USA forces students to leave the country if enrolled in Online-Only Courses

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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US Education
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The US government has declared that international students from institutions that are providing only online courses from September to December, will not be allowed to stay in the country and those who fail to comply with the rules will face the risk of deportation.

According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s news release, “Students on F-1 and M-1 visas who face such a situation must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.

Those who violate the rules may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” the agency added.

The news comes when several colleges and universities, including Harvard, have confirmed they are planning to offer online-only classes this fall as the U.S. continues its struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The new regulation is nothing less than a blow to foreigners who will now be forced to either leave the country or attempt to move to a new school in order to retain their legal status. Some exiting the country will face online learning hurdles, such as time zones that vary.

Guidance from the agency stated that students may take multiple online classes in institutions with a combination of online and in-person courses, although current limits will remain for colleges and universities that have regular in-person classes.

The new regulations “do not impact students taking part in OPT,” a spokesperson for the agency said, referring to the voluntary practical training program that requires F-1 students who have completed their study to work in a related field in the U.S. for up to one year.

The data from the Institute of International Education suggests that in the year 2018-2019 international students made up 5.5% of the U.S. higher education population, accounting for nearly 1.1 million.

The foreign students receive very little financial aid for their education in the country and hence contribute a large pool of money into the higher education institutions of the U.S.

The latest regulation can be added to the list of the Trump administration’s continuous efforts to limit legal immigration and visas during the pandemic.

The agency’s rules require schools to “update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 10 days of the change if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to only online classes, or a nonimmigrant student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an entirely online course load.”