Good News for US foreign students; Trump reverses student visa policy

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
  • Follow author on
US Student Policy
Representational Image

In a dramatic policy reversal, the Trump administration dropped a proposal that would have driven out tens of thousands of international students. The move comes amidst widespread criticism and pressure from colleges and major businesses.

US officials reported last week that if they were unable to switch to a college with at least some in-person training, foreign students at schools that had shifted to online-only classes due to the coronavirus pandemic would have to leave the country or risk deportation.

The government has said that it would abandon the policy in the face of a legal challenge raised by universities. But a leading U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official said that a regulation can be expected in the coming weeks on whether the international students will be allowed to stay in the country if their classes transfer online.

There are more than one million foreign students at U.S. colleges and universities, and many schools rely on foreign student income, who more often than not pays full tuition.

The administration’s decision on July 6 blindsided several universities and colleges that were already making preparations for the fall semester, trying to balance concerns about growing novel coronavirus cases in many U.S. states and the urge to return to class.

The universities argued the measure was unlawful and its academic institutions would be adversely affected.

A flurry of lawsuits, including one brought by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and another brought by a group of state governments, were filed challenging the regulation. Dozens of major companies, schools, and universities filed “friend-of-the-court” briefs against the statute.

Many universities including Harvard have planned to hold all of its classes online for the coming academic year while President Donald Trump, who is pushing for schools across the country to reopen soon, said he found their decision ridiculous.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led a separate lawsuit challenging the visa rules said, “In the midst of an economic and public health crisis, we don’t need the federal government alarming Americans or wasting everyone’s time and resources with dangerous policy decisions.”

Further details on possible regulations for foreign students are under discussion including whether to treat those seeking to enter the country for the first time differently from those students who are already in the United States.