Princeton Supports Lawsuit to Protect F-1/J-1 International Students/Scholars from New Unlawful Presence Policy (Updated)

Thursday, Feb 6, 2020

February 6, 2020:

A federal judge has issued a permanent injunction to prevent USCIS from implementing a policy that would have penalized individuals in F and J status for status violations starting on the day after the violation occurred. USCIS must continue to follow its previous, longstanding guidance related to unlawful presence, under which F and J nonimmigrants are penalized only after USCIS or an immigration judge makes a specific finding of a status violation. The government is expected to appeal the court’s decision. Please consult with your Davis International Center advisor if you have questions.  

Source: Fragomen Alert, 2/7/2020

Previous updates can be seen below:

May 10, 2019:

A federal judge has temporarily blocked USCIS from enforcing or applying a new unlawful presence policy that penalizes F, J, and M visa holders who violate the terms of their status. The government is expected to appeal the decision. For now, this means USCIS must revert to the policy in place prior to the August, 2018 memo. Under the previous policy, F, J, and M visa holders with an I-94 admission for “D/S, or Duration of Status” can only accrue unlawful presence subsequent to a status violation finding by USCIS or an immigration judge.  Despite the ruling, immigration status violations can still lead to a visa denial or a denial of admission to the U.S. For more information please read the Fragomen Worldwide Alert, 5/3/2019.

Previous updates can be seen below:

December 21, 2018: Princeton joined 65 other colleges and universities in opposing a new federal policy that would impose harsh and retroactive immigration penalties for even innocent mistakes by international students, researchers and professors holding certain types of visas.  More about the lawsuit...

What you need to know about the new policy:  U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced implementation of a new policy effective August 9th 2018, which may trigger harsh penalties for individuals who violate the terms of their U.S. immigration status. These rules already apply to persons holding other visa types (e.g., H-1B, O-1). If you hold a F or J visa, including dependents, it’s critical that you avoid violations of status. While status violations have always carried the possibility of a visa denial or a denial of admission to the U.S., the new rules provide for additional sanctions. Under the new rules, status violations will trigger accrual of unlawful presence and can result in an admission bar of 10 years for accrual of one year or more; a 3 year bar for unlawful presence of 180 days or more. Accrual of less than 180 days of unlawful presence, after a status violation, is still a serious situation and can result in a visa denial, denial of admission to the U.S., removal from the U.S., and a denial of immigration benefits (e.g., OPT, change of status to H-1B).

What You Can Do to Prevent Problems:

Avoid violations of your immigration status, including that of any accompanying dependents. Some examples of status violations include:

  • Engaging in unauthorized employment
  • Working more than 20 hours per week, on campus, while school is in session
  • Being present in the U.S. with an expired I-94 record. Check your I-94 record online after each U.S. entry and make sure the “ Admitted Until” section is endorsed as “D/S”. If you see a specific date (e.g., Admitted Until 12/31/2018) then contact your Davis International Center advisor immediately
  • Exceeding unemployment limits while on F-1 OPT or STEM OPT
  • Failure to depart the U.S. once your program of research or study is completed plus any applicable grace period (usually 60 days for F visa and 30 days for J visa holders)
  • Failure to maintain minimum levels of health insurance (J visa)
  • Failure to comply with various reporting obligations, such as:
    • New arrival check-in
    • Reporting address changes within 10 days
    • Reporting practical training employment

Please consult with your Davis International Center advisor if you have any questions.

Source: Fragomen Worldwide Alert, 8/9/2018