Could new USCIS policy lead to removal of international students?

Many students from abroad come to Kentucky to attend college or other institutes, such as graduate school, law school or medical school. These students general do so through a lawful visa. After graduating from college, graduate school or law school, a foreign student may want to seek work or continue their education. If they are able to do so with the proper visa, they can lawfully continue living here. But, per a new policy by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), this may become harder and could even lead to deportation and removal.

The new policy will affect those students with F, J and M non-immigrant visas. Starting August 9th, if a student stays in the U.S. after their purpose has passed, and they do not have another visa, that student will be considered an unlawful presence. They will have to leave the country, and may not be able to return for as many as 10 years.

This unlawful presence begins the day after the student graduates or engages in unauthorized activity. Unauthorized activity includes attending a school other than the one authorized per their visa or working more than 20 hours per week, except for summer vacation.

The policy also specifically addressed Chinese science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduate students. They have a one-year time limit to study in the U.S. These changes were supposedly made for national security reasons.

These changes are especially unfortunate as students from abroad who obtain degrees in the United States, especially in the business world, STEM fields and in health care, wish to remain and work in the country. Their contributions to the nation’s economy could be great, but may be stifled by policies.

It is important that if a student’s visa is about to expire, they pursue one that will allow them to lawfully remain in the country, such as an employer-sponsored visa, a diversity immigrant visa or an immediate relative or family sponsored visa. With immigration policies ever-changing these days, international students need to make sure they understand how to obtain and retain legal status in our nation.