Unlawful Presence Policy for International Students

A USCIS Policy Memorandum, “Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants” went into effect on August 9, 2018.  This memorandum, with some very narrow exceptions, states that students or scholars who are in F or J status (including their dependents in F-2 or J-2 status) will begin to accrue unlawful presence the day after a violation of status occurs, and this violation may subject the student from returning to the US.

A status violation can be, but is not limited to, the following:

  • An expired I-94
  • The student fails to pursue the course of study
  • Engages in any other type of unauthorized activity
  • Completes the grace period
  • Has a removal order by an immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)
  • Works without permission or beyond authorized end date
  • Fails to report to the OISS upon arrival to the US for check-in
  • Fails to update their local address with the OISS or fails to inform of a name change
  • Fails to maintain a valid I-20 or DS-2019 (if you change schools or level of education)
  • Fails to follow the specific CPT and OPT requirements
  • Fails to carry out authorized activities as states on your I-20 or DS-2019
  • Stays beyond grace period
  • Fails to maintain health insurance as required by specific status

Please be aware that any type of unauthorized activity may be considered to be a violation of status and this is not an exhaustive list.  If you have any concerns or questions, please contact your student or scholar advisor.

The penalties for accruing unlawful presence are harsh.  If someone in F or J status violates their status, they would accrue unlawful presence and thus be barred from returning to the US:

  • For 3 years if unlawfully present for more than 180 days but less than a year; or
  • For 10 years if unlawfully present for more than one year or more.

Please review the basic requirements to maintain your F-1 or maintain your J-1 status. This is not an exhaustive list, but you will see the key requirements on how to maintain your status. During your orientation, when you first arrived at WashU, we provided the most up to date information on how to maintain your status.