Message from Associate Provost Global Learning and International Affairs, John Sunnygard - Update on the Impact of Immigration Changes for Fall 2020
- John Sunnygard
- Wednesday, July 8th, 2020
We are grateful to the many WKU community members who have expressed concern over recent changes to immigration procedures for our international students. I’m writing with important information about changes to immigration practice that impact our students. Thank you for your concern and for taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the issues.
We Are One WKU - We are fully committed to ensuring that our international students may continue to fulfill their dream of a WKU degree. Our international students and their families make an extraordinary investment in their education when they come to WKU. They are far from home and family. They study in a different language and environment. They pay the highest tuition rate to study on our campus. Presently, the United States faces some of the greatest challenges in our nation that impact our health, economy and long-standing racial injustice. It is a historic time to study in the US. Our international Hilltoppers believe that the United States and WKU offer them opportunity and a future to learn and grow. We are committed to giving them the best that we can to fulfill their dreams and show them the best educational experience that the USA has to offer.
ICE Changes to International Student Immigration - Monday afternoon, July 6, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announcedtemporary changes to the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that directly impacts all international students studying in the US on F-1 visas. Yesterday afternoon, they offered some FAQ’s on the changes.
Impact on WKU - This fall, WKU anticipates that approximately 250 - 300 F-1 visa holders will study with us. SEVP requires that we file an “operational change plan” by Wednesday that spells out WKU’s operational plans for the Fall. WKU’s Big Red Restart fits neatly into the SEVP “Hybrid Model,” SEVP option 3. The hybrid model affords WKU and our students the most flexibility possible under the guidance. Students studying at institutions that will be online only (SEVP option 1), such as Harvard, MIT and the California State System, must leave the US to continue their studies or transfer to another institution. Harvard and MIT filed a lawsuit yesterday. Students studying at institutions that have chosen an exclusively “face-to-face,” SEVP option 2, may only take up to 3 credit hours online. Under this guidance, should a WKU mitigation response to COVID-19 require the institution to move online after August, F-1 students must either transfer or leave the US immediately. Currently, it is extremely difficult for anyone to fly internationally which will effectively trap students into a potentially unlawful immigration status. F-1 students who cannot leave the US immediately would be subject to detention.
Global Learning and International Affairs actions – We have reached out to our international students with the best advising that we can currently offer. We have postedFAQ’s to our website with links from other several other sites. We will be filing the appropriate paperwork with SEVP before the August 1 deadline. International Student and Scholar Services staff (ISSS) will reissue and send new immigration documents to all our international students worldwide. We are working hard to determine how to accurately and ethically advise students to succeed in their academic program while remaining in legal immigration status. It’s complicated with much uncertainty. One challenge is whether we can guarantee that each international student can take at least one hybrid course (F2F is also ok, but could get dicey). If the F-1 visa holder’s ONLY options are online courses, then the student cannot remain in Bowling Green or the US. Second, and critically, providing travel advice to the WKU students who are currently outside the US. For most new students, we will have to advise them to remain at home and take online courses. For current F-1 students abroad, each individual circumstance will be unique, but likely they should stay home. For F-1 students currently in the US, they are best staying here. Finally, we are drawing up operational plans to support our students who may be forced to leave the US.
How you can help – Give an extra moment or two to share your concern and understanding when engaging with our international students. Where possible, enroll international students in hybrid sections, particularly over an online section. If the course format changes to online, we must inform international students and ISSS as quickly as possible. Changes may well impact a student’s enrollment and visa status. ISSS is happy to assist if you have any questions or concerns.
I hope this provides the WKU community with a better understanding of circumstances and additional challenges our international students now face. International students are one population within a large, diverse WKU community. Nuance, understanding and caring will go a long way to help our international Hilltoppers feel welcome, comfortable and safe.
Thank you for your continued support and consideration as we are one WKU.
Associate Provost Global Learning and International Affairs