US rolls out new rules to kick international students out of country

Updated: Jul 08, 2020, 07:52 IST | Agencies | Washington

The ICE guidelines provide additional pressure for universities to reopen even amid growing concerns about the recent spread of COVID-19 among young adults

Students walk on the campus at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. File pic/AFP
Students walk on the campus at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. File pic/AFP

International students will be forced to leave the US or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online this fall, under new rules issued on Monday by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

It announced that foreign students pursuing degrees in America will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only classes in this fall, referring to the September to December semester. India sent 2,51,290 students to the US in 2017 and 2018, according to the latest Student and Exchange Visitor Program 'SEVIS by the Numbers Report' 2018.

The ICE guidelines provide additional pressure for universities to reopen even amid growing concerns about the recent spread of COVID-19 among young adults.

Colleges received the guidance the same day that some institutions, including Harvard University, announced that all instruction will be offered remotely.

President Donald Trump has insisted that schools and colleges return to in-person instruction as soon as possible. Soon after the guidance was released, Trump repeated on Twitter that schools must reopen this fall. Under the new rules, international students must take at least some of their classes in person. New visas will not be issued to students at schools or programmes that are entirely online. And even at colleges offering a mix of in-person and online courses, international students will be barred from taking all their classes online.

The American Council on Education, which represents university presidents, said the rules are "horrifying" and will result in confusion.

Harvard University President Larry Bacow said in a statement that "we are deeply concerned that the guidance issued by US ICE imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem giving international students, particularly those in online programs, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools."

US Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted that "kicking international students out of the US during a pandemic because their colleges are moving classes online for physical distancing hurts students. It's senseless, cruel, and xenophobic...."

The NAFSA: Association of International Educators blasted the rules and said schools should be given the authority to make decisions that are right for their own campuses. An economic analysis by NAFSA said international students contributed $41 billion and supported 4,58,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year.

What's the new rule

. All foreign students will have to leave the US or risk deportation if universities switch to online-only classes this fall

. New visas will not be issued to students at schools or programmes that are entirely online

. It gives an option — transfer to a school with in-person classes

. The rule applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 non-immigrant visas

. Confusion prevails as guidelines provide no clarity on what would happen if a student faced travel curbs from their home country due to the pandemic

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