A new federal guidance has come sending shockwaves to the foreign students in the USA stating that the international students in the US who only attended online courses in the fall semester may now have to leave the country as per the notification of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau.
Many universities and colleges went virtual with the courses online due to the Coronavirus pandemic and students now are asked to leave because if, the virtual platforms are the only options that is remaining, then according to the new guidelines it is futile for them to study in the USA as the courses can be completed staying in their own country. The ones who wish to stay may take other measures such as in-person instruction to remain lawfully in the US.
The immigrated students will be able to continue their stay only after transferring schools which are providing in-person classes or hybrid classes, a mixture of online and offline classes though their school need to give a statement and if they fail it might lead them to immigration consequences including visa processing and travel restrictions as instructed by the Department of States.
Students who attend schools that operate completely online will not be allowed to receive F-1 visas or enter in F-1 status or maintain F-1 status in fall 2020 semester. So Trump is forcing foreign students to study in unsafe conditions during Covid-19. https://t.co/AlA5lQ0EQA
— Cyrus Mehta (@cyrusmehta) July 6, 2020
“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” the ICE notification warns.
This announcement came at the time when universities are planning for their next semester. As stated by the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is tracking the reopening plans of more than 1,000 U.S. colleges. 8% of colleges are planning to operate online. 60% are planning for in-person instruction, and 23% are proposing a hybrid model, with a combined 8.5% undecided or considering a range of scenarios.
The decision came on the same day, as when Harvard University decided to conduct all the courses online. Because of the regulation by ICE, the University can change its decision. The decision of ICE received a lot of criticism by academicians, activists, politicians and student bodies.
Harvard University President Larry Bacow stated that “We are deeply concerned that the guidance issued today by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem giving international students, particularly those in online programs, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools.”
“Undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students by so many institutions, including Harvard, to plan for continuing academic programs while balancing the health and safety challenges of the global pandemic and we will work closely with other colleges and universities around the country to chart a path forward.” Bacow continued
“Kicking international students out of the US during a global pandemic because their colleges are moving classes online for physical distancing hurts students,” said Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren terming it as “senseless, cruel, and xenophobic.” Act.
Journalist Elizabeth Spiers, who teaches at New York University, tweeted that many of the students at her university depend on visas and it will become very difficult for them to continue their studies from their countries because of the time difference and will have to drop out from the school.
This move has affected thousands of foreign students from all over the world who come to the United States to attend universities or participate in training programs and other projects.