Two NYU faculty members from Washington Square were recently denied visas to enable them to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi during the 2017-18 academic year. This has understandably raised a series of questions, and the University wanted to provide some details on how it handles immigration challenges that arise as faculty, students, administrators, and staff travel across the global network. NYU’s reports on mobility across its global network for each of the past three academic years, which were submitted to the Faculty Committee on NYU’s Global Network, are also available online.  

What is the University’s philosophy on global mobility?

NYU believes in the free movement of people and ideas, and that its academic communities around the world are strengthened by the resulting intellectual diversity. When it encounters obstacles to this vision, it seeks to resolve them. Typically this means it appeals to the country’s governmental representatives to secure entry for the specific affected individual(s).

However, when the University sees broad policies being implemented that are antithetical to our philosophy on global mobility, it can choose to take a public stance. Such has been the case with NYU’s response to the Trump Administration’s travel bans, which has included both advocacy and legal efforts (including amicus brief filings in key court cases).

What happened in the most recent situation, and how often does this sort of situation arise?

Two of the NYU faculty members from New York who were invited to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi during the 2017-18 academic year were denied visas to enter the UAE. As is typical in such situations around the world, no reasons were provided for the denials.

While one faculty member from New York had previously been denied entry into the UAE in 2015, this was the first time New York faculty received denials while attempting to travel for NYU Abu Dhabi-sponsored activities.

More broadly, from 2009-2010 through 2015-16 (the most recent year for which full data are available), NYU Abu Dhabi applied for a total of 863 faculty visas (for those from New York, visiting faculty from other institutions, and those with appointments to the NYUAD standing faculty), and received 853 (98.8%) of them. And going back to its first admitted class in 2010, NYUAD has secured visas for 99.9% of its students (1,204 out of 1,205).

In China, since NYU Shanghai opened its doors to students in 2013-14, it has received visas for 253 out of 254 faculty members (99.9%) and all 575 of its international students (100%).

Likewise, visitors to NYU’s global academic centers rarely encounter significant issues in securing visas. And in those rare situations in which a student may have an immigration problem, the University works with them to identify another location for them within NYU’s global network. This was the case during the 2015-16 academic year when three American students were unable to receive visas to study in Europe (one in Florence, one in London, and one in Paris), and instead, enrolled at NYU’s Washington, D.C. site. And during the 2014-15 academic year, two Chinese students were unable to secure visas to study in Paris, and instead, began their studies at NYU Shanghai.

International students and scholars traveling to NYU in New York are of course not immune to such issues. In the past year and a half alone, several students were delayed and/or detained while trying to return to NYU following the implementation of the Trump Administration’s travel ban in January, 2017. In addition, each semester, there are on average five to 10 students and faculty who are denied entry into the U.S. pending "administrative processing" (security review).  Some of these cases get resolved in time for individuals to begin their semesters as planned, but students are often forced to defer their studies -- and occasionally these security reviews become indefinite.  

And at times, members of our communities face outcomes that are worse still. During the summer of 2016, an NYUAD faculty member, traveling to the United States (on a Canadian passport), was detained, handcuffed, and then put back on a plane for the UAE after trying to enter the US to attend two academic events, and then take a family vacation with his wife and children (two of his children are American citizens). The faculty member, who was born in the Middle East, was also led to believe he had to sign a document prior to being released, and that document was an agreement not to re-enter the United States for a period of five years.

What does the University do when it encounters issues like this?

Simply put, it does whatever it can to help, though ultimately, it must accept that these decisions are in the hands of governments. The specifics of how the University escalates these situations differ from country to country, though across the board, it prioritizes those affecting faculty and students.

While at times these cases are ultimately reconsidered, sometimes they’re not – and that has been the case to this point with the two New York faculty who were scheduled to be in Abu Dhabi this year, and was the case with the NYUAD faculty member who tried to enter the United States last summer.

It is also important to note that while concerns have been raised about whether Sh’ia are banned from entering the UAE, that is not the case, and in fact, there are many Sh’ia in the NYU Abu Dhabi community – including several who have joined this semester.