New immigration rules may impact international students on certain visas  

HOUSTON — As universities prepare for the fall semester, a change in the student visa program could have a big impact on international students.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration services sent out final memorandum ironing out a rules change aimed at reducing visa overstays.

Students in the country on F, J, or M visas now have less leeway when it comes to the legal term “unlawful presence.”

Before now, students who dropped out of school, failed to maintain the minimum number of hours, or otherwise fell out of good standing - “unlawful presence” status didn’t kick in until after the government formally notified them. Not anymore.

“What is new is that now from August 9th, the clock of 180 days begins [...] accumulating 180 days can subject them to a three year bar if this is not resolved by homeland security through reinstatement.  If they exceed 180 days, up to one year they can be they can be subject to a 10 year bar,” Director of International Student and Scholar Services at University of Houston Anita Gaines said.

More than one year and students could be banned from the United States for life.

Houston is known as one of the most diverse cities in the country.  The student body at the University of Houston is no different.

“For students that are maintaining their legal status they have absolutely nothing to be concerned about, but for any student that has any violation of their student visa status, they need to see us, the international student and scholar office right away,” Gaines said.

“It was really helpful because, since I’m from India, and I’ve been here for like three years now, i am unaware of a lot of things here,” says Zeeshan Akther Mohamad, an international graduate from India.

What do students think of the change?

“Right now giving 180 days and then deportation, I think that’s a little aggressive if you ask me,” Mohamad said.

Pooria Tajalli is an international student from Iran.

He says, “If I think about that it would be so stressful, I just try not to think about that negativity and that negative things, and stay focused on my job and my career you know, and do my best.”