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US won’t take new foreign students for all-online classes amid Trump’s tough immigration stance

The United States had on July 6 said it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country if all of their classes are moved online this Fall because of the coronavirus crisis.

SNS | New Delhi |

The United States announced Friday it will not take in any new foreign students seeking online-only study, after rescinding a hotly contested order to expel those already in the country and preparing for that because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The policy change was announced in a statement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

President Donald Trump has made a tough line on immigration a cornerstone of his message and has suspended several kinds of visas for foreigners during the Coronavirus crisis.

The United States had on July 6 said it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country if all of their classes are moved online this Fall because of the coronavirus crisis.

“Non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had said in a statement.

“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,” it said.

“If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

The ICE further 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 United States. 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.”

However, a day later, the Department of Homeland Security announced temporary modifications to F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant visa requirements for Fall 2020 semester, which allows a combination of both in-person and some online coursework to meet requirements for non-immigrant student status.

However, it cautioned that foreign students will still have to obtain appropriate visa and may still be subject to other visa processing or travel restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of State further asked these students to check with the local US embassy or consulate for information specific to their country.

In a note headlined, “International Students are Welcome in the US,” the State Department issued the clarification.

“The United States has long been the destination choice of international students, and we are pleased that many international students who had planned to study this Fall in the United States may still have the opportunity to do so,” the statement read.

Also, a lawsuit was filed by the Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) rule that barred international students from staying in America unless they attend at least one in-person course.

Following this, on July 14, the Donald Trump’s administration rescinded its decision.

“The government has agreed to rescind” the decision as well as any implementation of the directive, Judge Allison Burroughs said in a brief hearing.

Harvard and MIT earlier this month had asked the court to block the order announced by ICE that students must leave the country if their classes are only online, or transfer to a school offering in-person tuition.

The measure was seen as a move by President Donald Trump administration to put pressure on educational institutions that are adopting a cautious approach to reopening amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump is eager for schools at all levels to reopen with in-person classes as a sign of a return to normality as he fights an uphill battle for re-election in November.

He is pushing for this even though the virus is out of control in some states, with the US death figures a world-high of more than 144,000.

His administration is leaving it largely up to states themselves to figure out how to open schools safely.

There were more than one million international students in the US for the 2018-19 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education.

Many schools depend heavily on the tuition paid by those students.

Most US colleges and universities have not yet announced their plans for the fall semester but Harvard has said all its classes for the 2020-21 academic year will be conducted online, “with rare exceptions.”

(With agency inputs)