Home » International Students In U.S. Could Face Deportation If Their Coursework Is Entirely Online

International students plying their trade in the U.S, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, will have to leave the country if their coursework is all taught online this fall or transfer to another school with in-person instructions, a government official said.

It was not immediately clear how many student visa holders would be affected by the move, but international students are a major source of revenue for many universities the U.S as they often pay full tuition.

China ranked first among countries of origin for international students in the United States with nearly 370,000 during the 2018-2019 academic session, according to data released by the Institute of International Education.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said it would not allow student visa holders to remain in the country if their coursework was fully online for the fall. Those students must leave the country or transfer to another school abroad, or they face deportation proceedings, according to a recent announcement.

In-person classes or Coursework not affected

The ICE guidance applies to holders of M-1 and F-1 visas, which are for vocational and academic students. The State Department sent out 388,839 9,518 M visas and F visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency’s data.

The ICE guidance does not affect students taking regular in-person classes. It also does not affect F-1 students taking a partial online coursework load, as long as their university certifies the student’s instructions is not completely digital. M-1 vocational program student and F-1 English language training program students will be unable to take any classes online.

“We’re not forcing universities to reopen, but, if they do not reopen … there isn’t a reason for a person holding a student visa to stay in the country,” Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the United State’s Department of Homeland Security, which supervises ICE. “They should go home, and they can return when the school opens.”

It’s not clear how, or if, any such edict would apply to students from Canada. Canadian students studying in the U.S. are typically not required to apply for those visas but receive confirmations of their eligibility at a U.S. port of entry (POE) provided they have the necessary supporting documentations, including a certificate of eligibility given by the school they are to attend.

The Open Doors Report, a survey released by the Institute of International Education and funded in part by the United State Department, pegged the number of Canadians studying in the U.S. for the 2018-2019 academic session at just over 26,000.

Democrats pan ‘senseless’ policy

U.S. universities and colleges have begun to announce plans for the fall 2020 semester amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Harvard on Monday announced it would carry out coursework instruction online for the 2020-2021 academic session, while Rutgers, situated in New Jersey, not far from New York City, said Monday the most of its classes would be delivered remotely.

California earlier announced its public university system, which includes some two dozen schools and nearly five hundred thousand students, would keep classes online in the fall.

A number of Democrats in Congress criticize the policy on social media on Monday and Tuesday.

“Kicking foreign students out of the United States during a global pandemic because their schools are moving classes online for physical distancing affect students,” said Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. “It’s cruel, senseless and xenophobic.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told journalists in Beijing on Tuesday that China was closely monitoring the policy changes in the United States and would do everything in its power to protect the rights and interests of Chinese students.

President Donald Trump’s government has imposed a number of new restrictions on legal and illegal immigration in recent months as a result of the COVID-19.

In June, the government suspended work visas for a wide swath of non-immigrant workers that it argued compete with U.S. citizens for jobs. The government has also effectively temporarily closed the admission of asylum seekers at the southern border, citing health risks as justification.

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