U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy memorandum on May 10, 2018, “Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants.” The memo provides guidance to USCIS officers and “assists USCIS officers in the calculation of unlawful presence of those in student (F nonimmigrant), exchange visitor (J nonimmigrant), or vocational student (M nonimmigrant) status and their dependents while in the United States.” The memo also revises previous policy guidance in the USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual relating to this issue. The new guidance takes effect August 9, 2018.
The new policy states various ways in which F, J, and M nonimmigrants and their dependents begin accruing unlawful presence. For example, F, J, and M nonimmigrants who failed to maintain nonimmigrant status before August 9, 2018, will start accruing unlawful presence based on that failure on August 9, 2018, unless the nonimmigrant had already started accruing unlawful presence based on several scenarios.
Individuals who have accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence during a single stay, and then depart, may be subject to 3-year or 10-year bars to admission, depending on how much unlawful presence they accrued before they departed the United States. Individuals who have accrued a total period of more than one year of unlawful presence, whether in a single stay or during multiple stays in the United States, and who then reenter or attempt to reenter the United States without being admitted or paroled, are permanently inadmissible, USCIS said.
USCIS said this new policy supersedes existing policy, which is that foreign students (F nonimmigrants) and exchange visitors (J nonimmigrants) who were admitted for, or present in the United States in, duration of status started accruing unlawful presence only after USCIS formally found a nonimmigrant status violation while adjudicating a request for another immigrant benefit or only after an immigration judge ordered the applicant excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision was appealed), whichever came first. F and J nonimmigrants, and foreign vocational students (M nonimmigrants), who were admitted until a specific date certain accrued unlawful presence on the day after their Form I-94 expired, on the day after USCIS formally found a nonimmigrant status violation while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit, or on the day after an immigration judge ordered the applicant excluded, deported, or removed (whether or not the decision was appealed), whichever came first.