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Protests and Your Rights

Do you feel passionate about a cause and want to get involved? As an international visitor in the United States, you have rights to protect you—but also some risks and restrictions when it comes to participating in demonstrations and protests.

Whether you are already participating in peaceful protests or just want to learn more, explore this page for guidance and resources on your rights in the U.S.

Your Rights

The United States has a long history and tradition of protesting and speaking out in public against injustices and political grievances. The U.S. Constitution's First Amendment protects people's rights to gather for protests (freedom of assembly), speak out (freedom of speech), and ask the government for changes without reprisal (right to petition). These rights are so fundamental to American democracy that they became the first personal freedoms guaranteed in the part of the Constitution called the Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment is not just for U.S. citizens. It also protects international visitors who participate in lawful public demonstrations and protests. Know your rights as a noncitizen and learn how to respond to immigration questions if you are stopped by police or other government officials.

Think First

Please think carefully and plan before engaging in protest activities. Before attending any public demonstration, you should make preparations to stay safe and keep in touch with others in case the situation escalates.

Potential Immigration Impact

If you are arrested, charged, and convicted while participating in a protest, the conviction can affect your immigration status or future visa applications. For example, if the police order everyone to disperse, and you don't leave fast enough, you might get arrested. A conviction will mean that you violated a state or federal law. Your immigration status may depend on keeping a clean record by following all laws.

Find more information about maintaining your status for F/J students, J-1 scholars, and other faculty/staff.

Health and Social Distancing

Stay safe and healthy!

If you decide to make your voice heard, remember COVID-19 and its impact on our community. Continue to follow safety guidelines, including wearing your mask during the demonstration and maintaining at least six feet of distance whenever possible. Also carry hand sanitizer and protection for your eyes, such as goggles or a shield.