The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of the Department of Homeland Security issued new rules for exchange students Monday that could present challenges for universities and schools amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
The “Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States”, ICE’s highly anticipated new rules said.
Students already in the US whose programmes have switched to online-only instruction must “depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status”, the rules continued.
“If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
“[S]tudents 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”, the rules said.
A 2020 ICE report showed there were 1.55 million active non-immigrant student visas under the Student and Exchange visitor program (SEVP) in 2018.
About 1.3 million of those students were enrolled in higher education courses at universities. About 85,000 were in grade school, with 92 percent of those in grades 9-12.
President Donald Trump said on Monday that US “schools must open in the fall” – a decision over which he has limited power.
Schools are largely under the jurisdiction of state and local governments. Educators have struggled with decisions about opening schools considering the risk of infection to both students and staff.
It was not immediately clear what schools Trump was referring to – primary and high schools or colleges and universities – or what actions he was considering.
As the coronavirus pandemic sees a renewed surge in the US, many schools and universities are still deciding how they will hold courses next year.
Harvard University’s first year students will be invited to live on campus this year, while most other undergraduates will be required to learn remotely from home, the Ivy League institution announced on Monday.
University officials decided to allow only 40 percent of undergraduates on campus in an effort to reduce density and prevent the spread of COVID-19. All freshmen will be invited, along with some other students who face challenges learning from afar.
All classes will be taught online, however, regardless of where students live. Students living on campus would live in dormitory rooms, but continue taking their classes remotely, the university said.
Trump also made a series of Twitter posts defending his administration’s response to the pandemic.