International students in the US will have leave if institutions go ‘online-only’

July 8, 2020 · blog

Many universities in the past have decided to move online as a measure to fight the pandemic, including the prestigious Harvard University, which shifted all its courses online. Following that, many international students now fear deportation from the country. A report by the CNN quotes a young graduate student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government Valeria Mandiola, who said, "There's so much uncertainty. It's very frustrating. If I have to go back to Mexico, I am able to go back, but many international students just can't."

In a statement on Monday, the US department said that some students who fall under certain visas "may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States," adding, "The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States." Further, the agency also allows the students to change to schools where in-person teaching is still viable. Moreover, students of those institutes where a mix of online and offline classes will be held can still continue to live in the country. According to Bottom of Form

Brad Farnsworth, vice president of the American Council on Education, the organisation that represents 1800 colleges and universities, "this is going to create more confusion and more uncertainty. What we were hoping to see was more appreciation for all the different possible nuances that campuses will be exploring."

Many students might face difficulties because their countries have travel restrictions, including India. Larry Bacow, Harvard University President said in a statement issued on Monday evening that, "we are deeply concerned that the guidance issued 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 programs, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools. Bacow also alleges that the statement "undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students by so many institutions, including Harvard, to plan for continuing academic programs while balancing the health and safety challenges of the global pandemic."

Before this move, the Trump administration had ordered various proclamations to curtail immigration to the country during and aftermath of the pandemic. In June, the White House had issued an immigration proclamation and thereby ordered numerous businesses and families to deport the country. The proclamation has called for the suspension of employment-based Visas, including the H1B visa that many Indians hold to work in the country. Although, that moves can be understood as part of Trump’s declared policy to curb legal immigration too in the country. Monday’s announcement, however, does not include immigration, as students pay high fees to get enrolled in the US colleges. As CNN reports, the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington, DC, about 1.2 million students who fall under the affected visas were enrolled and registered at more than 8,700 schools nationwide as of March 2018.

This article is compiled by Sagnik Banerjee.

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