Will international students in the USA to lose visas if classes go completely online Due to COVID-191?
International students in the USA have an uncertain future ahead. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program or SEVP announced modifications that will affect the legal status of students taking online classes.
This move affects foreign students on F1 and M1 visas attending universities in the USA as well as those participating in training programs and vocational or non-academic studies.
Online Vs In-Person Classes
In response to the pandemic, schools and universities across the world were forced to shift from in-person classes to online classes. Some schools like Harvard and Princeton had planned to emphasize online classes and limit the number of students permitted on campus. This will no longer be a viable option for international students.
Temporary Exemptions For Nonimmigrant Students For The Fall 2020 Semester
The SEVP had permitted international students to take more than the usually permitted number of online courses through the spring and summer semesters to maintain their nonimmigrant status.
International Students In The USA To Lose Visas – Highlights Of The Move
The key points of the modifications announced on July 6th, 2020 are:
- Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students will not be allowed to take a fully online course load and stay in the USA. Visas will not be issued to students enrolled in such programs and the U.S.
- Customs and Border Protection will not permit these students to enter the country. Students currently in the UA must either transfer to a school with in-person classes to maintain their legal status or face immigration consequences. This may even lead to deportation.
- Nonimmigrant F-1 students may participate in a maximum of 1 online course or three credit hours online.
- Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools that have adopted a combination of in-person and online classes may participate more than 1 online course or three online credit hours after the school certifies to the SEVP through the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status that the student is taking only the minimal number of online courses needed to make normal progress with their degree and the remaining course is being conducted through in-person classes.
- Nonimmigrant F-1 students pursuing English language training programs
- M-1 students pursuing vocational degrees will not be permitted to enroll in any online courses.
- If a school decides to switch from in-person classes to an online course model or if a nonimmigrant student changes their course selections to all online classes, the school must update the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) of the changes within 10 days of the change.
Why Are These Modifications Being Made?
A number of theories have arisen as to why international students are being targeted with this announcement. Some believe that this is a way for the Trump administration to pressurize schools to reopen classes as they were before.
This would force them to abandon the cautious approach they have been following till now. Others are looking at the bigger picture.
According to their theories, this is a way for the Trump administration to reduce the total number of international students in the USA and, in turn, the number of foreign nationals who can later apply for jobs in the USA.
International Students In The USA To Lose Visas – Response From Educators And Students
The announcement has caught educators in the USA and students by surprise. It is not clear as to how many international students will be affected by this announcement.
For the fiscal year 2019, the US State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas. Many students have travel restrictions back home and cannot leave the USA. Though the option of transferring to a different school is there, doing so is not easy under the current circumstances.
On the other hand, many educators fear that the announcement may make students look elsewhere for higher education.
Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have filed a legal suit against the administration in federal court for a temporary restraining order and injunction to keep the government from enforcing the policy on the basis that it has been improperly implemented.
This is a cause of concern as international students pay higher tuition fees that allow schools to subsidize tuition fees for domestic, American students.
According to the US Commerce Department, in 2018, international students contributed $45 billion to the country’s economy.
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