US to withdraw visas of international students receiving online classes

Students heading to lectures
Tochi Juliet

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on Monday that international students who take only online classes would leave the state or face deportation.

The new rule states that foreign students who remain in the U.S. while enrolled in online courses and fail to switch to in-person courses could face immigration consequences such as deportation.

The news comes as some colleges and universities, including Harvard, have announced their plan to hold online-only courses this fall as the United States struggles to get the coronavirus pandemic under control.

The agency's guidance stated that students in institutions with a hybrid of online and in-person courses might take multiple online classes. At the same time, current limits will remain for colleges and universities holding in-person classes.

Also, the U.S. Department of State will no longer issue visas to students if they are going to schools that offer online classes only.

The statement reads, "The U.S. Department of State no longer issue visas to students enrolled in schools or programs that are entirely online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit such students to enter the United States.

Active students who are currently in the United States and enrolled in such programs must leave the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.

If not, they will have to face immigration consequences.

Non-immigrant students attending schools adopting a hybrid model that is, a mixture of online and in-person classes will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online.

These schools must clarify with the SEVP, through the “Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status,” certifying that the program is not entirely online.

That the students are not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.

The above exemptions do not apply to students in English language training programs or students pursuing vocational degrees, who are not permitted to enrol in any online courses.

Schools are also required to update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, SEVIS, within ten days of the change.

If they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to only online classes, or a non-immigrant student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an online course load.

Non-immigrant students within the US are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes.

Students who find themselves in this category, must exist the country or take alternative steps such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave to maintain their non-immigrant status.”

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