Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people are in tough immigration situations. Were you on a work visa but lost your job? Is your non-immigrant visa status expiring? You may have had plans to leave the U.S., but now you're stuck because travel is not advised. Are you worried that sheltering in place in the U.S. will place you out of status?
You may have heard recently about a Palestinian student who was denied entry to the U.S. when he came to join his freshman class at Harvard. It wasn't for something he had done. Customs officials scanned his phone and objected to certain social media postings the student's friends had made. The man's dreams of a Harvard education were dashed because his friends made objectionable comments.
The optional practical training (OPT) program allows international students to remain in the U.S. for practical training that is directly related to their area of study. It is available to F-1 and M-1 visa holders for up to 12 months, with some extensions available. F-1 visa holders in certain STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, for example, can apply for a 24-month extension.
Are you a highly skilled or educated person who wants to study or work in the United States?
If you’re visiting the United States on an F-1, M-1 or J-1 visa, merely being accused of a crime could have serious consequences. Some programs expel people who are charged with crimes. If you are expelled, your program is required to report it to SEVIS within 21 days. Since you are required to be enrolled full-time in school or sponsored by a program, expulsion could result in revocation of your visa even if you are ultimately cleared of the crime.
Coming to the U.S. on a student or exchange visa comes with the responsibility to maintain your immigration status while you complete your program. You can violate your immigration status in several ways, but the primary ones include overstaying your visa, reducing your academic load below full time and exceeding your work authorization.