What international students should do if they’re at risk of being deported

twitter layoff
Elon Musk's cost-cutting plans may leave hundreds of Twitter employees on high-skill work visas on a countdown to deportation. This is what you can learn from this saga. Source: Olivier Douliery/AFP

A little over a week after completing his blockbuster buyout, Elon Musk started laying off Twitter employees — gradually reducing the social media service’s 7-500-person workforce, reports the New York Times.

According to official records, at least 250 Twitter employees appear to be employed on H-1B visas, a highly coveted work visa for many international graduates in the US. 

International students watching the Twitter layoff saga would undoubtedly be imagining the catastrophic effect of deportation. In August, post-graduate work permit holders were questioning their legal status when the open work permit in Canada — intended to extend their right to work in the country — has yet to be introduced. 

Around May, international graduates like Chung Wook Ahn were at risk of being deported when the cryptocurrency market crashed. Chung had accepted an offer to work at Coinbase, an American company that operates a cryptocurrency exchange platform. However, the company rescinded his job offer due to a hiring freeze impacted by the crashing prices of cryptocurrencies. 

If you find yourself in similar situations, here are a few things you should know and can do to avoid any legal complications. When in doubt, seek advice from an immigration lawyer. 

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Overstaying your visa could lead to you getting deported from the country. Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP

What is deportation and why does it happen?

Deportation is simply described as the formal process of removing a foreign national from a country. For international students, deportation can happen for one of many reasons, which include: 

  1. Breaking the rules of your visa by overstaying 
  2. Committing a severe criminal offence as a student 

Do note that the deportation process will differ from one country to another. It can also be lengthy and complicated. 

Take the US, for example. Anyone who travels to the country without travel documents or with forged documents may be deported quickly without an immigration court hearing. Others may go before a judge in a longer deportation process

Fortunately, formal actions by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement are extremely rare. According to the University of Illinois’s Student Legal Services, most students do not violate criminal laws. When they do, it is generally for non-deportable or non-removable offences. 

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Always remember to stay within the limits of your visa to avoid getting deported. Source: Chris Delmas/AFP

What should you do if you are at risk of being deported?

Where possible, seek qualified legal advice if you can afford to hire an immigration lawyer. This is because they would be able to analyse the immigration laws that apply to your scenario and determine whether they are possible reasons for deportation, including any defence you can raise to prevent the worst case scenario.

In the UK, the Home Office will inform you in writing if they want you to leave the country. You can challenge their decision by explaining in writing why you should be able to stay in the UK. An immigration lawyer could assess your success in challenging this decision.

On that note, always ensure that you have proper documentation on your documents, like your student visa and identity cards. The last thing you would want in defending your reasons against deportation is to misplace crucial documents that will help support your application.

Countries such as the US or UK allow you to voluntarily leave if there is no formal deportation order against you. The UK government also provides financial help to pay for your flights and documents if you cannot afford the journey home. This includes those who have overstayed their visas. 

You might wonder, “Can I re-enter the country after I get deported?” The answer is that it depends. In the US, you may be able to file an I-212 form (an application for permission to reapply for admission into the country after deportation or removal). However, note that the government — who has just deported you — would assess your visa application. A similar process applies to students in the UK.