International travel back to campus: Be smart, be safe


Photo Courtesy of Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel

Frontier and JetBlue planes sit parked at Orlando International Airport in June.

By Shivali Shukla, Assistant Special Sections Editor

On July 14, university students nationwide acknowledged what some might call a win against United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. On July 6, ICE announced a new policy requiring international students enrolled in online-only courses to leave the country — an order later rescinded. Many considered the July 6 ruling to be completely unnecessary as it resulted in underlying U.S. support for international students to come into question. As many international students prepare to return to campus within the next month, here are some things to keep in mind as you travel.

  1. Any nonimmigrant student actively enrolled in a U.S. school on March 9 who is compliant with the terms of their nonimmigrant status will be allowed to maintain their visa status and return to the U.S., according to ICE.
  2. New or initial nonimmigrant students intending to pursue a completely-online full course of study will likely be unable to obtain an F-1 or M-1 visa to study in the U.S.
  3. The Center for Disease Control has listed foreign nationals from certain countries who may be banned from travel into the U.S. This may mean that while students have been named exempt from these restrictions, others you might wish to accompany you on your trip may not be able to. The countries listed include China, Brazil, Iran, the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and the European Schengen area. O’Hare International Airport is one of 15 airports nationwide allowing entry of exempt individuals from these nations.
  4. O’Hare and Midway International Airports have limited their facilities. Shuttles to and from the airport have a limited capacity of 15 passengers or less. Some concessionaires have temporarily closed or only operate under shorter hours. Your travel plans may need to be adjusted to accommodate some of these changes, and you may need to allow for more or less time between destinations. For some restaurants or retailers that are still open, contactless payment options have been made available via apps. You may want to pack food in case concessions are closed or unavailable.
  5. Masks are required within the terminals at both O’Hare and Midway airports for all persons over the age of 2. 
  6. Upon entering the airport, you will be expected to proceed to standard customs processing, followed by an enhanced entry screening. Here, you might be asked about your medical history, current condition and for contact information to provide to local health authorities. Your temperature may also be taken. You will then likely be given written guidance about COVID-19 and be allowed to proceed to your final destination. There, you will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and continuously monitor your health.
  7. Peoria Charter’s coach service will offer two trips daily from Chicago to Champaign. Passengers without masks will be denied boarding. Greyhound shuttles will also be running and require a mask for boarding as well. If you need to change your ticket, Greyhound will be able to reissue a ticket for a new date with no fee. If rescheduling is not an option for you, Greyhound will exchange your ticket for an eVoucher. Amtrak will waive all change and cancellation fees for any reservations made by Aug. 31 in case travel plans change or you experience difficulties or delays upon arrival.
  8. The country you are coming from may have placed restrictions on what you can take with you as you travel. This might be a limited number of masks, restricted carry-on or check-in items or allowance of larger-sized liquid sanitizers for the purpose of public safety. Some countries may also require an exit screening prior to boarding your flight. Check with your local guidelines to find out what to expect at departure.
  9. Masks are not optional in the state of Illinois. Continue practicing all safety precautions you may already have been practicing — perhaps even more diligently than before. For the 14 days of self-quarantine, the CDC recommends taking your temperature twice daily, to be on the lookout for coughing or difficulty breathing, staying at home, avoiding public transportation and remaining six feet away from others as often as possible. For groceries, Instacart is an available service in the Champaign area to have your necessities delivered straight to your door.

It’s totally understandable to be anxious about traveling back to the U.S., especially after certain proceedings of the government may have made you feel more unwelcome than ever before. But know that many of your peers are here for you, support you and will always vouch for you and the pursuit of your dreams. We hope you have a safe trip back to campus and make the most of your fall semester!

Shivali is a senior in AHS.

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