Dear F-1 Students and Other Concerned Members of the International Community:
As many of you already know, the US Department of Homeland Security issued an announcement on July 6 that outlines its immigration guidance for F-1 students for the Fall 2020 semester. This announcement has been widely covered in the national media and has generated, understandably, extraordinary concern and anxiety. With this communication, I want to update you on where the International Center stands with interpreting and responding to the guidance.
We know that the possibility of restrictive F-1 rules and regulations being re-introduced at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues to remain a worldwide health and safety threat is creating considerable stress. Part of this stress is likely fueled by the large number of news stories and online commentary that is taking place right now. However, please know that the International Center, in partnership with our colleagues, is working energetically and creatively to take steps to protect the status of our students. We are committed to your education, and want you to know we will do what we can to support you.
Some points that we want to convey at this juncture:
In the hours since the announcement, the International Center and other university offices have been analyzing the guidance and have been engaged in extensive consultation with our professional and legal associations, other Boston-area schools, and our University counsel to devise solutions and strategies that will help us to address the issues raised by the guidance.
This guidance is still preliminary; the official rules are not scheduled to be published until August 4. Even then, there is certainly the possibility that this guidance will change in response to widespread public criticism of its directives.
Already, many institutions are talking about legal challenges, especially since the guidance that appeared yesterday is sharply inconsistent with the messages and communications schools had been receiving for the past several months. We are stunned that the flexibility that was given institutions during the Spring 2020 semester are not being extended to the Fall 2020 semester, since the pandemic remains an ongoing public health threat.
We encourage you to keep up to date by consulting with the International Center rather than relying on media reports. While the media are right to highlight the significance of the issue, these reports often dramatize the situation beyond what is actually definitive or final.
Right now, we are receiving an enormous volume of email. It may take us longer than we would like to get back to you, but you will get information you need to help you understand the current situation and make the decisions you need.
Note that the guidance sets out certain restrictions but leaves a number of important questions unanswered. There are many opportunities for Tufts to exercise its discretion and flexibility, and where we can do what is needed to protect our students and allow them to continue in their educational programs, we will do so.
To help answer some – although certainly not all – of the questions we have received, we have posted a brand new “Frequently Asked Questions” page at the following link: https://icenter.tufts.edu/immigration/covid-19/faqs-july-6-2020-guidance/. Remember that the FAQs are being developed as I write, and are being updated as soon as new questions and answers emerge.
Because of the high volume of emails we are receiving right now, we are presently unable to answer each question individually. As difficult as the current environment is, your patience and understanding is appreciated. We firmly believe you deserve the right answers so that you can make the right decisions, and we will attempt to get you the necessary information as quickly as we can. In the meantime, please take care of yourself and stay healthy and safe.
Andrew K. Shiotani
Director, Tufts International Center