As of August 9, 2018, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made an important adjustment to how unlawful entry is calculated for students with F-1 visa status. This updated guidance stands to have a profound impact for students who may not realize they’ve violated the terms of their visas, potentially resulting in long-term bans from re-entering the United States. These new rules can be confusing, so F-1 students should consult with an immigration attorney before making any changes that could impact their legal status.
Changes to Calculating Unlawful Entry Infractions
Under the previous policy, USCIS calculated a student’s unlawful entry period from the date they were found to be in violation. For instance, if a student with F-1 status took a job unrelated to their field of study, USCIS would begin counting their period of unlawful presence beginning the day after the adjudication of their case. However, the new guidance instructs officials to begin calculating unlawful entry periods retroactively, from the date the violation occurred or August 9, whichever is later.
What This Means for F-1 Visa Holders
In general, USCIS will only uncover violations when visa holders file for extensions or a change of status, which means they could technically be in violation for a year or more before the unauthorized activity is discovered. If, for example, a student accepts a position unrelated to their field of study for Optional Practical Training, then files for an extension, they may already have accrued up to 365 days of unlawful presence. As a result, they may be barred from entering the US for up to ten years.
Circumstances That Could Lead to Violation
Many students on F-1 visas unknowingly violate the terms of their authorization by failing classes or failing to complete their course of study on time. Before dropping a class or making any other important changes to your program, speak to an immigration attorney who will help determine whether doing so would imperil your visa authorization.
Immigration law is rapidly changing, so you need the expertise of a skilled law firm who stays up-to-date on all the latest updates to the code. From their offices in New York City, the immigration attorneys at Berd & Klauss, PLLC have provided detailed guidance and effective service to clients across the world trying to navigate the complexities of the system. Visit their website now for an overview of their services and call (212) 461-7152 to speak with an immigration attorney today.