Special Concerns for Penn State International Students

Each year, Penn State welcomes thousands of international students to our community. Most international students are working on advanced degrees and have a bright future ahead of them. International students add much to the cultural diversity of State College. While an undergraduate student at Penn State, I myself spent a semester as an international student in Germany. In my younger days, I spent many a night hanging out with international students at the International Friendship House and the basement of the University Club on College Avenue. I love watching the international football tournaments at Pickle's, because the energy generated by the international students and faculty make the matches so much more exciting. I do not have the time to travel the world these days, and when I was younger, I certainly did not have the money. Thus, I enjoy traveling vicariously by meeting people from other countries

One of the best ways to learn a foreign language and culture is to go out and have a good time with the natives. Occasionally, what was intended to be a fun night out can result in a run-in with the police. Unfortunately, the consequences of a criminal conviction can be far more severe for a foreign national than they would be for a United States citizen.

If you are convicted of certain criminal offenses, you risk losing either a green card or student visa. A conviction in the United States also makes it difficult to be allowed re-entry into the United States in the future, especially if you have been convicted of a drug related offense. Additionally, a conviction could even impact your ability to travel to certain other countries. For example, Canada has recently become very strict about denying entry to people who have criminal convictions, even for offenses as minor as DUI.

A certain percentage of international students will end up with a job in the United States. They may marry an American spouse and have children in the United States. After building a life in the United States, they wish to become citizens. Even if you were convicted of a minor offense, which did not lead to deportation, it could still come back to haunt you years later, if you are trying to become a US citizen. Ideally, a person applying for citizenship should have nothing more serious than a traffic ticket on his or her record. As much as the United States opens it arms to foreign doctors, engineers, scientists and computer programmers, it is equally reluctant to grant citizenship to someone with a criminal conviction.

Of course, the same negative consequences of a criminal conviction, which apply to an American student, also apply to an international student. Having something on your record could make it more difficult to obtain a job or a position with a university. This is particularly true if the other applicants have similar qualifications as you.

On the bright side, the types of offenses foreign students commit tend to be relatively minor. In many cases, I am able to work out a resolution to your case, which would allow you to stay in the United States and avoid a criminal record.

If you are an international student and are charged with a crime, call me, Matt McClenahen, at 814-308-0870