ICE clarifies new international students can’t take all-online courses

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U.S. migration authorities have issued brand-new guidance saying new international students– unlike current worldwide trainees– can not pertain to the U.S. to take an entirely online core curriculum.

While one expert kept in mind an absence of clarity on this point, the assistance released Friday by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program appears to affirm that new international students may enroll in hybrid programs consisting of a mix of in-person and online courses, as long as their coursework is not “100 percent online.” It likewise says that trainees will not be at risk of deportation if their institutions switch from an in-person or hybrid mode to an online-only mode in the middle of the term due to the pandemic.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is a division of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement firm, or ICE.

More than 20 universities and 20 states filed numerous lawsuits to block an ICE regulation that would have restricted continuing global students from taking all their courses online. While the federal government consented to rescind that instruction in reaction to lawsuits, the rescission left the fate of new worldwide trainees unclear.

The new guidance falls short of what colleges were requesting. Higher education groups had advocated for brand-new global students to be granted visas to come to the U.S. to start their college programs regardless of whether their institutions planned in-person, hybrid or online-only methods for the fall term.

Miriam Feldblum, the executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on College and Migration, a group that promotes for policies that are inviting to trainees, stated the group is dissatisfied that recently admitted worldwide trainees weren’t extended the exact same versatility as existing students. She stated the assistance it is still “a favorable step” in that it “addresses particularly that brand-new trainees can get in the U.S. to pursue programs that are hybrid.”

The SEVP assistance, framed as a FAQ, includes a concern that asks whether students can get a visa to enter the U.S. for a hybrid program that consists of more than one online class. Laws generally restrict global students from taking more than one online course at a time.

The response notes that visa choices are at the discretion of the Department of State, not SEVP. It goes on to state that trainees looking for to register in hybrid program including more than the one online class usually permitted can maintain their visa status during the fall term. The guidance adds, “Nonimmigrant students in New or Initial status after March 9 will not have the ability to go into the United States to register in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant trainee for the fall term to pursue a full core curriculum that is 100 percent online.”

A State Department official suggested via email that the firm would honor SEVP guidance on online learning in making choices about visas.

“On July 24, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed that nonimmigrant students and schools licensed by the Trainee and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) must follow SEVP assistance initially issued in March 2020, which permits some distance knowing in excess of regulative limitations due to the general public health emergency created by COVID-19,” the State Department official said. “Trainees who please SEVP requirements as shown on the DHS kind I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility) and in [the Trainee and Exchange Visitor Info System] might receive student visas.”

Jenny Lee, a professor of higher education at the University of Arizona, said on Twitter that “While this #StudentBan-lite version will probably move forward with less public demonstration, it still pressures universities to go [face-to-face]”

“There’s currently a lot of obstacles for internationals across time zones, firewall softwares, internet bandwidth,” Lee stated. “While internationals tend to have higher retention rates than domestics, the online challenges from abroad will certainly make their success and extension far more hard.”

Brad Farnsworth, the vice president for international engagement at the American Council on Education, stated while the association is “disappointed that there’s disparity in between the treatment for existing students who remain in the United States who will be allowed to register in fully online organizations and the treatment of new students,” it’s however pleased to see the flexibility for hybrid learning options.

However Farnsworth included the brand-new FAQ doesn’t fix whatever. “We still have concerns, and we’re keeping our alternatives open as to how to respond.”

Rachel Banks, senior director for public policy and legislative technique at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, echoed the need for greater clearness.

“These are welcome clarifications that move in the direction that will help most schools prepare for an efficient and safe fall 2020 term,” Banks stated. “This guidance verifies continuing trainees can pursue a full core curriculum online, whether they are still in the U.S. or whether they require to return from outside the U.S., which new trainees can not get in the United States to pursue a complete core curriculum online. However, these standards are less clear for new or initial trainees who want to get in the United States to pursue a hybrid course of research study that is less than 100 percent online. We are carefully examining this promising language.”

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