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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration’s proposed new policy toward student services, and unlawful presence of non-immigrants.

U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services has opened a new policy for discussion today in attempt to curb the number of students that overstay on their visas.

This effort stems from the annual entry and exit overstay report published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In the report DHS outline the total number of nonimmigrants that overstay their visas and how approximately 1.47 percent of those who overstay their visas are students. Now, that may seem like a small number, but when you see that 1.47 percent equals to 739,478 individuals, it brings a new perspective on how large the visa issue actually is. Many of the students that fall into the overstayed category often do so because they fail to apply for a visa extension, neglect to change their visa status to a new one after completing their studies or drop their studies all together.

Reducing Overstayed Student Visas

The proposal aims to force nonimmigrants to be more diligent with their time and more aware of their responsibilities as a nonimmigrant.  It has changed the calculations for the time accrual of unlawful presence. Its focus is creating a backdate accrual time to the earliest violatable offense or to August, 9 2018, whichever is sooner. The issue is more specifically outlined on pages 3-4 of the new proposal.  In listing the violatable offences the policy cites these four conditions:

  • The day after the F, J, or M nonimmigrant no longer pursues the course of study or the authorized activity, or the day after he or she engages in an unauthorized activity;
  • The day after completing the course of study or program (including any authorized practical training plus any authorized grace period, as outlined in 8 CFR 214.2);
  • The day after the Form I-94 expires, if the F, J, or M nonimmigrant was admitted for a date certain; or
  • The day after an immigration judge or, in certain cases, the BIA orders the alien excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed)

Silver Lining for Student Visas

Though reforms are proposed, and the aim is to change the student visa system, there is still a grace period that has not been changed pursuant to federal regulations 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5) and 8 CFR 214.2(f)(8). Student completing their studies will still have 60 days after completing their studies, to have their next step planned out. For students who are attempting to attend a higher level of education the grace period is much longer. (page 10)

The new proposal doesn’t aim to disrupt the student visa process and for the most part will have little effect to many. The program will retain its grace periods for transition, honor the traditional yearly break (summer vacation), and will follow the standard practice of not creating accrual time for minors. For the individuals on student visas that have the potential to be affected by the policy change, be vigilant with your visa dates, and your school studies. USCIS has framed the changes to be more of a reminder to be diligent, and less like a deterrent to attempting the student visa process.

North American Immigration Center -Immigration Specialists

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