Last week, we alerted our readers about a forthcoming USCIS policy change for foreign students. Under the new guidelines, scheduled to take effect August 9, 2018, unlawful presence will begin to accrue immediately under a series of triggering events. For more information on the unlawful presence bar and the new policy, please click here.
In yet another sign of how stringently the government intends to treat foreign students, USCIS has also issued a public bulletin regarding Optional Practical Training (OPT) and students who transfer to different schools. The alert reminds F-1 students working with OPT that transferring to another school or beginning a new course of study at a different level automatically terminates their OPT, rendering their work permit or employment authorization cards invalid.
This is important because the rules regarding foreign students have always been relatively opaque compared to other non-immigrant visa holders. Now, the government makes clear that an OPT employment authorization document that may appear facially valid is nevertheless void if the individual transfers or changes his/her educational level. Ignorance or disregard of this nicety can have serious legal ramifications, the most obvious of which is that an individual who continues working without permission will have engaged in unauthorized employment. Unauthorized employment can jeopardize a foreign student’s status in the US because it is not only considered a violation of one’s visa, but can also trigger the accrual of unlawful presence under the new forthcoming policy. Besides the immediate threat of being placed into removal proceedings, a student who has violated the conditions of his/her stay may also potentially lose eligibility to adjust status in the United States (in connection with a green card application) or even re-enter the country if a three or ten-year bar is implicated. Fortunately, USCIS intends to notify affected students of any termination of work authorization and provide individuals with an opportunity to respond. However, by that time, unless the student is able to correct any alleged errors with DHS, the potential harm to one’s status may have already occurred.
It bears repeating that immigration law is exceedingly complicated. There are so many regulations and rules out there in different places, and frequent amendments/revisions, that it is easy for individuals not steeped in the practice to get lost–at their own expense. For more information on how to comply with your status and pitfalls to avoid, please contact our office. The above is general information only and not to be relied upon as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship, nor should it be relied upon as advice in lieu of consultation with an attorney.