US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Monday that it is necessary to transfer schools or leave the US to international students whose universities remain online-only in the fall. To certain students, this raises a challenge, as many colleges expect to start studying online despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The international education industry has responded in shock to new guidelines from SEVP that essentially restricts international students from taking complete online courses while staying in the US.
The move could impact thousands of international students coming to the US to attend colleges or enrol in training programs, as well as non-academic or vocational studies.
As several US campuses have announced that they will teach online for the fall semester, this new guidance effectively forces institutions’ hands to re-evaluate their teaching plans or international students’ feet – to return home guidance states: “Nonimmigrant students from F-1 and M-1 who attend schools that operate exclusively online may not take a complete online course load and remain in the United States.
The immigration agency said that the participating students currently enrolled in these programs in the US “must leave the country or take certain steps, such as moving to a school with in-person training to stay in legal status or facing future immigration repercussions including, but not limited to, the initiation of deportation procedures.
“If not, they may face the consequences of immigration, including, but not limited to, the commencement of removal proceedings.” NAFSA went on to say in a press statement: “Unfortunately, this administration is continuing to implement policies that only increase the barriers to study here, and that is a serious concern.”
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, universities nationwide are beginning to decide to switch to online courses. For example, at Harvard, all course instruction will be provided online, except for students living on campus. That opens the door to international students having to leave the USA.
ICE said that students who fall under those visas “must not take a complete online course load and live in the United States,” adding, “The US Department of State does not grant visas to students participating in schools and programs that are entirely online for the fall semester nor will US Customs and Border Protection allow such students to enter the USA.”
Despite the coronavirus epidemic, the number of international students in the US remained high; an IIE survey published by The PIE revealed that more than 250,000 international students stayed on campus in the spring term.
The problem is made more complicated by the fact that many high-profile universities, such as the Cal State university system, revealed earlier this year that they would deliver most classes remotely in the coming semester without face-to-face instruction.
Nevertheless, according to the Higher Education Chronicle, only 8 per cent of 1,075 colleges are planning full-online instruction, while 23 per cent are pursuing a hybrid model for the next semester. About 8.5 per cent were still considered, and 60 per cent were in-person preparation.
In a statement Monday evening, Harvard University President Larry Bacow said that “we are profoundly concerned that the guidelines issued today by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement impose a blunt, one-size-fits-all solution to a complex issue, giving international students, particularly those in online programs, few options beyond leaving the country or switching schools.”
The Trump administration has made a litany of changes to the US immigration program, citing the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to foreign swaths coming to the country being barred.
Although students may have the option of moving to a college or university that offers in-person classes, it may be hard to get beyond ongoing concerns regarding coronavirus. Some schools have announced plans to allow back students but shorten semesters, as well as cancel almost all classes in person during the fall.