Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a new guidance on how student visa status will depend on if U.S. universities are providing online or in-person classes this fall.
ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program won’t let students into the U.S. if they are going to schools that offer online classes only, according to a news release.
Instead, foreign students must take in-person classes if they wish to remain in the U.S. — otherwise, they must take the online classes out of the country or risk deportation if they stay.
“The U.S. 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 U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States,” the release said. “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. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
If schools offer both in-person and online classes, foreign students will have to be at the campus and can’t just take their classes online if they wish to stay in the U.S., according to the statement.
Harvard University announced on Monday that 40% of undergraduates, including first-year students, will be allowed back on campus for the fall semester and all classes will be taught online, according to a news release. Tuition won’t be discounted, the school said.
Princeton University also announced that first-year students and juniors will be allowed back on campus for the fall, while sophomores and seniors will be allowed to return for the spring, according to a news release. Most courses will take place online and tuition will be discounted by 10%, the school said.
University and college professors reacted to the new ICE guidance.
“This is a really a big deal for colleges during COVID: ICE announces new guidelines,” Elizabeth Joh, Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law, wrote. “If colleges have 100% online courses, foreign students can take abroad but not in U.S. If they’re already in the US, they *must transfer to a school with F2F instruction or leave the country*”
Zeynep Tufekci, Associate Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, wrote on Twitter: “What on earth? This is neither sane, tenable or enforceable. Many international students are also unable to travel due to pandemic restrictions. Go where and how? And why? Let them take classes like their classmates. Terrible if holds up.”
“A new ICE rule says international students in the US on visas will have to attend face-to-face classes or leave the country,” Ellie Murray, Epidemiology Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Public Health, wrote. “This is a wildly horrible idea in the middle of a global pandemic. Call your representatives. Make some noise on behalf of a group that has few protections.”