International students in the US are panicking after a shock announcement by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that it will not allow international students to stay if all classes are moved online in the upcoming semester.
“Non immigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” ICE said in a statement.
F-1 visa students pursue academic coursework and M-1 visa non-immigrant students attend vocational courses. The Fall 2020 semester is expected to begin in early September.
According to immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta’s explanation of the one-page statement, students enrolled in US universities that are moving to an online-only education model will be barred from getting F-1 visas, stopped from entering the US on F-1 visas, and not allowed to maintain F-1 status in the Fall semester.
“So Trump is forcing foreign students to study in unsafe conditions during Covid-19,” Mehta tweeted.
The language of the statement terms the new rules as “modifications to temporary exemptions for non-immigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester”.
“The US 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 US Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
The Trump administration says it had allowed only a “temporary exemption” for online courses limited to the spring and summer semesters. There are already petitions online requesting ICE to rescind their decision.
The ICE announcement comes at a time when the US leads the world in coronavirus caseload. Covid-19 has sickened more than 2.9 million Americans and killed more than 130,000 till date.
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