US immigration authorities have warned foreign students at colleges offering online-only courses that they must transfer to schools with in-person classes or face deportation. The rule has students and many professors up in arms.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has ended the temporary exceptions it granted foreign students during the spring semester, leaving some students whose schools have gone online-only for fall facing removal from the country – or stranded back home. The loophole had permitted non-immigrant student visa holders to stay in the US while taking online courses due to the coronavirus epidemic, which forced universities to shut down on short notice, but while the pandemic lingers, ICE’s largesse does not.
Under the new rules, non-immigrant foreign students attending colleges that are offering only online courses for the fall semester must change schools or leave the country. “If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” the notice, posted on the ICE website on Monday, warned.
Those students seeking to reenter the US for the fall semester will be denied visas if their school is offering solely online courses, ICE, which administers the US’ student visa program, added. However, they can come back if the school switches to in-person classes – and indeed they must come back if that happens, or risk losing their student visa for good.
While foreign students attending colleges that offer part-online “hybrid” classes may take more than one online course, they have to jump through a number of certification hoops with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which will presumably be keeping a close eye on them. Students have just 10 days to notify the program if they switch to online-only courses (and presumably start the process of leaving the US before ICE catches up with them).
What if students are going back to countries without good internet connection? Or where the time difference makes it difficult to join classes online? This makes it so difficult for these students to continue to get the education they paid for.
— Miriam Abaya (@AbayaMiriam) July 6, 2020
The notice didn’t go over well on social media, where many pointed out that these students had paid to study in the US and many came from countries where internet connections were spotty,