U of U officials address new ICE rules for international students

File photo: Wikimedia Commons/Daderot

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 8, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — University of Utah officials are addressing the newly announced Immigration and Customs Enforcement modifications concerning international students.

“This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced modifications to exemptions for non-immigrant students enrolled at higher education institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a news release from the U of U. “This announcement is a departure from the exceptions allowed for the spring and summer 2020 semesters, and we understand it has raised significant fear and anxiety among the thousands of international students who study and teach at the University of Utah.”

In part, the statement from ICE reads: “Non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

The U of U news release added: “International students are a critical part of the University of Utah community, expanding the academic experience in our classrooms and laboratories for all students, faculty and staff. University leaders are seeking clarification on the implications of the Student Exchange and Visitor Program announcement. However, we do not believe the new guidance will conflict with our plans for returning to campus for the fall 2020 semester with both in-person and online courses.”

The U of U news release said that in general:

  • Incoming international students who have received an F-1 visa will still be able to travel to the United States and enroll in classes. Students are required to enroll in at least one three-semester credit in-person or hybrid course.
  • Incoming international students who have not yet received an F-1 student visa may choose to take online classes from their home country for the fall 2020 semester. This should not impact a student’s ability to gain an F-1 student visa in the future.
  • Continuing international students with an F-1 visa will be required to enroll in at least one three-semester credit in-person or hybrid course to maintain student status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Continuing students in active F-1 SEVIS status will remain in active status while studying online, even from outside of the U.S. Students will need to remain enrolled full time — 12 semester credit hours for undergraduates; nine semester credit hours or three thesis hours for graduate students.

“As the new federal guidelines make clear, each F-1 student must take at least one in-person or hybrid course this fall,” the news release said. “The university is asking leaders in all of its colleges and departments to work closely with students impacted by this change. The university plans to do whatever it can under the law to make certain that our programs provide in-person courses for international students so that they can complete their educations here in the United States.”

The U said more information will be posted as it becomes available at the Office for Global Engagement’s International Student and Scholar Services website.

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