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Unlawful Presence and F-1 Student Status

Last updated on Jul 18, 2023

Unlawful Presence: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy means penalties for not maintaining your F-1 student status.

Any F-1, J-1 or M-1 student or scholar visa holder that intentionally or unintentionally violates their non-immigrant status and remains in the United States will be accruing “unlawful presence”. The days in the United States after violating F-1 status will be counted, and can mean that a F-1 student could be subject to deportation and a lengthy bar on returning to the United States. Under this policy, the start date of the “unlawful presence” is based on the day that student stops maintaining status.

To avoid violating your immigration status, please remember to follow all regulations related to your visa status, including:

  • Always enroll full time each academic semester (undergraduates: full time = minimum 12 units; graduates: full time = minimum 9 units)
  • If you need to drop below full time, get authorization from the ISS office BEFORE dropping classes.
  • If you need to withdraw from all classes at CCA or take a leave of absence, get authorization BEFORE withdrawing from any classes
  • Verify that your current address in the United States is correct in Workday Student. US immigration requires you to update your local address within 10 days of moving by updating Workday Student.
  • Never work off campus without PRIOR approval from ISS: this includes any unauthorized freelance work, short term contract work, and sale of personal artwork
  • Never work on campus for more than 20 hours per week (during the academic semester)
  • Make sure your I-20 does not expire
  • Comply with all US federal and state laws
  • Students on OPT: must report employment through the SEVP Portal within 10 days of starting or changing employment and do not exceed the allowed number unemployment day

Please visit our ISS Portal Pages for more information about Maintaining F-1 status

Penalties for having days of “unlawful presence” in the United States:

  • If you accumulate 180 days of “unlawful presence”, you can be barred from entering the United States for 3 years.
  • If you accumulate 1 year of “unlawful presence”, you can be barred from entering the United States for 10 years.

Please note that the “unlawful presence” time clock begins the day a violation occurs, not the date that the information is reported to ISS.

USCIS Unlawful Presence Policy

Due to the very serious nature of this policy, please contact the ISS office at with any questions about maintaining F-1 status.

For information about how the unlawful presence policy impacts J-1 students and scholars, visit ourJ-1 information page.