US: New int’l students won’t receive visas for all-online course load

Washington, Jul 24 (efe-epa).- The United States government reiterated Friday that newly enrolling university and college students from abroad still will not be able to enter the country unless at least a portion of their instruction will be in person in the fall.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement made that announcement in a news release issued 10 days after President Donald Trump’s administration backtracked on plans to revoke the visas of currently enrolled international university students who would only be taking online classes in the fall.

The visa rules affecting newly enrolled international students had been put in place at the start of the coronavirus crisis in the US.

“In accordance with March 2020 guidance, nonimmigrant students in new or initial status after March 9 will not be able to enter the US to enroll in a US school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online,” ICE said Friday.

In the first week of July, the Trump administration had announced plans to extend the visa restrictions to international students currently enrolled at US universities.

Under those proposed rules, those international students would have been required to take at least one in-person class in the fall semester to keep their student visas. It said then the guidance was aimed in part at minimizing the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Those unable to take any in-person classes due to the adoption of online-only instruction by their universities would have had to transfer to another school or leave the country.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology immediately announced on July 8 that they would sue the US government in federal court over the new policy, while similar legal challenges also were brought by New York state, Maryland’s Johns Hopkins University and a coalition of 17 states headed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

The pressure had the desired effect.

In a July 14 hearing in the case brought by Harvard and MIT, which had received the backing of more than 200 other universities, Boston federal Judge Allison Burroughs said a settlement had been reached between the federal government and those academic institutions that would allow currently enrolled foreign students to remain in the country even if their university opted for entirely online instruction.

In addition to universities and state attorneys general, more than a dozens US technology companies, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, also filed a brief on July 13 in favor of the lawsuit filed by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard and MIT.

Those companies said international students “contribute substantially” to the US economy and that the ability of US educational institutions to maintain their standards of excellence would be hindered if those students were forced to depart.

“International students at US colleges and universities contributed nearly $41 billion to the US economy and supported 458,290 jobs” in the 2018-2019 academic year alone, the companies said.

Approximately 1.1 million foreigners are currently studying in the US on F-1 and M-1 visas, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE. These students typically pay higher tuition rates than students born in the US. EFE-EPA


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