As students return to classes, many are being asked to leave the U.S. under new federal guidance. Schools are offering all classes remotely, and under the new law, students who are attending full-time online schools are being asked to leave the country.
Under new restrictions, schools are being forced to transition to online classes instead of in-person due to COVID-19 precautions. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has mandated that international students on M-1 and F-1 visas are not allowed to stay in the country if they only take online classes. The new guidance leaves thousands of students returning to their home of record or transferring to a school that offers in-person classes. Together several colleges have filed a lawsuit against President Trump’s administration. The lawsuit was filed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard College stating that the new guidance did not consider the health of anyone working and attending their colleges.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which manages international students, has requirements on how students can remain the U.S. and how many classes they are allowed to take each session. The SEVP announced at the beginning of the pandemic that it would allow online classes for the Spring and Summer semesters. ICE announced that it will not allow students to stay in the country if they take all of their courses remotely. Removing the option to attend classes online during the current pandemic would mean that many students would have to face new challenges that could result at the end of their studies and opportunities. ICE guidance leaves universities rushing to come up with plans for their students to return safely to class. Many legal experts believe that the new federal guidance is another way that President Trump’s administration is targeting immigration. The Trump administration first banned those traveling from countries with high counts of COVID-19, then it signed an executive order suspending immigration under the guise of protecting the American workforce.
In 2018/2019 alone, international students contributed a total of $41 billion in revenue and added 458,290 jobs to the U.S. economy. The future of these international students is in peril. ICE’s guidance is murky and universities are struggling to ensure that they can comply with the new guidance.