On August 9, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented a new rule that imposes stiffer penalties on international students who violate the terms of their visas. Those on F, J, and M visas are subject to being barred from the United States for a minimum of three years and could face a lifetime ban if they stay in the country for more than a year after their visas expire.
In May, we wrote about the changes that went into effect last week. One of the most significant changes is when USCIS starts counting the number of days of unlawful presence in the country. In the past, that count began on the day that USCIS notified the visa holder that he or she had exceeded the stay allowed. Now, the count begins the day after the visa expires or its terms are violated.
This change means it is important for international students to remain in close contact with international student advisors on campus and immigration lawyers to make sure that they remain in compliance with the terms of their visas. Changes in course loads could put them in violation, at which point the clock would start for them without any notice. Innocent mistakes could have serious consequences.