for more than 180 days could be barred for 3 years, and those overstaying for more than a year could be barred for 10 years for accruing unlawful presence. Normally, a non-immigrant visa includes an arrival/departure stamp in their passport letting them know how long they are authorized to stay in the United States. By failing to abide by this length of time, they violated the terms of their non-immigrant visa.
F, J, and M visas are unique in that students don’t receive a specific length of stay. Instead, they are issued a DS-2019 or I-20 depending on visa type, which marks their authorized stay as “duration of stay” or “D/S.” This means that the student’s stay in the U.S. does not have a specific end date. It depends on when the individual finishes their authorized employment or program or study.
According to this old policy, while students could violate their visa status by failing to attend school, they were not subject to unlawful presence in the U.S. based on their duration of stay designation. They only accrued unlawful status when apprehended by an immigration official or sentenced in a court judgment.
New Policy Terms
Starting in August of 2018, the USCIS implemented a new policy that calculates unlawful presence for those in the U.S. on F, J, or M non-immigrant visas and their dependents. Instead of starting to accrue unlawful presence upon apprehension, the new policy states that they will begin to accrue as soon as they violate their status, no matter what their D/S designation is.
What this means for students is that they will start to accrue unlawful presence the moment they stop attending school, leaving them subject to removal from the U.S. Without the help of a deportation defense attorney in Salt Lake City, they will also face a bar from re-entering the United States based on how long they’ve overstayed their visa. The only plus side is that the new policy will not be applied retroactively.
Being proactive and consulting with a deportation defense attorney in Salt Lake City is imperative to staying in the United States if you’ve violated the conditions of your non-immigrant visa. If you are considering leaving your program or study or have engaged in unsanctioned work, the experienced attorneys at Familia American Immigration can offer advice on how to avoid accruing unlawful presence. Contact us today to protect your visa status.