Will International Students Need to Leave the United States if Universities do Online Learning Only?

Will International Students Need to Leave the United States if Universities do Online Learning Only?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country are struggling to determine how learning may proceed. Nationwide, many universities are entertaining the idea of moving to strictly online courses. This decision can impact thousands of foreign students who come to the United States in order to attend universities, practice in training programs, and those in non-academic or vocational studies.

In a news release, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stated that students who fall under certain visas “may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.” Adding onto this, ICE said, “The U.S. 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.” 

Brad Farnsworth, vice president of the American Council on Education,  is concerned about what would happen if the pandemic continues and more universities shift to online courses in the fall to stay safe. As many countries around the world have travel restrictions, Farnsworth is worried about students’ ability to go home if they cannot stay in the United States. 

The United States has always maintained strict requirements for international student visas and coming to the country only for online-courses has always been prohibited. In lieu of this, ICE suggests that students who are currently enrolled in the U.S. consider other options. This can include transferring to a school that will be participating in some in-person instruction, as there are exceptions for universities using a hybrid model of online and in-person classes. 

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