A Message to the UMass International Community

Dear UMass International Community,

I apologize for sending yet another urgent email message to you regarding federal actions. It seems as though nearly once a week I have a need to message you to, hopefully, provide guidance and updates to immigration policy that understandably causes confusion, apprehension and anxiety to so many of you.

Today (July 6) the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) which is the government branch of the Department of Homeland Security charged with oversight of international students and scholars in the United States with F-1 and J-1 visas, released its Fall 2020 operational guidance: (https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/sevp-modifies-temporary-exemptions-nonimmigrant-students-taking-online-courses-during). SEVP’s Spring Semester 2020 guidance in March was actually quite supportive towards our international student community and provided significant assurances that during the temporary remote(online) instruction F-1 and J-1 immigration status that began in March, international students could remain in status as long as they were enrolled full-time and making academic progress in their degree programs. The prevailing assumption among peer colleagues and institutions was that the updated Fall 2020 guidance would be similar. Unfortunately, as we learned today, that is not true.

Today’s SEVP guidance, unfortunately, is a continuation of consistently poorly written and unsatisfactorily considered federal public policy on immigration. This will undoubtedly lead to congressional push-back and perhaps litigation as well. Please know that the IPO is making every effort to review today’s information and to provide concrete and helpful guidance as you plan for your fall academic semester. I can also confirm that UMass, as an institution, is actively engaged in advocacy on your behalf at a national level.

In this message I wish to convey these very important points:

  1. Today’s SEVP announcement is very much subject to change and there is an expectation that additional guidance or amendments to today’s announcement are forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead. Higher education, congressional push-back and/or litigation is inevitable given how disruptive and poorly written today’s SEVP guidance is.
  2. UMass will do absolutely everything in its power to continue to make our Amherst and Mt. Ida campuses a safe place for you to continue your education, and our support of your well-being is resolute.
  3. Please try to avoid the overwhelming amount of online information and conversation about today’s SEVP announcement. Not all information you will find is necessary factual or relevant to the UMass campus. Many of you have friends and acquaintances studying elsewhere in the US with whom you are no doubt in close communication. Please continue to rely on our IPO website (https://www.umass.edu/ipo/iss) for the most up-to-date and pertinent information that directly relates to UMass.
  4. Please do not make any sudden or hasty decisions regarding your program of study based on today’s SEVP announcement. Please also do not change or otherwise disrupt your continued progress in your program of study until further notice or without consulting with your academic advisor or graduate program director. Do not make plans to depart the U.S. based on today’s SEVPS announcement. Despite today’s disappointing SEVP information, there is no immediate effect on your F-1 immigration status and we have plenty of time to properly advise you on your fall semester plans, including on-campus employment, assistantships, etc. as the fall semester approaches and more clarity, guidance and amendments from SEVP develop.

The final thing I wish to convey, most sincerely, to each of you is how much we value your presence and contributions to the UMass community. I have been very fortunate to have worked in the field of international education since 1989 and I can categorically say that I have never worked at an institution that has a higher regard and appreciation for our international community than here at UMass. I feel lucky on a daily basis to have unwavering support from our campus’s senior administration for the mission and operations of the IPO and I want you to know that we are here to support you, today, and always.

We will get through these complicated times by supporting each other and working together. My best wishes to you and your families. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the IPO.

Respectfully yours,

Kenneth J. Reade
Director of International Student & Scholar Services