International students must leave if their classes go online: US Immigration officials

This is a second blow to NRIs and Indian students who aspire to go to the US for work and higher studies

students

After the suspension of work visas until the end of 2020, there is another bad news for Indian immigrants in the US. According to a new set of regulations by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), foreign students attending U.S. colleges that will operate entirely online this fall semester cannot remain in the country.

ICE said it would not allow holders of students visas to remain in the country if their school was fully online for the fall. Those students must transfer or leave the country, or they potentially face deportation proceedings, according to the announcement made on Monday.

It was not immediately clear how many student visa holders would be affected by the move, but foreign students are a key source of revenue for many US universities as they often pay full tuition.

 

As college students across the United States and around the world contemplate what their upcoming semester might look like, the federal guidance limits options for international students and leaves them with an uncomfortable choice: attend in-person classes during a pandemic or take them online from another country.

And for students enrolled in schools that have already announced plans to operate fully online, there is no choice. Under the new rules, the State Department will not issue them visas, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not allow them to enter the country.

“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,” read a release from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program. “If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

Colleges and universities have begun to announce plans for the fall 2020 semester amid the continued coronavirus pandemic. Harvard University on Monday announced it would conduct course instruction online for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The ICE guidance applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency’s data.

The guidance does not affect students taking classes in person. It also does not affect F-1 students taking a partial online course-load, as long as their university certifies the student’s instruction is not completely digital. M-1 vocational program students and F-1 English language training program students will not be allowed to take any classes online.

President Donald Trump’s administration has imposed a number of new restrictions on legal and illegal immigration in recent months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, the administration suspended work visas for a wide swath of nonimmigrant workers that it argued compete with US citizens for jobs. The administration has also effectively suspended the admission of asylum seekers at the southern border with Mexico, citing coronavirus-related health risks as justification.

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