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International students at UT Dallas must take in-person classes or face deportation, per new ICE guidelines

University President Richard Benson said the college would work to ‘ensure each student graduates from UT Dallas.’

Responding to new federal immigration rules that would prevent foreign students from staying in the country if they are taking online-only college courses this fall, University of Texas at Dallas President Richard Benson pledged this week that the university would “do everything possible” to help the largest population of international students in the state.

The regulations released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement require the State Department to deny academic student visas to any international students attending a college that has opted for online-only courses this fall.

UT Dallas has left to students the choice between taking in-person or online classes. However, the federal rules also effectively demand that international students decide between attending at least some of their classes in-person or leaving the country to take all of their classes online.

“As we have reviewed the information, it appears that these new modifications affect our students with F-1 visas who plan to start or continue study at UT Dallas in the fall semester,” Benson wrote Tuesday in a message shared on the university’s website. “Please know that we will do everything possible to help each student remain on track with their studies and to ensure each student graduates from UT Dallas.”

The university will work with each affected student to ensure their course schedule meets federal requirements for an F-1 academic student visa, Benson wrote. According to the university, more than 5,000 international students from over 100 countries attend UT Dallas, accounting for the largest international student population in Texas.

“This is an important matter for us as a community, and we greatly value what international students bring to our academic and campus life,” Benson wrote. “We will continue to provide updates as we have more information.”

According to the new federal guidelines, students who “find themselves in this situation” of taking only online classes in the fall “must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.”

International students studying at U.S. colleges and universities in the 2018-19 academic year contributed about $41 billion to the economy and supported 458,290 jobs, according to the National Association of International Educators, a nonprofit group.

UT Dallas’ International Student Services Office (ISSO) will be reaching out to students with more information. Students may also contact ISSO staff via email at issocurrent@utdallas.edu.

Teri Webster. Teri Webster is a freelancer covering Plano for The Dallas Morning News. She has worked as a staff writer and freelancer for several area news outlets and is a regular contributor to Fort Worth Weekly. Email story tips to writerteriw@gmail.com.

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