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Foreign students may have to leave the US if their universities transition to online-only courses

7 July 2020 No Comment

Foreign students who are pursuing degrees in the US will need to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities transition to online-only learning, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The move might affect thousands of international students who come to the US to attend universities or take part in training programs, as well as vocational or non-academic studies.

Universities nationwide are starting to make the decision to transition to online courses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, at Harvard, all course instruction will be held online, including for students living on campus. For foreign students, that makes them have to leave the US.

In a news release yesterday, ICE said that international students who fall under certain visas might not take a full online course load and remain in the US and the U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to foreign students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not permit these students to enter the US, too.

The agency suggested that foreign students currently enrolled in the US consider other measures, such as transferring to schools with in-person instruction. There is an exception for universities that are using a hybrid model, like a mix of online and in-person courses.

Vice president of the American Council on Education Brad Farnsworth said that the announcement caught him and many others by surprise.

Farnsworth said that one concern with the new guidance is what would happen if the public health situation deteriorates in the fall and universities that offered in-person classes feel they have to shift all courses online to keep safe.

Visa requirements for foreign students have always been strict and coming to the US to take online-only courses has also been prohibited.

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