It is not a revelation that international higher education has increased over the past century. Destinations like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, are among some of the popular study migration countries (Read Top study abroad countries in the world).
Needless to mention, Europe too takes a large slice of the student pie with their taste of education advancements. But while this happy marriage of higher-education and students seems to be thriving, as expected, there are incidents that have been known to spell trouble in the union.
These are events that lead to the cancellation or revocation of the right of an international student to pursue a degree abroad. That is, the cancellation or revocation of a Student Visa, the document/stamp that makes the whole process of being in a foreign land legal.
Student visas are non-immigrant visas which include individuals who are moving to become temporary, nevertheless lawful, residents with a full intention of heading out to wherever in the world once their purpose of stay is met. In 2016, the US issued over 480,000 Student Non-Immigrant Visas (F1 / M1).
The intent of this article is to not get into how to obtain such a non-immigrant visa, but rather if and when an issued non-immigrant Student Visa is denied its validity. That is the situation whereby students who have been previously issued a successful Student Visa (say an F1 Visa) find their visa status Cancelled or Revoked.
We will explore the following – When can your Student Visa be revoked/cancelled? What can a student do when his Student Visa gets revoked/cancelled? Can your cancelled Student Visa be reinstated?
Let’s dive into the details and we will try to be as ubiquitous in our approach as possible, talking about not just the Student Visa in the US, but in the other popular student destinations as well.
Visa is a travel document that stamps the validity of your stay purpose and period in the foreign country, such as in USA. A visa, however, is not unconditional and comes with certain terms and conditions which are required to be followed and expected.
If you are unable to follow the rules or break the law, your host country and its immigration body can invalidate the visa. In case of a student visa, it would mean that you can no longer continue your education in the US and will have to return home. If you are outside the country, the revocation will effectively make your visa unusable.
In America, 1,000 students who were mostly Chinese and Indian, faced deportation, in 2016. Between 2001 and 2015, nearly 122,000 visas were revoked (including student visas).
In the above cases, many student visas were cancelled on the grounds that the visa documentation were fraudulently obtained, with modulated financial or credibility information.
This has unfortunately been the case for many students who were swayed by unscrupulous “education and visa agents” who took fees to sell admissions to universities that were either blacklisted or didn’t exist.
Many agents forged data to obtain visas which were later discovered by US authorities and duly cancelled. For students who were actively involved in the fraud, many were arrested, while students who were victims to the fraud were deported, thus still getting a pretty sour end of the deal.
Cancellation can also be a consequence of not following the law in the US. Even rather small criminal offences like disorderly conduct can become grounds for dismissal from universities and thus your visa status.
In fact, many immigration law firms claim that even criminal charges, later possibly dismissed, can be grounds for visa cancellation as long as your name is already entered into a National Crime Information Center Database.
A student visa may also automatically get cancelled due to a break in the student’s studies. This can happen if the student stops attending school or if the student takes time off to spend several months (more than approx. 5) abroad, without following the necessary procedures.
A US Consular officer, or the Department of State, may revoke a Student Visa, that it had previously issued, even before the student gets to actually use it and travel to the foreign country.
The following reasons are additional grounds for revocation/cancellation.
36,000 students were allegedly removed from the UK and deported back in 2016. The grounds for those student visa cancellations were accused fraudulent test results shown in lieu of English Proficiency Tests.
In other words, the immigration authorities claimed that the students cheated. Similar rules of respect for the visa terms and conditions apply in the UK too. Criminal offences are taken very seriously just as the occasional data fudging that may take place to get hold of the visa.
A newspaper report, from back in 2011, claimed that over 15k foreign student visas were cancelled in Australia. They were either facing deportation due to their inability to secure enough merits to maintain a valid college enrolment, or missing classes thus effectively ignoring their purpose of being in the country.
Ideally, if a consular officer decides to revoke a student visa, he would inform the visa holder and give the student a chance to give his/her side of the story.
However, such a gesture is usually a formality and if the Department of State has a reason not to inform the visa holder, prior to the revocation, the consular office can very well choose not to. Upon revocation, the word “Cancelled” or “Revoked” is stamped over the visa and a system entry, complete with a “Certificate of Revocation” is filed. The visa holder is informed, if available. Else, the travel authorities are asked to stay aware of a cancelled visa on the loose.
If the student is already in the country, in this case being the US, the Department of States’ revocation decision is finally acted upon by an immigration judge. Until the judge’s decision, a student can seek the help of immigration lawyers to make his case of reconsideration.
In most cases, the immigration department informs the student visa holder about the reason behind the action. Unless completely grievous like a criminal, fraud, or terrorist act, the student has the opportunity to refile for a fresh visa.
Although, the previous visa cancellation / revocation is required to be disclosed in the next attempt, and it is incumbent upon the student to explain and “make his case” while it is the discretion of the consular officer to approve or reject a student visa the next time around. If the reason is serious enough, the student may be completely banned from re-entering the country.
If you believe that your case has been dealt with, unfairly, and that there is no just cause for your student visa to have been revoked/cancelled, you can take measures to fight it. If you win, your visa has a possibility of being Reinstated.
This reactivation process is a legal one and is best attempted by working with an experienced and competent immigration lawyer.
If you believe you have been unfairly embroiled in a potential criminal charge, contact a lawyer as soon as possible and try to get the issue sorted out before a charge is filed. Because as far as the Department of State is concerned, a criminal charge is enough to get your visa revoked even if you are later cleared off the criminal charges.
If a visa is revoked and you successfully fight your ineligibility, the Department of State can overwrite the wrong and reinstate the visa, making you no longer ineligible.
Of course, as long as your visa is physically still intact in your passport and you have not destroyed it in a fit of rage.
The officials then have to submit removal requests for any revocation related entries in any database and records. This can be done in the following circumstances:
Fortunately, if you keep your nose clean, stay out of trouble, keep up your valid university enrolment, and don’t misuse or overstay your international stay, you will most likely go unnoticed and unscathed by the wrath of the Department of State. Your student visa will stay valid and you will work towards your degree without event.
However, legal words of wisdom advise potential international students from falling in the ever-increasing trap of fraudulent visa agents or education agents without any credibility. You should always get an independent opinion on university research and be aware of all the procedures involved in obtaining a Student Visa. Never rely on gimmicks that tweak your financial or education profile to obtain a visa.
And if you do happen to find yourself in a nightmare, seek experienced and competent immigration lawyers to make your case.