Travel ban has effect on Wartburg students

Wartburg international student, Amir Matoufiazar of Iran has had his travel capabilities and opportunity to study in the U.S. jeopardized due to the recent travel ban.

During his last Christmas break Matoufiazar wanted to go to Washington D.C. but was tentative about fly.

“If I show up in an airport, that could cause my deportation,” Matoufiazar said.

Interim Director of International Student Support Services Jennifer Onuigbo has been active in supporting concerned students.

“I have talked to a few students who said not them personally, but their friends have had issues [with travel] because of increased scrutiny,” Ounigbo said.

According to Voanews, it is unclear how the travel ban will affect students who will need to renew their U.S. visas. said the travel ban was created with the intention of preventing terrorist attacks from ISIS members from six countries known to have ties to the Islamic State. Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan are all on the current list.

As a result, international students from these regions have been seriously affected.

Upon initially hearing about the ban, Matoufiazar thought that it was ridiculous, and felt limited in his abilities to travel.

“To my understanding as long as you’re on F-1 visa status you’re fine. That wasn’t the case all the time, there were students who got rejected and deported,” Matoufiazar said.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an F-1 visa allows international students to come study at accredited colleges as a full time student.

Student visas are supposed to guarantee passage into the United States and other countries. However, that was not the case for a MIT Iranian student Matoufiazar is friends with.

Matoufiazar’s friend traveled home to visit her family for Christmas and was deported at the airport upon entering the U.S. when school started again in January. She has since been unable to pursue her studies.

Wartburg has had a strong long-term relationship with international students. Dean of Students Dr. Dan Kittle said there were certainly worries among internationals upon discussion and enactment of the travel ban.

“It sent a ripple through our international students, and gave them pause in regard to their engagements and travel” Kittle said.

Student Life sent out emails to the students and met personally with those from the targeted areas. Onuigbo, says the greatest uncertainty is travel for international students.

For those students who are concerned about travel Dean Kittle advises student to use their resources, starting with Student Life and Onuigbo.

Student visas are set on a two-year validity term. Matoufiazar faces the struggle of having an expired visa. Renewal of a student visa is a difficult process because Iran doesn’t have an American Embassy.

“I would have to renew in other countries and that would take a long time,” Matoufiazar said. “After the ban the restrictions on visa travels have gone much higher.”

Matoufiazar plans to remain in Waverly for the summer and continue his employment at John Deere. In spite of an expired visa he is able to work through CPT (curriculum practice training), which is equivalent to an internship.

For students who have parents back home affected by the travel ban looking to come for graduations, Onuigbo explained that Wartburg first writes a letter of invitation to the family who then takes it to an embassy or consulate.

“So far, everyone who has tried has been able to [receive travel clearance],” Onuigbo said.

Dean Kittle has noticed that national numbers of international students seeking to study in the U.S. has declined, but Wartburg’s numbers seem to remain strong.

“We are eager to have international students at Wartburg, despite the political rhetoric that might sometimes seem to counter that. But, what we want here is international students,” Kittle said.

Anytime an international student plans on traveling, Ounigbo encourages students to take all their documents traveling, so if they are stopped by immigration they can potentially clear up any confusion.

“Right now, I just don’t know what’s going on. It’s hard to take in,” Matoufiazar said.

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