Protections and Restrictions
The United States operates under a system of laws that provides both rights and responsibilities for individuals, including international students. This system is designed to protect and provide equal rights for everyone. Not knowing that a law exist or that a certain action is illegal is not a defense; you will still be held responsible for abiding by all regulations.
Immigration regulations are federal laws that affect international students while presenting in the United States. As a visitor, the conditions of your presence in the United States are seen as a benefit rather than a right, so it is a particularly critical area of the law for students to comply with. Failure to do so can result in your losing student status and not being allowed to remain in the United States. International student advisers at the school you are attending can assist you in understanding the regulations affecting you.
Being Charged vs. Being Guilty
If charged with a crime, an individual is considered to be innocent until proven guilty. Being proven guilty can occur at a trial or can occur when an individual admits to being guilty and accepts a punishment from a U.S. court. An individual who has been charged has the right to be represented by an attorney. If an individual cannot afford to hire an attorney, the government will arrange to provide one. For an international student, being convicted of a criminal offense can also mean being required to leave the United States. Therefore, having assistance of an attorney, if charged with a crime, is extremely important.
You should know that…
Most students will not violate any laws while in the United States. However, there are some acts that do occur in student populations that can result in serious problems for individuals. The laws about these acts may be different than in other countries.
- The age of twenty-one is the legal age for drinking alcoholic beverages. If you are younger, purchasing alcohol is against the law.
- Possessing illegal drugs is a criminal offense at any age.
- Physical assault of another individual, including disagreements with a spouse or partner that result in physical contact like punishing or hitting, can also result in legal charges.
- Excessive physical punishment of children is also against the law. The definition of “excessive: in this context may be different in the United States than in other countries.
Colleges and universities also have their own rules and regulations for students. These rules are usually contained in a student handbook or on the school’s website. They protect students and provide for equal treatment. The regulations also govern many aspects of student conduct in a class and on campus. Knowing and following these regulations will be helpful to you as you adjust to student life in the United States.