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Legal Issues

The International Services Office (ISO) advises you to know your rights and responsibilities as a temporary resident of the United States. Below, we offer some information on common legal concerns  international visitors have encountered. In addition, be aware of scams and frauds targeting foreign nationals.


Temporary visitors are expected to know and obey the laws of the United States, New York State, Monroe County, the City of Rochester, and any of the surrounding towns you live in or visit. If you break any of these laws and are caught and charged by the authorities, claiming ignorance because of your visitor status will not excuse the charges or reduce the applicable penalty or fine.

Normally, minor offenses such as disturbing the peace or drunkenness (or even lesser violations, such as traffic or parking tickets) will not affect your immigration status. However, if you are convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude” or one for which the penalty could even potentially involve one year or more of confinement, you could be deported.  Examples of “moral turpitude” crimes include:

  • Charges relating to the possession and sale of illegal drugs
  • Driving a car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Committing fraud

Common Legal Concerns

While not a complete list, below are some areas in which international visitors have encountered legal problems:

  • Vehicle and traffic laws
  • Alcohol and drug laws
  • Domestic violence
  • Child neglect and child abuse
  • Sexual assault and sexual harassment

Resources to Address Legal Concerns

There are many resources, both inside and outside the University, to assist you in your responsibility to understand and obey the law, including the following:

While ISO is an important resource regarding immigration regulations and other laws and rules affecting your status in the United States, we cannot serve as your attorney or provide legal advice. We can consult with you about any problems or concerns you are having and, when appropriate, help you find a qualified attorney to assist you further.

If you have questions, please contact us.

Scams and Frauds

ISO occasionally learns about scams that are targeting international students and scholars, or the general University community.

Recently, there have been reports of scams targeting students and other members of the University community. Most involve a phone call, sometimes with a spoofed phone number to look more official, that asks the individual to share their Social Security Number or to arrange payment of a fee to resolve some bogus problem, complaint, or investigation.

Scammers have misrepresented themselves as officers for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), state or county police departments, or other government agencies or businesses. Some scammers have even posed as representatives from a home government office located in the US. These callers often threaten the targeted individual with arrest if they do not comply with the caller’s demands immediately.

Avoiding Scams and Fraud

Please review the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Guidance on Scams & Fraud. Remember:

  • Government agencies never request personal information or payment by telephone or email.
  • Use caution if you receive calls like this and encourage others to do the same.
  • Never provide personal or financial information in response to a telephone call or email without first obtaining written verification from a reliable source of the requester’s identity and legitimacy.  

For additional information, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website.