Friday, September 25, 2020

International Students Association holds emergency meeting discussing new student visa regulations

July 7, 2020
<p>The International Center photographed on July 7, 2020.</p>

The International Center photographed on July 7, 2020.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Michigan State University's International Student Association (ISA) held an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss student concerns to the new regulations made by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, requiring international students to leave the U.S. if all of their classes are online.

“The worldwide pandemic we’re all facing together has only highlighted the need for more global collaboration, not less," MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in a statement. "The federal government’s new policy that places additional restrictions on international students is profoundly concerning and incredibly unfair to those who have come to us to further their educations."

He said that MSU is home to over 5,500 international students that contribute vibrancy and economic health to the community as well as educational and research advancements.

"This disappointing policy creates great anxiety among members of our international student community, who may have to pause or cut short their educational journeys through no fault of their own," Stanley said. “To our Spartan international student community, know this: We are here for you and we will continue to fight for you. You deserve better.”

In order to keep international students informed throughout this time, ISA is asking for all MSU international students to join their Facebook group.

Office for International Students and Scholars, or OISS, Director Krista Beatty attended the meeting to clarify the announcement with the ISA executive board.

She said that the regulations place schools under one of three categories: schools that will be entirely online, schools that will be entirely in person, and schools with hybrid options, like MSU.

"OISS is working with a lot of other schools to get clarification from immigration on (the regulations), we're hoping that it's just going to be one in-person class and that you can take as many online classes as you want. Keep in mind at MSU in-person classes are both the classes that are fully in-person like they're normally taught or courses that are hybrid," Beatty said.

OISS sent an email to international students informing them of the new regulations and how it affects MSU.

Beatty addressed that immigration status and progress toward their degree is not the same thing. Even if they are not maintaining their immigration status, these students can still enroll in online courses.

"The not-so-great news is for our international Spartans who are outside of the U.S., and either have decided not to come back or are unable to come back to East Lansing for fall semester," Beatty said. "Right now the way we're reading the broadcast message is that these students will not be able to maintain their immigration status even if they enroll full time in online courses."

MSU international students under the F-1 student visa will be allowed to take more than one online class in the fall but must have at least some in-person component class for it to count toward immigration purposes.

Students who remain in the U.S. are required to enroll at MSU full time with at least some in-person component to maintain the F-1 status.

Students asked what could happen to international students once classes go online on Nov. 25 or if the pandemic caused classes to move online again.

"Our understanding, on OISS, of the broadcast message doesn't change what the university has been saying that students who wish to remain on campus can do so after the Thanksgiving break," Beatty said. "(Classes going online for the last three weeks) doesn't change how the course is classified."

Acting president of Residential Housing Association, or RHA, Kaitlyn Bolton said that housing will be available to all students, including international students making their decisions.

International students with little coursework left to complete before completing their degree are still concerned about how they will find an in-person class to fulfill the regulations.

Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) President Abii-Tah Bih said she had not heard back from administration at the time of the meeting and will soon be reaching out to the faculty senate.

She also plans on reaching out to teaching assistants and professors who might be willing to hold in-person class options for majors and programs that were going to be primarily online this fall semester.

These regulations were made for students under the F-1 student visa, but no new regulations have been announced for students under the J-1 visa.

"There's so much stuff that is going on that OISS doesn't know. We also don't know and the only interpretation that we have today is the ICE guidelines ... and that doesn't answer all of the questions that we might have." ISA President Tawan Chittawan said.

Beatty and ISA suggest MSU international students reach out to OISS for help on their immigration situation.

"It all goes back to this, when it comes to immigration issues are concerned, visa issues are concerned, ISA or any student organization are in no position to be able to answer any questions well than OISS does," Chittawan said. "I value the importance of us having feedbacks from international students ... to answer their questions."

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