Students planning an escape from reality next week may not escape the implications of the recent heightening of national security against terrorist attacks.
The U.S. State Department issued a warning two weeks ago cautioning travelers to “remain vigilant due to heightened threat of terrorist attacks.”
International students traveling overseas for break – some of whom may require a new visa stamp before their return – may experience delays flying back to the United States.
Last week, an informational forum was held for international students and scholars regardin recent changes to immigration and visa regulations.
“Some students may have to go through special registration when they enter back into the United States,” International Center Assistant Director Louise Baldwin said. “They may be fingerprinted, have their picture taken and have to report back to immigration services 30 or 40 days after.”
Recent University graduate Wajahat Syed, a Pakistani citizen, said he feels landlocked in the United States. He does not want to leave the country for fear of not being allowed to return.”The problem is that the rules are liquid. I went to the (Immigration and Naturalization Services) and two people said two different things on whether I could even travel to Canada or not,” Syed said. “Every foreigner has a different status, it’s confusing.”
Immigration officers will also be paying close attention to students studying science or engineering, which they consider as sensitive fields of study.
“Students studying subjects like nuclear engineering are on a state technology alert lists and students may be furthered questioned,” Baldwin said.
John Godfrey, Rackham assistant dean of international education, said graduate students studying subjects with possible military applications would experience additional background checks.
During Winter Break, some graduate students experienced problems coming back into the United States, Godfrey said.
“Five students were held up for weeks in China because their visas needed to be renewed. This makes the admissions process a lot longer too if they are trying to get a visa,” he said.
While foreign students are especially vulnerable, the State Department warning urged everyone to be wary if they leave the country.
“American citizens, anyone traveling should just be careful and prudent about where they go. It’s important to stay informed on what’s going on in that country as well,” Godfrey added.