The US will terminate foreign student visas if their courses have moved online

Published on 2020-07-08 at 08:24
Foreign students whose university classes have moved fully online will see their visas repealed and will be asked to leave the United States as early as this September this year. A decision judged unfair by many.

Around the world, many universities are moving their classes online because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. And universities and educational institutions in the United States are no exception. However, last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the US have announced that students on student visas whose courses have moved online will see their visas repealed and will be asked to fly back to their home country. 

Across the US, 9% of universities have already announced that they would be conducting courses exclusively online for the rest of the academic year and potentially next year too. Harvard, for example, has announced that courses will be online when students return for the next academic year. Students attending courses that are moving online will be asked to leave the country as early as September unless they switch to an in-person course.

The news has caused uproar amongst the stakeholders of higher education and politicians in the US. Indeed, Larry Bacow, president of Harvard has said in a statement: “We are deeply concerned that the guidance issues today by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem, giving international students, particularly those in online programmes, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools. The decision undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students by so many institutions, including Harvard, to plan for continuing academic programmes while balancing the health and safety challenges of the global pandemic".

Lecturers and students have also explained that being forced to follow courses from their home country might mean having to give up on their education due to logistics involved, for example the time difference between the United States and their home country.

Statistics show that more than a million students are currently studying in the United States on a student visa and in 2019, around 400, 000 student visas were issued.