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Under the proposed policy, the unlawful presence days will be computed starting from the day the students failed to maintain their immigration status. This refers to the day when students stop pursuing their course of study, engage in unauthorised activity or complete their programme and authorised grace period. For instance, F-1 students are given a grace period of 60 days post completion of their study to change their status (say to a work visa) or to leave the US.
This proposed move is important as based on the number of unlawful days, a student can be barred from entering or staying in the US or obtaining permanent residency. To illustrate, students who have accumulated more than 180 days of unlawful presence during a single stay, may be subject to three or ten years bar from re-entering the US.
“Thus, the new policy can create hurdles for students who fall out of status and wish to apply for a visa or to change their status to that of a US permanent resident,” points out Fragomen, a global firm specialsing in immigration laws.
Under the current guidelines, the clock to calculate the number of days of unlawful presence (in simple words, stay post expiry of the visa) in the US begins ticking only on and from the day authorities discover the violation or an immigration judge passes an order, such as for deportation.
International Student Data from the Open Doors Report (2017) shows that the number of Indian students in the US had increased by 12% to stand at 1.86 lakh during 2016-17. Indians are the second largest group of foreign students in the US. For the year ended September 30, 2017, 4.21 lakh student visas (F category) were allotted to Indian students.
According to a Homeland security report (2016), 4,575 of 98,970 students scheduled to leave the US or change their status, say to a work visa had violated the norms and overstayed.
“USCIS is dedicated to our mission of ensuring the integrity of the immigration system. F, J, and M non-immigrants are admitted to the US for a specific purpose, and when that purpose has ended, we expect them to depart, or to obtain another, lawful immigration status,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna in an official statement. “The message is clear: These nonimmigrants cannot overstay their periods of admission or violate the terms of admission and stay illegally in the US anymore,” he added.
Students are granted an F visa, vocational course students an M visa. Research scholars, professors and exchange visitors participating in programs such as medical or business training are given a J visa.