United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued a policy memorandum changing certain rules governing F-1, J-1, and M status students attending U.S. colleges and universities and vocational training programs. As of August 8, 2018, students that fail to properly maintain their status in the U.S. will start accumulating unlawful presence in this country as of the date of one of the following:
- The day after DHS denies the students’ application for an immigration benefit with a formal determination that the student had violated status during the application pendency;
- The day after the student’s I-94 card expires;
- The day after the immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals (where applicable) orders the student excluded, deported, or removed from the U.S.;
- The day after the student no longer pursues a course of study or authorized activity, or the day after the student engages in unauthorized activity (e.g., employment without prior authorization);
- The day after the student completes the course of study, including any authorized Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) and any authorized grace period for departure from the U.S. or change of status.
Importantly, foreign nationals who have accumulated over 180 days of unlawful presence are subject to a 3-year bar to re-entry to the U.S. Those who accrue over 360 days of unlawful presence in this country are subject to a 10-year bar to re-entry to the U.S. Consequently, it is critical for the students and their schools and OPT and CPT employers to carefully comply with all of the U.S. immigration laws and regulations pertaining to the student status maintenance.