Beginning August 9, 2018, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will implement a new unlawful presence rule for all F and J visa holders (the USCIS memo can be read here). This rule will change how DHS calculates unlawful presence in the US. Effective August 9, all F and J students who commit a status violation, intentionally or unintentionally, will begin accumulating unlawful presence in the US the day after the violation. Accruing more than 180 days of unlawful presence could mean being barred from re-entering the US for 3 or 10 years, depending on the number of days you remain in the US after a status violation. This means a student or exchange visitor who violates their status and accrues too many days of unlawful presence would likely be denied future visas, be ineligible for admission at a port of entry, or have an adjustment of status (“green card”) denied by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).

Previously, students or exchange visitors on F or J visas began accumulating unlawful presence only from the day it was discovered by the Department of Homeland Security or an immigration judge during removal proceedings. This new rule means students and exchange visitors will start accumulating unlawful presence from the day of the status violation, i.e., from the first day you work illegally, the first day you fail to maintain minimum enrollment hours, or the first day your overstay your status.

With this new rule, it is even more important that students and exchange visitors take the necessary precautions to maintain their status and use ISSS as a resource. Please reference our website or contact ISSS if you have any questions at all about your status and the regulations governing your US visa. Also watch our Facebook page for breaking announcements of new DHS and USCIS policies. Even unintentional violations can have severe consequences in the future if or when you request benefits through USCIS or apply for future visas through the US Department of State.

Examples of possible F or J visa status violations that would trigger unlawful presence:
  • Taking a reduced course load or withdrawing from UAB without authorization from ISSS
  • Working illegally off campus (without CPT, OPT or Academic Training work authorization)
  • Staying illegally in the US after the end of your 30 (J visa) or 60 (F visa) day grace period
  • Being unemployed for more than 90 days while on OPT (150 days total for STEM OPT students) or not reporting employment while on OPT
  • Being dismissed from UAB and not transferring out to another university or departing the US in a timely manner

Please contact ISSS with any questions about this new rule or your F or J status.