On Tuesday, July 14, the US government has withdrawn its controversial order, which forces international students to leave the US if their courses had moved online due to COVID-19.
The move comes after the famous universities like Harvard and MIT – along with many other institutions, organizations, teachers’ unions and at least 18 US states – initiated legal action against the move of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
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The Intensive English Programs (IEP) of the country also strongly opposed the policy, arguing that it compromised both the safety of students and the viability of language centres in the USA.
The announcement comes as a big relief for international students, including Indian ones. There were over 10 lakh, international students, in the US in the 2018-2019 academic year.
On January 1, 94,556 Indian students were enrolled in various educational institutions in the US, according to a recent study by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
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Earlier today, a much-criticized policy on international students and online learning was rescinded by the US government.
The Immigration and Customs Compliance (ICE) Guidelines released on July 6 indicated that by the fall of 2020, international students studying in the US would have to leave if their program were to become online-only, and that meant that students arriving in the US would have been refused entry to the country if their application had been turned into online delivery.
It was far-reaching enough that even if in the fall an international student began an in-person program which was later to be relocated online due to the pandemic, they would still have to leave the country. But now, the US government has withdrawn its controversial order.
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At a July 14, this new rule was rescinded during a federal court hearing. The court considered a lawsuit lodged by Harvard University and MIT calling for a temporary injunction against implementing the July 6 directive.
Harvard and MIT had the support of at least 200 other colleges and organizations who had submitted amicus briefs to boost the Harvard / MIT lawsuit’s weight.
Today’s announcement returns the stance of the US government on visas for international students to its previous guidelines as set out on March 9. The earlier directive sets out exemptions allowing international students to retain their visa status when studying online and entering or staying in the US.
While Harvard and MIT were the first to file a lawsuit calling on federal courts to block the July 6 Immigration Directive from the government, many other higher education stakeholders were quick to follow their lead.
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International students enrolled in academic programmes at US universities and colleges study on an F-1 visa and those enrolled in technical programmes at vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions, other than a language training programme come to the US on an M-1 visa.
The US is the worst-hit COVID-19 pandemic region. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the virus had infected more than 3.4 million people and killed more than 130,000.
International travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic have made returning to their home countries extremely difficult for international students in the US, although those outside America are unsure whether they will fly back.