International students face risk of being sent home due to online classes
International students at the University will be required to leave the country if their courses remain entirely online this fall, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday.
The federal guidance will prohibit the U.S. Department of State from issuing visas to students enrolled in schools and programs fully online for the fall semester, as well as mandating students currently in the United States who will have online-only classes in the upcoming semester to leave the country or transfer to an institution with in-person instruction.
“The University is committed to helping all of our international students do everything possible to remain compliant with federal guidelines and successfully complete their academic and research endeavors,” a University statement said on Wednesday.
The announcement does not include definitive plans regarding how the University will offer support to its more than 3,000 international students. The University intended to hold a webinar for international students on Thursday and Friday but uncertainty surrounding the new information resulted in the event’s postponement, according to an anonymous source.
For one UH international student, the prospect of returning to their hometown of Mexico City for the upcoming semester has generated worries about returning home or going back to campus this fall.
“I can tell you I haven’t slept in three days,” the student said.
While the student has concerns regarding exposure to the coronavirus while traveling, they also fear viral spread on campus.
“I can say I have some fear and anxiety of going back on campus and the exposure,” the student said. “However, I don’t see any problem if we all wear face masks and do social distancing.”
The University plans to implement a variety of social distancing measures in the upcoming semester to minimize viral spread and to ensure the continuation of in-person instruction.
The mix of online and in-person courses to be offered on campus this fall will allow international students to comply with federal regulations by giving them the opportunity to attend face-to-face classes.
Students attending institutions that have adopted a hybrid instruction model, such as the HyFlex option the University announced in June, must certify that their program does not consist of an entirely online course load.
For the student, the HyFlex course option provides a sense of relief by allowing them to comply with federal regulations.
“I don’t know about my specific classes, but I know UH is giving a hybrid option, which is good to start off … As long as one of my classes is hybrid, I can take the rest online,” the student said.
In the event that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forces a return to fully online operations in the fall, international students will be required to leave the country or take alternative steps to keep their non-immigrant status, according to the ICE release.
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