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Utah's international students scramble to follow new rules to avoid deportation

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Utah’s international students scramble to follow new rules to avoid deportation (Photo: KUTV)

More than 5,000 international students at universities across Utah are figuring out what they need to do to continue studying in the state.

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Federal immigration officials released new rules on Monday, warning if students aren’t taking enough in-person classes, they have to go back to their home countries or face deportation.

How are students reacting?

2News asked several universities what they’re telling international students as well as the exact wording of the regulations sent to universities across the country.

“Such kind of devastating news or like sudden changes in plans has affected the incoming students a lot,” said Aish Asesh, who leads the Indian Students Association at the University of Utah.

Because many Utah universities are planning to offer some in-person classes in the fall, the students should be able to stay, but confusion and frustration remained surrounding the number and availability of face-to-face classes. Also, if in-person classes are canceled because of a surge of virus activity, what will the students do on short notice?

“No student will need to leave because of this new policy,” said Yimin Wang, senior international officer at Weber State University.

Wang said the university was holding virtual town halls and individual meetings with students to make sure those who want to stay on-campus can do so.

“We certainly received a lot of emails from international students,” Wang said. “There (is) a little level of confusion, certain level of anxiety, especially students who are currently making plans back in their home countries, purchasing air tickets and trying to get their visa processed.”

The message that universities received from ICE can be read in full here.

“It’s kind of a blurry future for us,” Asesh said, “and everyone is a bit worried, like why everything is happening so soon.”

What will universities do?

The University of Utah was reviewing the guidelines and impact on Tuesday and planned to communicate with international students by email.

A spokesman for Utah Valley University, which has more than 1,000 international students, said UVU doesn’t foresee any problems. Advisers will make sure they take at least one face-to-face class.

A representative for Utah State University, which has 681 international students enrolled in fall semester, said in an email:

USU’s fall 2020 schedule includes a hybrid plan of in-person and remote classes delivered via on-campus, fully distance, and blended methods. While USU is working to understand the implications of the announcement, we are also communicating with international students that they should enroll in at least 3 credits (and as many as possible) of on-campus delivery courses to maintain their student visa status. Research and thesis credits meet the on-campus delivery requirement. USU will work with international students to adjust their class schedules to avoid taking all on-line classes, where possible. Students who have concerns should reach out to internationalstudents@usu.edu and faculty members and graduate advisors should reach out to the Office of Global Engagement at USU.

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