IMMIGRATION POLICY RESOURCES & FAQs
The UC Merced Office of International Affairs recognizes that recent changes with US immigration policies has raised many concerns and questions. This page was created to provide information and support resources and to document changes in immigration policies that may effect our students and scholars.
08/09/2018 - Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants
Effective August 9, 2018, USCIS made fundamental changes to its policy on how an immigration status violation might lead to a finding that an F, M, or J nonimmigrant should be subject to the 3- or 10-year reentry bar to the United States. Under the new policy, USCIS will start counting days of unlawful presence the day after an F, M, or J status violation occurs, unless the student applies for reinstatement or the student or exchange visitor is covered by some other exception to the unlawful presence counting rules. Prior policy did not count unlawful presence until a USCIS official or immigration judge made a formal finding of a status violation.
To read the complete policy memo, visit this USCIS webpage. Students should consult OIA or an experienced immigration attorney regarding their individual case if they believe this new policy impacts their status.
12/28/2017 - Full Visa Processing Resumes in Turkey
On Dec. 28, 2017 - the US Department of State announced that full visa services will resume in Turkey.
10/09/17 DOS Suspends Nonimmigrant Visa Operations in Turkey
October 9, 2017 - This is to alert you of the suspension of visa services at the U.S. embassy and consulates in Turkey. Until further notice, it is not possible to apply for a non-immigrant visa in Turkey. In a statement from the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Ambassador John Bass indicates that this suspension of services is not a visa ban nor a travel ban for Turkish citizens. If you already have a valid visa, the visa remains valid: https://tr.usembassy.gov/ambassador-john-bass-statement-suspension-visa-services-turkey/ (link is external)
For the near future, OIA recommends minimizing international travel due to the changing nature of the new administration's policies on visas and U.S. entry. Should you have essential travel that requires a visa application, you can look into the possibility of applying in a third country and consult with a Visa Adviser.
OIA will continue to provide updates via this website and in certain cases via email alerts. Please feel free to contact your Visa Advisor with questions or concerns, or to be redirected to resources that best support your needs.
09/01/2017 New Guidance Imposes Finding of Misrepresentation for Conduct Inconsistent With Visa Within 90 Days of Entry
On September 1, 2017: The U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) updated 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3) to provide U.S. consular officers with new guidance relating to the term “misrepresentation” as it relates to aliens in the U.S. “who conduct themselves in a manner inconsistent with representations they made to consular officers concerning their intentions at the time of visa application or to DHS when applying for admission or for an immigration benefit.”
The Field Adjudicators Manual (“FAM”) now has an updated subsection titled “Inconsistent Conduct Within 90 Days of Entry” which states:
If an alien violates or engages in conduct inconsistent with his or her nonimmigrant status within 90 days of entry, as described in subparagraph (2)(b) below, you may presume that the applicant’s representations about engaging in only status-compliant activity were willful misrepresentations of his or her intention in seeking a visa or entry.
In the event that a U.S. consular officer “becomes aware of derogatory information indicating that an alien in the United States who has a valid visa, may have misrepresented his or her intentions to you at the time of visa application, or to DHS at the port of entry or in a filing for an immigration benefit”, they are directed to “bring the derogatory information to the attention of the Department for potential revocation.”
More information regarding this can be found on the webpage of Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP, a leading Immigration Law Firm.
8/21/17 DOS Suspends Nonimmigrant Visa Operations in Russia
March 6, 2017: President Donald Trump issued a new revised executive order that restricts entry into the United States for 90 days for individuals from six countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It revokes the previous executive order issued in January governing travel and entry to the United States, and makes several significant changes to the previous order’s restrictions on travel and entry into the United States which are outlined below. The new executive order becomes effective on March 16, 2017.
January 27, 2017: President Trump issued “Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”. It contains provisions that directly affect our student and scholar populations, along with the departments and units who host them. For example, the Executive Order suspends visas, entry, and immigration benefits for individuals from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen (i.e. nationals of these countries, including those who were born in or are permanent residents of these countries, or are dual nationals). In addition, the increased screening procedures outlined in the Executive Order, will likely have an impact on travel and possibly the adjudication of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) benefits for individuals with immigrant and non-immigrant status in the USA.
UC Merced and the Office of International Affairs is monitoring the situation closely to provide support for your concerns and answers to your questions. The situation remains very fluid and can change rapidly so be sure to consult legal counsel when needed. Below are resources and answers to frequently asked questions.
1. How will the results of the election affect my immigration status?
The change in administration has no immediate impact on the immigration status of those currently in the US. Current regulations remain in place until any changes the new administration chooses to make. Be aware that changes in laws or regulations take time and will have a warning.
However, changes in policy or guidance and executive orders may happen more quickly and may take effect immediately. UC Merced will continue to monitor any decisions impacting our student and scholar populations and will provide updated information through this website and via email.
NAFSA: International Association of International Educators offers an excellent summary of the U.S. immigration system, government agencies and the process of change on their Practical Immigration Concepts in a Time of Change webpage. More detailed information can also be found in the following sources (from resource list above at NAFSA.org):
2. Can I travel outside the US? Can I get my visa renewed? I am a citizen of X country- am I allowed to travel?
For the near future, UC Merced Office of International Affairs (OIA) recommends minimizing international travel due to the changing nature of the new administration's policies on visas and U.S. entry. Should you have concerns about immediate or essential international travel or visa renewal, contact an OIA advisor.
See Customs and Border Protection's Executive Order webpage & FAQ, which addresses traveler questions specific to the rule. Individuals who may be affected by this Executive Order may visit the CBP INFO Center website for additional information. On the webpage, travelers may also request additional guidance by clicking on the ‘Email us your Question
3. Will I still have / OPT/ STEM/J-1 Student Academic Training available when I graduate? Will the H1-B program be cancelled? Will the Fulbright program or the J visa program disappear? Will the J-1 2-Year Home Residency Requirement significantly change?
At this time, there is no information regarding what actual changes we will see in the future for any particular visa category. Current regulations remain in place, until any changes the new administration chooses to make. Be aware that changes in laws or regulations take time and will have advance warning.
Changes in policy or guidance and executive orders may happen more quickly and may take effect immediately. OIA will continue to monitor any decisions impacting our student and scholar populations, and will provide updated information as it is available through this website and via email.
4. Will my family members be able to visit and/or attend my commencement?
The 1/27/2017 Executive Order suspended visa issuance and entry into the United States of “immigrants and nonimmigrants” from the affected countries for 90 days from the date the Executive Order was signed.
2/4/2017 UPDATE: However, on February 3, 2017, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting the U.S. government from enforcing the 90-day travel ban on “immigrants and nonimmigrants” from designated countries and the 120-day ban on U.S. refugee program of the January 27, 2017 Executive Order on a nationwide basis. All U.S. land and air ports of entry are prohibited from enforcing these portions of the Executive Order until further order from the court.
This situation is fluid and changes happen rapidly. Please see an OIA advsior or legal counsel for the most up to date information.
5. What is UC Merced Office of International Affairs doing to advocate for international students?
OIA advocates for our international students and scholars on a campus and community level by continuing to provide education, training, and advising for campus partners and stakeholders regarding the complex issues facing our student and scholar population.
On a national level, OIA administration and legal counsel works in partnership with the University of California's Office of Federal Governmental Relations to advocate for regulations and policies supportive of our international community. Additionally, OIA works for advocacy through our membership in NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange.
6. Where can I find support if I have immigration or concerns? Support for anxiety or stress?
Please visit OIA with any F-1/J-1 immigration concerns or questions. Our Advisers provide a welcoming, safe environment to explore any worries you may have related to your visa status, as well as explore options and benefits available your current or future plans. For complex issues beyond our scope, we can assist you in finding a referral for an immigration attorney.
Enrolled UC Merced and EAP students can access resources through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), including individual confidential counseling appointments, groups, self-help tools, and more. You can call for a confidential appointment (209) 228-4266 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. What things could currently jeopardize my status?
At any time, it is important to avoid any violations of your F-1 or J-1 status. In addition to enrollment requirements, address reporting, or employment restrictions individuals in non-immigrant status are expected to refrain from breaking any U.S. state or federal laws. (The American Civil Liberties Union has a series of Know Your Rights resources available including being stopped by police, and attending demonstrations/protests.) Please think carefully before engaging in protest activities, as arrests can seriously impact immigration status or future visa applications. Arrests or convictions that involve violence, drugs or alcohol can have serious or long-lasting impact on current or future immigration status.
Also be aware that while marijuana use is legal in many U.S. states, it remains illegal at the federal level and use constitutes a violation of federal law. Use of marijuana, or alcohol/drug-related DUI arrests or convictions due can lead to severe immigration consequences ranging from fines, visa cancellation to deportation.
If you are arrested or have any legal concerns, please contact the Office of International Affairs immediately. In such cases, we urge you to retain immigration legal counsel to advise you as to next steps and possible consequences.