International Students May Need to Leave Country if Universities are Online Only in Fall
New guidelines from Immigration and Custom Enforcement will make it particularly difficult for international students to stay in the United States if universities do not resume in person classes this fall.
Yesterday, ICE released guidance that eliminates the current protection allowing students from abroad to obtain visas for online only courses.
This means that if a university does not offer a "hybrid" version of learning or return to on campus instruction, students must either leave the country, or transfer to another school that offers these courses.
ICE had allowed international students to remain in the country, despite taking only online courses, during the spring and summer semesters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I feel like we're heading towards a more online-based learning", said a current international student at Penn State Behrend, who wished to remain anonymous. "Because of this, for a lot of international students, visas have become an issue".
Another concern may also be how the students return to their home country, due to the recent travel restrictions imposed in the face of the virus.
"I have friends that are from Nigeria who are stuck in the US", the student also said. "Now, if they have an online course load, or if the hybrid is not going to happen anymore, then they're not going to have anywhere to go, which is going to be a real problem".
Penn State Behrend is planning on a hybrid model of both online and in person classes, but Diversity Program Director Andy Herrera is concerned that some institutions won't be able to have the chance to interact with a diverse group of students this year.
"The cultural aspect is something an institution is going to be missing", Herrera said. "This includes the ability for our students to be a part of a dialogue or debate or interaction".
If a university does offer in person instruction, international students may only take up to three credit hours worth of courses to be deemed eligible to remain state side for learning.
This story was supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.