Unlawful Presence Policy

Maintain your Immigration Status!

USCIS Policy Creates Much Stricter Penalties for Violations of U.S. Immigration Regulations

This current revision of the “unlawful presence” policy signals a major change to the enforcement of visa regulations for F1 and J1 students and J1 scholars. If you fail to follow compliance procedures and other required reporting, and violate the terms of your immigration status as a result, you can face deportation and a lengthy bar on returning to the U.S. under the new enforcement guidelines.

Effective Date: August 9, 2018

What is the policy?

  • When an international F1 or J1 students or J1 scholars (or their dependent) violates immigration regulations, the number of days from the time you violate your status will be counted, called “unlawful presence.”
  • If you accumulate 180 days of “unlawful presence,” you can be barred from the U.S. for 3 years.
  • If you accumulate 1 year of “unlawful presence,” you can be barred from the U.S. for 10 years.

When will the days start to be counted?

  • The days will start to be counted from August 9, 2018 if it is a newly discovered violation that started in the past.
  • The days will start on the date the violation starts if it is on or after August 9, 2018.
  • If it was a previously discovered violation and you were previously accruing unlawful presence, that accrual will continue.

How can I avoid violating my immigration status?

  • Follow all of the regulations that pertain to your immigration status (see categories and lists below).
  • Pay attention to all of the emails sent out by the Office of Global Learning on immigration reminders and updates.
  • When you graduate and start using F1 OPT or J1 student academic training, BE SURE to update your email address in the Cornell student center AND the SEVIS portal so that we have an accurate preferred email address by which we can reach you.
  • Submit required information, reports, updates that are requested of you by the deadlines noted.

What should I do if I think I may have violated my immigration status?

  • Contact the Office of Global Learning and speak to an immigration advisor.
  • There are many things we can do to help you navigate a status violation once we are aware it has happened; however, there are problems we will not be able to solve if you accrue too much “unlawful presence” time and are subject to enforcement.

Is this policy a change from previous policy?

  • Yes. Congress enacted the unlawful presence provisions more than 20 years ago, but until now F1 and J1 students and J1 scholars would only start accruing days of “unlawful presence” in very limited circumstances (upon notice of deportation or denial of a benefit that resulted in no longer holding valid status in the U.S.).
  • Under the new policy, as described above, F1 and J1 students and J1 scholars are subject to the revised start dates of accruing unlawful presence, and increased monitoring of possible violations of the immigration regulations.

Link to the USCIS policy:

F1 and J1 Student Regulations:

To maintain legal status in the U.S., F1 and J1 students must follow these federal regulations, state regulations, and Cornell policies:

  • Complete the international student “check in” procedure on line when you first arrive at Cornell.
  • Always enroll FULL-TIME (undergraduates at least 12 credit hours; graduates defined by your degree program.)
  • If you drop below full time or take a leave of absence, get authorization from the Office of Global Learning BEFORE you drop below full time or take a leave of absence.
  • Update your LOCAL RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS within 10 days of moving by updating the Office of Global Learning online change of address form. AND the online “student services center.”
  • BEFORE the end date on your I-20 or DS-2019, apply for an extension at the Office of Global Learning if you need more time.
  • Keep your PASSPORT VALID. Contact your embassy to renew your passport well BEFORE the expiration date.
  • Contact the Office of Global Learning BEFORE you finish at Cornell if you plan to TRANSFER to another school, go on to another degree program at Cornell or at another school in order to complete the appropriate immigration procedures BEFORE the end of your grace period (60 days for F and M; 30 days for J).
  • NEVER work on campus for more than 20 hours per week while you are registered.
  • NEVER work off-campus without PRIOR authorization. Always discuss off-campus work authorization at the Office of Global Learning before you start working off-campus.
  • Comply with all other U.S. federal and state laws, such as never driving while intoxicated and never carrying a weapon.
  • Comply with all other Cornell academic and conduct policies.
  • Be sure to carry your required documents when traveling and re-entering the U.S. as well as when you travel inside the U.S.
  • When you graduate and are on F1 OPT or F1 STEM OPT, be sure to complete ALL the required reporting ON TIME—we send email reminders but you should also take responsibility for the proper reporting.

J1 Scholar Regulations:

To maintain legal status in the U.S., J1 scholars must follow these federal regulations, state regulations, and Cornell policies:

  • Complete an immigration check-in with the Office of Global Learning.
  • Update your LOCAL RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS within 10 days of moving by updating the Office of Global Learning online change of address form.
  • BEFORE the end date on your DS-2019, apply for an extension at the Office of Global Learning if your program will continue longer.
  • Maintain the required level of health insurance coverage mandated by the U.S. Department of State.
  • Depart the U.S. within the 30 day grace period permitted for J scholars following the end of their J program.
  • Contact the Office of Global Learning if you plan to TRANSFER to another school, change the terms of your current J at Cornell, or change to another status. Complete the appropriate immigration procedures BEFORE the end of your grace period.
  • NEVER work off-campus without PRIOR authorization. Always discuss off-campus work a uthorization with the Office of Global Learning before you start working off-campus.
  • Maintain program objectives as described in the DS-2019 form.
  • Comply with all other U.S. federal and state laws, such as never driving while intoxicated and never carrying a weapon.
  • Be sure to carry your required documents when traveling and re-entering the U.S. as well as when you travel inside the U.S.

Dependents:

F2 and J2 dependents rely on the F1 or J1 to maintain conditions of status. If the F1 or J1 loses legal status, the F2 or J2 will also lose legal status.

F2 Dependents:

  • May not work in the U.S.
  • Must comply with federal and state laws.

J2 Dependents

  • May not work in the U.S. without valid work authorization from DHS.
  • Must comply with federal and state laws.
  • Must (like the J1), be fully covered by health insurance minimums mandated by the U.S. Department of State.