On occasion, international student emergencies happen. Thankfully, U.S. universities are well equipped and staffed to handle most issues.
Emergency in a Student's Home Country
If a family or other emergency takes place in a student's home country, a student's family or a government official may wish to reach out directly to the student. If the family or government official has the student's contact information, then the procedure is simple.
However, with the international student being far from home and local support networks, the student's international office can serve as the point of contact since the staff will have trained individuals or groups that can be activated to assist the student. Contact details for international student offices usually can be found on an institution's website or a primary university telephone number can be redirected to the international student services office.
Emergency in the United States
If an emergency occurs in the United States, campus or local authorities will notify the institution's international student office and that office will then spring into action. As a best practice, most offices have emergency contact details on file for each student, as well as waiver forms that allow the release of medical and other personal information to specific individuals. U.S. universities, hospitals, and other legal entities are governed by privacy laws that restrict the free release of student information unless the student allows access through signed pre-authorization.
If a student is arrested or imprisoned on a criminal charge, U.S. universities will become involved in the process of notifying the student's emergency contacts and possibly the student's embassy, depending on the seriousness of the arrest.