07.14.20

International Students: Policy Flip-Flop

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:49 pm by Lalita Haran

COvid-19 Pandemic necessitated social distancing. Consequently, the international students, the F academic full-time students, and the M vocational category students, both were allowed to take additional online courses. The policy took effect around mid-March 2020.

Immigration law requires that F1 students may not take more than one-course load not exceeding 3 credits of online classes in order to maintain lawful status. The Covid-19 exemption made it possible for these students to take full online course load considering the implementation of lockdown necessitated by the call for social distance as a protective measure, most colleges and universities first temporarily closed and later started offering online classes to conclude the semester.

ICE, in March 2020, relaxed the physical attendance requirements for international full-time academic students (F-1) as well as for vocational students (M-1). Among many announced relaxations to accommodate the national emergency, ICE exempted foreign students from physical attendance in classroom in order to maintain lawful status in view of the fact that the education institutions were closing down for health safety measures.

On July 6, 2020, unfortunately SEVP rolled back the above exemption. International students were no longer allowed to take full online course-load implying that the students physically attend classes in order to maintain lawful status. This meant that if the student is enrolled in an educational institution that was still offering classes remotely and not offering classes where students are physically present, the student would lose lawful presence despite that fact that the student had no control over the how the classes are offered by the colleges and universities, nor did it show any concern for the students’ health and safety.

The new policy shift favoring the rigid immigration law was decried by several educational institutions and was challenged by States. Today, on July 14th, the policy rolling back the exemption is no longer in practice. The government agreed for a status quo i.e. it would not require the students to be physically present in order to maintain lawful status. A federal judge announced this in the open court in Boston. Consequently, international students no longer should fear having to attend classes and fall sick during Covid-19 or attend the classes online and be threatened with deportation.

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