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Victory for U.S. Universities and Their International Students

August 1, 2020

by Sandra Guillen, Graves & Graves, P.C.

On August 1, 2020, after two years of litigation, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled that international students, scholars, and researchers in the United States under F, J, or M visa categories will not unknowingly accrue unlawful presence. This significant ruling protects students from unintentionally being subject to a 3 or 10-year ban to admission into the United States.

The ruling comes in response to initial action taken by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on August 9, 2018, when it issued a policy memorandum seeking to backdate the accrual of unlawful presence for international students, scholars and researches. Under the 2018 memo, USCIS would no longer notify a student of a status violation, meaning students could now accumulate unlawful presence without their knowledge.

On October 23, 2018, a group of colleges filed a suit with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina to challenge the USCIS memo, including Guilford International Club, The New School, Foothill-De Anza Community College District, Haverford College, The American Federation of Teachers, and Guilford College, the case’s namesake. The U.S. District Court issued a nationwide injunction blocking the August 2018 policy memorandum on February 6, 2020.

Numerous concentrated efforts from different institutions including the President’s Alliance and, contributed to this outcome. To prevent the accrual of unlawful presence, students must maintain contact with their designated international advisor, monitor the impacts any travel or changes to class schedules may have on their status, and converse with their immigration attorney when in need of further guidance.


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