ICE Ruling Restricts International Students for the Fall 2020 Semester
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many higher education institutions to reconsider and substantially revise their pedagogical structures. As many colleges and universities begin to release their fall reopening plan, or lack thereof, many international students are finding themselves in a complicated situation. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently made changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that prevents international students from residing in the US if their school switches to distance learning entirely. This means that students with nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 visas will be required to leave the US if all classes are online or must enroll in in-person classes to avoid deportation. F-1 visa holders whose schools offer hybrid classes may stay enrolled, but if classes revert to fully online at any point or they can no longer attend the in-person classes, the student will be forced to leave the US within 10 days. An alternative to this case would be to immediately enroll in an institution that offers in-person classes to maintain status in the US. If the school resumes in-person instruction, F-1 students may only enroll in one online class. New visas will not be issued to any students in schools that will be fully remote.
This new mandate will impact the economy, too. Under this legislation, universities will most definitely lose a lot of funding, as international students make up a large amount of their revenue. Many international students may face some financial burdens as they find themselves stuck in long term contracts, such as apartment leases or work arrangements, as they did not anticipate being required to leave the country yet. Such drastic changes may have some political implications as well because this adds to the pressure on schools to reopen in-person now to avoid losing money. Some colleges have found ways to offer certain courses specifically for international students to allow them to maintain status, while others are still scrambling to finalize their plans, and this ruling only adds to their plentitude of considerations.
Colleges are working through these changes to provide students with the best mode of education possible in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the SEVP, schools who plan to go fully online or not reopen in the fall must submit their operational plan no later than July 15. While there are many things still uncertain, we strive to provide quick updates as more information becomes available.
While we understand that this news is alarming, we recommend that you do not panic and immediately seek advice from an immigration attorney. Furthermore, we strongly believe that the decision by the administration is illegal. In fact, a number of universities have already filed lawsuits against the administration and it is quite likely that the courts will not allow ICE to move forward with its plans to force students out of the U.S.
If you have any questions about this legislation or possible ways to maintain your status in the US, our attorneys are here to help. Feel free to visit our website or call us at (646) 405-9846 for more information.