Students from abroad who enrolled in US schools or colleges after March 9 are unlikely to obtain a visa if their courses will be held 100% online.
Rabat – The Trump administration announced its latest immigration policy aimed at preventing new international students from obtaining a US study visa if their classes are only online.
According to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statement, released on July 24, international students who were not already enrolled in US schools before March 9 will “likely not be able to obtain visas if they intend to take courses entirely online.”
Sent to US higher education institutions, the memo clarified that students with existing visas no longer risk being forced out of the country.
However, new students hoping to pursue their academic endeavors in the US may need to revise their plans.
The restrictions surrounding the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) for the fall 2020 semester do not apply to international students who already have student visas or were enrolled in US schools prior to March 9.
Students planning to pursue programs that combine in-person and online coursework remain eligible to apply for a nonimmigrant student visa.
Students from abroad who already possess the appropriate visa and who traveled outside the country in the wake of the pandemic will be permitted to return to the US even if their university is offering only digital courses.
The decision follows the government’s rescinding of a policy that would have required all international students to transfer schools or leave the country if their fall classes were to be held exclusively online.
The policy threatened more than one million students who currently hold active non-immigrant student visas. It quickly met resistance from more than 200 US universities.
The dispute between the federal government and higher education institutions prompted Harvard University and MIT to file suit against ICE, arguing the policy was unlawful.
US politicians remain at odds with each other regarding COVID-19 response measures in schools across the country.
Although US President Donald Trump has called for schools to resume in-person courses at the start of the new academic year, many teachers have voiced concern over their safety and the risks associated with returning to the classroom.
Across the country, states and schools grapple with public health decisions and best practices moving forward. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to lean into its lax approach to stemming the spread of COVID-19 while building on controversial immigration policies.