IO Announcements 2018

Unlawful Presence Policy

Effective Date: August 9, 2018

New USCIS Policy Creates Much Stricter Penalties for Failure to Maintain Status for International Students and Scholars

The current revision of the “unlawful presence” policy is a major change to the enforcement of visa regulations for F1 and J1 students and J1 scholars. If you fail to comply or report changes on time, and violate your immigration status requirements as a result, you can face deportation and a lengthy bar (3-10 years) on returning to the U.S. under these new enforcement guidelines.

What is the policy?

  • When an international F1 or J1 students or J1 scholars (or their dependent) violates immigration regulations, the number of days from the time you violate your status will be counted, called “unlawful presence.”
  • If you accumulate 180 days of “unlawful presence,” you can be barred from the U.S. for 3 years.
  • If you accumulate 1 year of “unlawful presence,” you can be barred from the U.S. for 10 years.
  • If you violate your F or J student status but subsequently file a timely request for reinstatement, then the unlawful presence day-count can be frozen while the reinstatement determination is being considered.

When will the days start to be counted?

  • The days will start to be counted from August 9, 2018 if it is a newly discovered violation that started in the past.
  • The days will start on the date the violation starts if it is on or after August 9, 2018.
  • If it was a previously discovered violation and you were previously accruing (accumulating days counted toward unlawful presence) unlawful presence, that accrual will continue.

Avoiding Immigration Status Violations:

  • Follow all ofthe regulations that pertain to your immigration status (see categories and 

      lists below). 

  • Read all ofthe emails sent out by the International Office on immigration reminders and updates. 
  • When you graduate and start using F1 OPT or make sure to update your physical addressusing the OPT reporting form AND in the SEVIS portal. 
  • J1 students on academic training should report address changes directly to their International Office advisor by email. 
  • Ask your international student advisor about any questions or concerns you have about your immigration (visa) status. 

If you think you have violated your status…

  • Contact the International Office to speak with your advisor. Link:
  • There are many things we can do to help you navigate a status violation once we are aware it has happened; however, there are problems we will not be able to solve if you accrue too much “unlawful presence” time and are subject to enforcement.
  • Depending on the nature of the status violation we may suggest you contact an experienced immigration attorney to be sure you fully understand your rights and obligations moving forward, as well as the possible penalties that could accompany a violation.

This is a policy change. Link to the USCIS policy:

Maintain your Immigration Status!

F1 and J1 Student Regulations:

To maintain legal status in the U.S., F1 and J1 students must follow these federal regulations, state regulations, and Northwestern policies:

  • Check-in at the International Office (or Orientation) when you first arrive at Northwestern.
  • Always enroll for full-time courses(undergraduates at least 3 units; graduates  

      defined by your degree program.) 

  • If you are considering dropping below full time talk to the International Officebefore you

      drop below full time or take a leave of absence. 

  • If you are considering taking a quarter off or gap quarter, talk to the International

      Office before you  take a leave of absence. 

  • Update your local residential address within 10 days of movingby updating CAESAR. 
  • At least 2 weeksbefore the end date on your I-20 or DS-2019, apply for an extension at

      the International Office if you need more time. 

  • Keep your passport valid at all times.
  • Contact the International Office before you finishat Northwestern if you plan

      to transfer to another school, go on to another degree program at Northwestern or at another    

      school. You need to complete the appropriate immigration procedures before the end of   

      your grace period (60 days for F; 30 days for J) and before the start of your new


  • Never work on campus for more than 20 hours per weekduring the academic year. 
  • Never work off-campus without priorAlways discuss off-campus work

      authorization at the International Office and get authorization before working

       off-campus. This includes paid and unpaid positions.  

  • Comply with all other U.S. federal and state laws,such as never driving while intoxicated

      and never carrying a weapon. 

  • Comply with all other Northwestern academic and conduct policies.
  • Be sure to carry your required documentswhen traveling and re-entering the U.S. as well

      as when you travel inside the U.S. 

  • When you graduate and are on F1 OPT or F1 STEM OPT, be sure to complete all the

      required reporting on time. 

J1 Scholar Regulations:

To maintain legal status in the U.S., J1 scholars must follow these federal regulations, state regulations, and Northwestern policies:

  • Check-in at the International Office when you first arrive at Northwestern.
  • Update your local residential address within 10 days of movingby emailing your

      International Office advisor. 

  • At least 2 weeksbefore the end date on your DS-2019, your department must apply for

      an extension with the International Office, if you need more time to complete your

      program objectives.  

  • Maintain the required level of health insurance.
  • Depart the U.S. within the 30-day grace periodfollowing the end of your J1 program. 
  • Contact the International Office if you plan to transfer to another school,change the

      terms of your current J1 at Northwestern, or change to another status.  

  • Do not accept any opportunity for payment (honorarium) or work (paid or unpaid)

      at any other institution without consulting the International Office.  

  • Maintain program objectives as described in the DS-2019 form.
  • Comply with all other U.S. federal and state laws, such as never driving while

      intoxicated and never carrying a weapon. 

  • Be sure to carry your required documents when traveling and re-entering the U.S. as

      well as when you travel inside the U.S. 


F2 and J2 dependents rely on the F1 or J1 to maintain conditions of status. If the F1 or J1 loses legal status, the F2 or J2 will also lose legal status.

F2 Dependents:

  • May not work in the U.S.
  • Must comply with federal and state laws.

J2 Dependents

  • May not work in the U.S. without valid work authorization from Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • Must comply with federal and state laws.
  • Must (like the J1), be fully covered by health insurance.


Updated August 30, 2018 - IO Technology Fee - More Information and FAQs

At Northwestern, our world-class institution is committed to supporting our diverse student body on a myriad of campuses across the country and throughout the globe. As an international student, you are inextricably linked with our shared mission of global eminence.

The mission of the International Office is to enrich the academic, research, and cultural experience of Northwestern’s international community. We advise and support you, advocate on your behalf, and increase the visibility of our international community while promoting educational and cultural exchange. One of the ways in which we achieve these goals is by navigating the various reporting requirements for our international students.

Over the past 15 years, our reporting requirements have grown exponentially. As you know, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires that we report on many different aspects of our international students. From a compliance perspective, international students are treated differently from U.S. students. As a result, our current systems cannot keep up and must be replaced.

Therefore, we are implementing new software to meet the increasingly challenging federal reporting requirements, as well as to transform your experience as international students by making our processes more transparent and fluid.

In order to implement this new software, the Provost approved an annual fee for all students who require the use of this software to begin September 1. This fee will be used to purchase and maintain the licensing and support of this system, and we will provide an end-of-year accounting of the fees – what was paid and what was spent – on our website.

This fee is in direct response to a federally-mandated change in process with which the University is obligated to comply. We always carefully consider implementing or increasing fees to students because we understand any additional cost may create or contribute to a financial burden. However, this fee is in line with previous increases Northwestern has had to implement in direct response to changes in other mandatory requirements around technology or health.

Because the University’s fiscal year ends on August 31, the first annual fee of $50 will be assessed as of September 1. All international students – undergraduate, graduate, exchange students, etc. – will be assessed this fee as part of the fall quarter when enrolling in classes. If you do not attend classes in the fall, you will be assessed the fee in the first quarter in which you attend during the academic year. You will be charged this fee once per year, and in subsequent years, the amount will be reduced to correspond with the actual costs of ongoing licensing and maintenance. Similar to an activity fee or other fee type, it must be paid directly by each individual student and will not be covered by a school or program.

As you know, the University uses CAESAR, an Oracle/PeopleSoft product, as our system of record to manage student data. The SEVIS module that the International Office has been using for years is part of their delivered product, meaning that it is free to the University. While PeopleSoft has continued to make updates to its module throughout the years, it in no way can function in the robust reporting environment that we are currently faced with for the size of our international student population. There is no upgrade option. We have supplemented the SEVIS module for years with Google forms, Eventbrite, MailChimp, and a plethora of Excel spreadsheets. This inefficient system takes too much time to process student requests, and it does not enable us to be proactive in notifying students of potential issues. This additional time puts the student and the university at risk through non-compliance with strict federal reporting timelines. It also requires a much longer process to do everything from creating initial documents to processing CPT and OPT applications to educating and communicating with students.

In a word, the current system is unmanageable. The increasing reporting burden from the federal government, as well as their increased scrutiny of our students, demands that we have a much more robust and responsive system purchased through and provided by a third-party vendor.

Our goal is to assist you with maintaining your status. We try to educate and notify all students when changes happen or when a student is in danger of falling out of status. With the new unlawful presence regulations that went into effect on August 9, there is increasing pressure to catch and prevent potential issues.

This is one of the many ways we believe the new software will positively affect our international students. We will be more proactive in situations where you may be in danger of a status violation. We will be able to provide consistent education to all students on a variety of topics. We will be able to track your needs and questions, no matter which adviser you speak with. We will be able to provide proactive advice on CPT and OPT and other employment questions. These are only a few of the ways the new software will transform the service we are able to provide to our international students.

There are few vendors in the SEVIS reporting environment. Only two provide the services we need. After extensive research, the International Office and the University approved the purchase of Terra Dotta’s ISSS software. As with any new system, there are implementation costs, annual licensing fees, additional security costs, staff support needs, hardware needs and coordination with existing campus resources. The budget approved by the Provost is lean. All money collected through these fees will be going only to the new system and its upkeep.

This fee is to offset a cost, no more. We appreciate your questions and concerns, and we welcome your comments. We will continue to provide you with open communication and FAQs regarding this project of the course of the implementation.

If you have additional questions, please reach out to our Assistant Director of Operations Jennifer Zabel at

June 14, 2018 - Updated Presidential Proclamation (Travel Ban) information

Please see this page for more information