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The Weber State University Student Senate met recently to discuss a policy that states international students who have had their I-20 forms terminated must leave the country immediately after.
The federal government has a number of causes for termination for international students. These include failing to make normal progress toward a degree and falling below 12 credit hours in a semester. Falling below 12 credit hours is the most common reason international students at WSU are terminated. If a student withdraws from a class and falls below 12 credit hours, that student will automatically be terminated.
“We need to help the students; they can make progress in their academic life,” said Zaynab Alshakhiss, the international student senator. “What about the second chance for them?”
When students first come to WSU, they are counseled on the rules and how to avoid termination.
“That’s why our office is extremely helpful in helping the students to understand what to do if they’ve been terminated and helping them apply for either reinstatement or getting them a new I-20,” said Cynthia Gibson, the executive director of international students.
Each international student must fill out an I-20 form to come to school in the United States. The I-20 is issued by colleges and universities and tells the federal government that they have accepted the student into the school. The student then takes the I-20 to the consulate or embassy in his or her country to apply for a student visa.
When international students are terminated, that means they have their F-1 student visas terminated. Schools only have control over the termination of the student’s I-20 form. When the I-20 form is terminated, by federal law, the student must return to his or her own country immediately.
Students who have had their I-20 forms terminated have the opportunity to come back to WSU. They can either go back to their own countries and apply for new I-20 forms, or they can apply for reinstatement, which gives them the opportunity to stay in the country while their applications are looked at.
“Under federal law, we don’t have the opportunity to give them a warning, depending on the timing,” Gibson said. “Students are supposed to be registered every semester in the federal system, and at the time of registration is usually when it’s discovered whether a student is – the term we use is ‘out of status’ or not. If the student is out of status under the federal regulations, we don’t have the ability to give them any warning.”
Alshakhiss suggested that instead of terminating international students when they are taking less than 12 credits or if they have bad grades, they should be given an academic warning. After the academic warning, they should be put on probation, and after that they should be suspended.
“In most cases, I would say (of) the vast majority of our students that have been terminated, WSU is very, very willing to consider them for reinstatement or giving them a new I-20,” Gibson said.
Andrew Gardiner, the WSUSA president, said he is going to let the Student Senate decide where they would like to go with this matter. The issue will continue to be discussed when the Student Senate reconvenes in the fall.