How UTA international students are responding to ICE’s recent F-1 status announcement

The Swift Center sits on West Campus on July 6 at UTA. The building houses the Center For African American Studies, the Center For Mexican American Studies and the Office of International Education. 

Architecture sophomore Camila Plate said she does not plan to return to campus in the fall due to the financial implications and uncertainty of having to leave the U.S. once the semester begins.

Due to the pandemic, she had to return to her home country of Paraguay in March, and with the help of her mom, she decided taking online classes would be safer. She doesn’t want to have to go through that again along with continuing to pay a lease if UTA were to go completely online and she would have to return home.

“I have to take my classes in [the] fall. If I can do it online, that would be great,” Plate said. “But if they don’t provide the classes online, then I don’t really have another option than to [go] take the classes however I can.”

Now, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announcement on July 6 can cause Plate to lose her F-1 status if she doesn’t return to the U.S. for in-person classes and instead takes courses online from her home country. ICE announced that international students attending schools operating entirely online for the fall semester cannot take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

The students must depart the country or find an alternative solution, such as transferring to a school with face to face or hybrid courses, or face possible deportation.

Information systems junior Mitul Kachhla said returning to campus in the fall for in-person classes is risky, and he wonders how health insurance for international students who become ill will be affected.

International students residing outside the U.S. who are not returning to campus in the fall can take online courses and need to complete the Online Enrollment Agreement. However, these students cannot maintain their F-1 status.

International students that have to return to their home country face potential difficulties including lack of access to reliable Wi-Fi, network issues and time differences, Kachhla said.

Biomedical engineering junior Chirag Gupta had a hard time catching up with classes when he returned to India in March due to the pandemic. This, along with the 11-hour time difference from his courses, increased his stress.

None of his classes will be online for the fall, and despite hoping to return to campus, Gupta is unsure if he wants to as coronavirus cases increase.

“We need UTA to actually consider the situation of people traveling from other countries,” he said in a text message.

In accordance with the announcement, the Office of International Education will issue updated I-20 forms to international students via their student emails, according to an email sent out to international students Wednesday.

Interim President Teik Lim stated in a separate email Wednesday that international students are being contacted directly with more information. Scheduled listening sessions via Microsoft Teams will be conducted to receive further information and ask questions.

Computer science senior Gaurav Ajariwal said the Office of International Education took at least two days to inform students that they’re working toward a solution, and he believes UTA is doing fine so far handling things.

Ajariwal said a lot of people are scared about the ICE announcement, but he thinks UTA can still come up with a solution.

Psychology senior Nusrat Jahan said the ICE announcement came out nowhere, and she is unsure what will happen with her senior year.

Jahan said she understands UTA cannot make a solution right away, but she said the university’s response only restated ICE’s policies without first addressing students right away.

She said she is worried about classes transitioning fully online after Thanksgiving and what the implications will be but wants UTA to keep international students informed about the plans that are made. The transition to online classes after Thanksgiving does not change the fall course modality and is not expected to impact students under these recent provisions.

“Our future and the next few semesters really depends on what UTA does right now,” Jahan said.

Prior to the announcement, UTA developed the International Enrollment and Related Issues Sub-Task Force to encourage international student enrollment.

The sub-task force identified two main groups whose enrollment could be affected: on-campus students and overseas international students who will not be able to enter the U.S.

International student enrollment in the fall may decline by more than 30% compared to the 2018-2019 academic year due to new students not being able to obtain visas to enter the U.S. or continuing students who are unable to return to the U.S. after the summer break, according to the Fall Academic Planning Task Force report.

International student programs and services, registration, enrollment holds and communication will be focused on for new and continuing international students who will be on campus.

The sub-task force created additional groups to discuss the possibility of a transition plan from F-1 visas to overseas online enrollment for new and continuing international students who will not be on campus.

Since students who take courses online from their home country will lose their F-1 status, UTA said they will provide guidance on the process of reactivating their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System records and reissuing new I-20 visas once students decide to return.

@david___a23

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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