Life and Law: Why should it be a necessity for students to know rules of a foreign land?

Being conscious of the rights within the country’s limits, can this be a necessity? EdexLive spoke to students pursuing their education abroad to seek answers to some questions.
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

When it comes to pursuing education abroad, students tend to be mindful of the usual requisites needed to sail smoothly, some of them being finances, securing air tickets, checking visa status, looking for accommodation, and the like. However, moving to another country would also mean reorienting oneself in a foreign land, bound by its own rules and laws, that are unconsciously ignored at times. Being conscious of the rights within the country’s limits, can this be a necessity, and to what extent students are aware of it? Should they consider it a matter of exigency? EdexLive spoke to students pursuing their education abroad to seek answers to the aforementioned questions.

The laws, an overview
Sushant Singh, who is now pursuing his LLM (Master of Laws) from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, United Kingdom (UK), says that it is quite crucial for students heading to the UK to be heedful of the laws and policies. Indian students are required to comply with various laws, he says. “The Tier 4 (General) student visa necessitates adherence to immigration laws, including maintaining required attendance, informing authorities of any changes, and abiding by the visa conditions set by the UK Home Office.”

The laws in the United States too require an international student to adhere to the visa norms. Pradipta Debnath, pursuing his PhD in Physics from Dartmouth College in the States says, that one must comply with the conditions of their student visa (F or J), including maintaining full-time enrollment; updating the Designated School Official (DSO), or Responsible Officer (RO) about any changes; and not engaging in unauthorised employment. Not only this, Pradipta emphasises that strict adherence is not limited to following traffic regulations, respecting local ordinances, and complying with US tax laws, but the student also needs to report changes in one’s address and academic programme. It is also vital to maintain health insurance coverage as required by one’s institution, and to have a valid social security number (SSN).

A serious offence
Transgression of academic law is considered to be a serious offence, irrespective of the country. According to Pradipta, to thrive in one’s academic journey, it is important to prioritise academic integrity. Sushant distinctively focuses on plagiarism which is a serious offence, and talks about how academic misconduct can result in expulsion or penalties. “Universities in the UK reinforce various policies and are against any kind of academic dishonesty,” he states.

Freedom to express
When it comes to self-expression, students are likely to demonstrate against any prejudices, be it a local or a global phenomenon but to what extent are students allowed to join protests or organise one? Sushant, who is an Ambedkarite activist and is the President of the Student Union at SOAS, says that students are allowed to participate in peaceful demonstrations within university limits, but adds that there might be limitations, and actions should align with laws on public order and there should be no disorderly conduct or incitement to violence, in compliance with the Public Order Act 2023.

The United States, too, upholds the principle of free speech, although with prescribed limits and students can engage in discourse on various topics, says Debnath, who is also a member of the Graduate Student Council. “In Dartmouth, graduate students have a recognised union based on the National Labor Relations Board regulations, working for students’ cause, but the contact between the university and the union has not been great and they do not readily accept the demands.” He further says that students have also been arrested on occasions and were charged with criminal trespassing and misdemeanor.

Regrettably, students’ scholarships have been revoked on occasions, he adds but says that despite this, one should advocate for justice driven by a desire to bring a positive change in society.

Finding more details
When asked if there are any sources where one could get information regarding laws, Sushant informed EdexLive that students can look for circulars by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), and can contact the Home Office, which offers guidance on visa regulations, work permissions, and relevant general laws. In the case of the USA, relevant information can be found on official government websites such as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State.

Don’t ignore these
Sushant who had completed his BA LLB (Honours) from the National Law University, Delhi, reasons that compliance with immigration laws, visa conditions, work permissions, academic integrity policies, and cultural norms is crucial and the violation of these laws could have severe consequences, including visa revocation and deportation. The same law applies to students in the States. As per Pradipta, there are a few commitments a student should be ready to make before going abroad, which include, maintaining full-time enrollment, making academic progress, complying with the school’s policies, adhering to the rules related to employment, including on-campus work limits and optional practical training (OPT) regulations, and abiding by Duration of Status, which means one must comply with the terms of their visa for the entire duration of stay.

When students travel abroad to pursue higher studies, how important is it for them to be acquainted with the laws of the land? Lovely Majumdar speaks to students from the UK and the US plus law experts to find out more

United States of America
As an international student in the United States of America, you would get to enjoy the same basic rights as American students and citizens. But there are differences as well.

Immigration Laws
International students in the USA usually hold an F-1 visa. Compliance with visa regulations, like maintaining the required course load, is crucial to avoid legal issues or deportation.

Employment Laws
International students must understand work authorisation options to gain professional experience. This includes programmes like Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT), offering opportunities within their field of study, but be aware of limitations. Consulting with a designated school official (DSO) or the international student office is advised for guidance on employment opportunities.

Campus Safety Laws
US varsities prioritise campus safety, as mandated by the Clery Act, which promotes transparency and empowers students. Take note of reporting procedures and use available resources. Implement personal safety measures, like using well-lit paths, and stay informed about emergency protocols.

Healthcare Laws
Familiarise yourself with your university’s insurance policy and available healthcare options. Be proactive about seeking medical assistance when needed.

Privacy Laws
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act grants rights to access and control of education records. Use caution online, adjust social media privacy settings, and report privacy violations. Knowing and protecting your privacy rights creates a safer study environment.

Alcohol and Drug Laws
International students should know that underage drinking and drug use have serious consequences, including legal and academic repercussions. Adhering to the legal drinking age of 21 is crucial, and
understanding campus policies is essential for maintaining student status and future opportunities.

Canada
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to Canadian nationals as well as newcomers to the country – and as an international student, you are guaranteed some basic freedoms and rights in Canada. 

Employment Laws 
International students may be eligible to work on or off-campus as per the conditions outlined by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Department. Understanding eligibility criteria and restrictions is crucial. 

Healthcare Laws
International students may be required to enroll in provincial healthcare plans, and it’s important to understand the coverage provided.

Taxation Laws
International students may have tax obligations in Canada, even if they are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Seeking advice from tax professionals is recommended.

United Kingdom
The United Kingdom was seen as one of the most friendly study destinations, however, new laws introduced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government are expected to make entry into the UK a bit more challenging for international students. 

Employment Laws 
You can work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during holidays. The Minimum Wage Act in the UK mandates employees to pay their workers. Check your visa conditions and consult your university’s career services for advice on finding employment. Students who are employed must pay taxes on their wages.

Healthcare Laws
The National Health Service (NHS) provides healthcare for residents in the UK. As an international student, you may be eligible for free healthcare through the NHS, depending on the duration and type of your visa. Register with a local General Practitioner (GP) to access medical services.

European Union
International students studying in the European Union are entitled to different rights based on the country they study in. 

Work Rights
In a single semester, international students can work up to four hours a day and 20 hours a week. 

Freedom of Movement 
If non-EU students hold a valid residence permit for one EU country, it may grant them access to other Schengen countries.

Residence Registration
International students may be required to register their residence with local authorities, depending on the host country’s regulations. This is typically a legal requirement and failing to do so may lead to penalties.

Working after Graduation
Few EU countries offer special visas or permits that allow international students to stay and work in the country after graduation.

Australia
The Australian government has enacted appropriate laws to ensure that educational quality for international students remains high and does not suffer. 

Visa Laws
The Student visa (subclass 500) allows you to stay in Australia for up to five years to study full-time at an educational institution as per your enrollment.

Healthcare Laws
International students are required to have health insurance coverage while in Australia. The Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) provides access to a range of medical services.

Work Rights
Most international students on a student visa are allowed to work up to 40 hours per two weeks during the regular academic session and full-time during scheduled breaks. They are also entitled to receive at least the minimum wage set by the Australian government. 

Academic Rights
Students have the right to fair assessment, access to resources, and a supportive learning environment. All courses must be accredited by the Australian government.

Filing complaints
Any overseas student can file a complaint with the Overseas Students Ombudsman, which is the only entity in Australia with the authority to investigate complaints about private education and training institutions.

Protecting rights
The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act protects the rights of all overseas students in Australia, covering everything from financial protections to job rights, student welfare, and grievances. 

Tuition Protection Service
The Australian Government established the Tuition Protection Service (TPS) to help international students in case their institution is unable to properly deliver their degree. This enables students to seek a refund, or they can also contact the TPS if they haven’t commenced or stopped the course.

What rights do international students have in the country of their choice? What laws must they remember to adhere to? Here is an examination of those questions, as per each region

— Compiled by Karthikeya S

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