International students returning to campus for the Spring semester have reported varying degrees of difficulty in traveling back to the United States because of delays in receiving paperwork from the International Students and Scholars Office.
In addition to these delays, students must also abide by COVID-19 restrictions such as quarantine requirements and travel bans.
College of Communication junior Chris Liang is a Chinese student who said the U.S.’ travel ban on China made his trip back to Boston tedious.
Travellers from China are prevented from entering the U.S. unless they have spent 14 days prior to their trip in another country excluded from the travel ban, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other countries included in the ban are Brazil, South Africa and most regions in Europe.
Liang said he was forced to spend two weeks in Dubai to meet these requirements before he could return to BU.
“That was extra time, extra expenses and the extra risk,” Liang said, “because there’s pandemic everywhere in the world.”
Liang said he attended Zoom calls hosted by ISSO, which were intended to answer students’ questions about returning to the Charles River Campus during the pandemic.
“To be honest, ISSO didn’t provide much of the support along the way,” he said. “They didn’t do much except for offering me a signed I-20.”
To return to the U.S., international students must present an I-20 form to prove they are enrolled in a domestic college or university, and the form must be signed by an ISSO advisor.
Ariane Vigna, a COM junior from France, said while she received her I-20 in time, she had another issue with ISSO regarding documentation that would allow her to work as an intern while at school.
Vigna’s employer asked her for an update on the status of her Curricular Practical Training form, so she called her ISSO advisor for assistance, who told her she was missing documents.
“It was written on their website that they were supposed to get back to you in five business days with your CPT request,” Vigna said, “even if you’re lacking documentation, so that they can tell you to update it.”
Her initial email requesting paperwork was sent Jan. 11, but she did not receive a response until Jan. 19, after deciding to call the office.
“It was a big source of anxiety because I could have lost the internship,” Vigna said. “If I hadn’t called I don’t know that they would have told me that there were some documents missing.”
Anas Farhan, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences from Malaysia, said he received his I-20 form in a timely manner. However, he experienced a long delay at customs because an officer incorrectly entered his name.
“That took quite a while,” Farhan said. “Two weeks, almost, just for them to correct my name on the form.”
BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email the ISSO is processing most paperwork within 10 days and has issued warnings about travel since last semester.
“ISSO has updated travel information on its website and has cautioned students about the significant complication COVID places on travel,” Riley wrote, “and since November has been reminding students to request new documents if they decided to travel over the break.”
Representatives from the ISSO did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.