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University of Arizona: We will meet new immigration rules for international students
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University of Arizona: We will meet new immigration rules for international students

University of Arizona art walk: Curving Arcades

If the UA campus does not host in-person classes this fall semester, international students would have to transfer to a school that does or possibly lose their student visas.

Approximately 3,500 international students at the University of Arizona will get enough on-campus instruction so they can keep their student visas, even if the campus moves to mostly online courses this fall, officials say.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities announced new guidelines this week for international students. The agency says foreign students attending schools that move entirely online this fall could lose student visas that allow them to stay in the United States. ICE said students could transfer to a school that offers on-campus classes, or they must leave the country.

The UA has plans to offer a hybrid model of both online an on-campus courses this fall. President Robert Robbins, however, said on June 25, that he and his team would monitor conditions for the coronavirus in Arizona before deciding whether students would be allowed back for in-person classes this fall .

“If I had to say today would we would reopen, no, because ... the ICUs are full,” Robbins said in June. “We cannot have a situation where we’re bringing students back to campus, asking our faculty and staff to come back to campus when we’re in truly an exponential growth of the number of cases here.”

Liesl Folks, the university’s provost, said the UA is moving forward with accommodations for students that could extend outdoors and small group meetings to satisfy ICE requirements for worried international students.

“For example, having outdoor independent study sections. It’ll be a small group of students but setting up an opportunity for them to have one-on-one time, but outside physically distanced, wearing masks, so that they can meet with an advisor to talk through an independent study project once a week,” Folks said. “That’s one of the ideas we had for how to work with these students and make sure that we can meet the visa requirements and keep them working toward completing their degrees on time.”

The school is moving forward with its plans, although positive cases continue to rise in Arizona.

Folks said they are encouraged by how they have prevented any spread on campus as they ramp up operations throughout the summer.

“We’re starting to see that that’s working, and that we’re not seeing examples of people coming to work infected and infecting others around them. Now, the next step is can we scale that up and continue to get people being really compliant with guidelines and following them pretty strictly.”

The UA would ensure international students all are able to take in-person classes, and that international grad students would report in-person for their thesis, dissertation and research, Brent White, UA’s vice provost for global affairs, said in a statement.

A fall-back plan is the school’s UA Global initiative, a network of sites in approximately 150 places around the world. International students could have a campus experience similar to the main campus if they are unable to travel back to the U.S. Tuition at these sites is less than what is charged in Tucson.

“The idea that we could have a whole generation of students whose education was interrupted or derailed because of the pandemic, that has long-term implications for their health and well-being,” Folks said.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

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