Washington decision follows several universities announcing plans to hold classes online this fall
Washington on Monday announced that international students whose universities had shifted to online-only studies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic would no longer be allowed to stay in the country, and anyone who failed to comply with the rules risked deportation.
According to a statement issued by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, students currently in the U.S. on F-1 and M-1 visas “must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.” It said that anyone found violating the rules risks “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
The announcement follows several colleges and universities announcing they would hold online-only courses this fall amidst rising COVID-19 infections in the U.S. It poses a major threat to many international students, who would now have to either transfer to a new school with in-person classes or leave the country before the new school year begins.
According to the ICE statement, students in varsities with both online and in-person classes are allowed to take multiple online classes—though at least one course would have to be taken in person. However, it said, existing limits on course loads would remain for institutions holding normal, in-person classes. The rules “should not” affect students enrolled in optional practical training programs, it added.
The Migration Policy Institute, a think-tank based in Washington, D.C., claims around 1.2 million students who fall under the affected visas were enrolled and registered at more than 8,700 schools across the U.S. as of March 2018.
The new regulations are part of an ongoing strategy of the Trump administration to restrict legal immigration and visas during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, the White House issued an immigration proclamation curtailing legal immigration to the U.S. to “boost” local employment.
The U.S. currently has 3,040,833 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, the highest of any country in the world. It has also reported 132,979 deaths.