In a decision, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said this week that international students at universities that will offer online-only classes in the fall due to the COVID19 cannot remain in the US. This will adversely impact hundreds of thousands of foreign students in the US, including from India.
The statement also pointed out that the students will face deportation if they don’t transfer to a school with in-person instructions.
“The administration’s decision on barring foreign students from attending online-only classes will encourage schools to reopen while maintaining protections for fraud that are necessary for international visa programs,” a Homeland Security official has said.
The US Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will US Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the US, the ICE release said.
Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli, in an interview, said, “The current rules, regulations that govern foreign students allow at most one online class and so we’re expanding the flexibility massively to a level never done before so that schools can use hybrid models and can design reopening.”
“Anything short of 100 percent online is the direction that we’re headed. We’ve got to finish the temporary regulation, but this is more flexibility that we’re looking at than has ever been provided before,” he said.
Several Congressmen and top American educational institutions decried the Trump administration’s policy change that will require international students in the US with an F-1 visa to take at least one in-person course or else face the prospect of deportation.
“They should go home and then they can return when the school opens. That’s what student visas are for and we want to accommodate that for schools and we’re working hard to do that,” continued Mr. Cuccinelli.
The new guidelines have created panic among international students, a majority of whom come from China and India.
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have sued the Department of Homeland Security and the ICE after the authorities issued new guidelines barring foreign students from remaining in the US if their universities switched it online-only classes in the Fall.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to bar the US Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement from the enforcing federal guidelines that will force international students to leave the US.
Cuccinelli said, “this is now setting the rules for one semester, which we’ll finalize later this month that will again encourage schools to reopen, recognizing some of them are moving their start dates up, some of them are going to hybrid models, some online some in-person.”
When asked that the agencies are basically forcing universities to reopen, even if they have personally determined that they shouldn’t be doing that for public health reasons, he said, “We’re not forcing universities to reopen. However, if a university if they don’t reopen this semester, there isn’t a reason for a person holding a student visa to be present in the country.”