Department of Homeland Security rule bans international students from online-only teaching models this fall

New guidelines for the exchange student and visitor program issued by the US Department of Homeland Security have fueled the anger and confusion of students, Faculty and immigration defenders.

The new temporary final rule, released Monday afternoon, bans international students from returning or staying in the United States this fall if the colleges they attend adopt online-only education models amid the pandemic.

A growing number of colleges, including Harvard University, have announced they will reopen their campuses in the fall, but offer classes online. Even with the campuses open, international students will be prohibited from studying in the United States under the rule.

“It’s just petty,” said Allen Orr, president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He highlighted the myriad of logistical challenges this poses for international students.

“You end whatever you may have already been into. You may have already had a lease,” he said. “Even though these colleges have an online school, some locations may be at different times and in different time zones.”

If college teaching models change in the middle of the semester, returning to the United States could be difficult, Orr said.

“If colleges can reopen – let’s say there’s a vaccine or whatever happens – these international students would be at a disadvantage in their ability to come back,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of return flights to the United States; there are not a lot of flights within the United States.

On the other hand, if colleges offering in-person instruction this fall come back online in the middle of the semester, international students will have to leave the country or “take alternative measures to maintain their non-immigrant status, such as transferring to the country. a school with in-person instruction, ”says the rule.

This is a change from the exceptions put in place during the spring and summer terms, which allowed international students residing in the United States to take a fully online course load as colleges moved to online education in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Over 90 percent of international students chose to stay in the United States in the spring, according to a survey by the Institute for International Education. If the pandemic worsened, the new rule would not allow such flexibility for these students.

Sarah Spreitzer, director of government relations at the American Council on Education, said she expects many institutions to try to circumvent the directions and more universities to consider hybrid teaching models accordingly. online and in person.

The rule makes an exception for students enrolled in colleges using a hybrid model this fall. These students will be able to stay or return to the United States as long as “the program is not fully online, the student takes a fully online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and the student takes the minimum number of online courses needed to make normal progress in their study program.

“The tips talk about your specific program,” Spreitzer said. “The schools may have already gone the route where some programs would be completely online, but this other program here would have an in-person component. So they’re going to have to make sure that every program has an in-person component.

Several higher education institutions, including AS and the Alliance of Presidents for Immigration, issued statements on Monday strongly condemning the rule and urging the Trump administration to rework its position.

“The decision taken today by the ICE is only the latest reflection of this administration’s xenophobic and misguided response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This move forces international students to make a cruel decision between abruptly leaving the country or scrambling to find a new program or institution, ”wrote Kyle Southern, director of higher education policy and advocacy and the hand -work at Young Invincibles. “Amid a global pandemic, the administration is pressuring colleges and universities – especially those enrolling large numbers of international students – to bring students back to campuses as infection rates soar. new records. “

Immigration attorney Greg Siskind on Twitter said the rule was essentially a new travel ban for F-1 students, and noted the move could endanger public health.

“If you’re worried about COVID and you’re not reopening too early, you should be VERY worried about it,” Siskind tweeted. “Schools will be opening this fall that would otherwise have kept courses online due to the ICE decision. It puts everyone’s health at risk.

Orr expects colleges to strongly push back on the rule.

“There is absolutely no reason for this underlying rule. What is the solution? They pay tuition, they are enrolled in the school curriculum, they do exactly the same as their student counterparts.

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