New visa restrictions won’t affect most Penn intl. students. Many still remain worried.

Published: 06/29/2020


Ganeshan, an international student from Singapore and beat reporter for 34th Street, said that while ISSS has been helpful, she wishes the organization's website and emails better reflected the most urgent needs of international students.  

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Ganeshan said she would have liked the University to provide students with information about how to complete the I-20 form, which allows international students to study in the U.S. 

Rising College sophomore Nina Wei, an international student from China, said while ISSS as a whole is very passionate about international student advocacy, she wishes there was more personalized support available from their ISSS advisors as she believes international students all face individual struggles with immigration policies — particularly under the Trump administration.

Furthermore, Wei said she hopes the University itself considers providing more support to international students who are unable to return to their home countries. Some international students who stayed in the U.S. are having difficulties understanding the services available to them from the University, she said. 

Wei serves as the head of the International Mentoring and Orientation Committee, which organizes international student orientation and traditionally pairs incoming international students with current Penn international students within the Assembly for International Students. This year, however, the Committee canceled their mentoring program fearing that the increasingly complex U.S. immigration climate would be too difficult to navigate for mentors.

Trump’s suspension of entry to the U.S. from China, which prohibits foreign nationals who have been in China within the last 14 days from entering the U.S., has made planning significantly harder for international students who live in China.

Wei said that under this ban, Chinese international students would be forced to leave China and quarantine in another country for 14 days before being able to enter the U.S. Many Chinese students have therefore decided to attend Penn remotely in the fall to avoid needing to quarantine before entering the U.S, she said. 

Rising Engineering second-year graduate student Kanika Nadkarni, an international student from India, said she has felt a palpable uncertainty surrounding her immigration status with the seemingly random policies and decisions being announced by the government. 

The students expressed doubt at being able to remain in the U.S. in the long-term if the government continues to issue immigration restrictions. Rising College sophomore Sophie Chen said she is worried about her long term employment prospects, while Ganeshan said she will reconsider pursuing post-graduate work in the U.S. if the country continues to create further immigration restrictions.

“This situation for me has made it abundantly clear that the country will never prioritize my needs as an international student and immigrant,” Ganeshan said. “I don’t want to continue in a country that is willing to restrict my contributions to the workforce when I was educated here.” 

Altamirano said he worries that Trump’s order negatively impacts Penn’s international students’ mindsets, as the orders send students the message that the U.S. is not welcoming of them.

“It feels like international students and immigrants are not that valuable,” Nadkarni said. “It's important to consider how much international students and immigrants contribute.” 

Altamirano said he and his colleagues at ISSS and the Penn Office of Government Affairs in Washington D.C. are urging government officials to dissuade the White House from issuing any orders that would even temporarily restrict non-immigrant visas.

Altamirano and his colleagues are also advocating for the Department of Homeland Security to bring greater transparency to visa issuance and renewal processes. Altamirano wants the department to expand employment authorization documents and extend initial filing deadlines in an effort to prevent backlogged systems that would come with a flood of individual visa extension requests.

The chief concern among many international students at this point is the uncertainty regarding the possibility for travel between their home countries and the U.S., Wei said.   


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