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


U.S. immigration officials have actually issued new guidance stating brand-new worldwide trainees– unlike present worldwide students– can not concern the U.S. to take a totally online core curriculum.

While one professional kept in mind a lack of clearness on this point, the guidance provided Friday by the Trainee and Exchange Visitor Program appears to verify that new global students might 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 also states that students will not be at risk of deportation if their organizations change from an in-person or hybrid mode to an online-only mode in the middle of the term due to the pandemic.

The Trainee and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is a department of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE.

More than 20 universities and 20 states filed various claims to block an ICE directive that would have restricted continuing international students from taking all their courses online. While the federal government accepted rescind that directive in action to litigation, the rescission left the fate of new worldwide trainees uncertain.

The brand-new assistance falls short of what colleges were requesting. Greater education groups had advocated for new international 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 semester.

Miriam Feldblum, the executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on College and Immigration, a group that promotes for policies that are welcoming to students, said the group is dissatisfied that freshly admitted worldwide students weren’t extended the very same versatility as present trainees. She said the guidance it is still “a positive action” in that it “addresses particularly that new trainees can get in the U.S. to pursue programs that are hybrid.”

The SEVP guidance, framed as a Frequently Asked Question, consists of a question that asks whether trainees can look for a visa to get in the U.S. for a hybrid program that includes more than one online class. Laws generally limit international trainees from taking more than one online course at a time.

The response notes that visa decisions are at the discretion of the Department of State, not SEVP. It goes on to state that students seeking to enroll in hybrid program involving more than the one online class usually enabled can keep their visa status during the fall term. The guidance adds, “Nonimmigrant trainees in New or Preliminary status after March 9 will not be able to go into the United States to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a complete core curriculum that is 100 percent online.”

A State Department official recommended through e-mail that the firm would honor SEVP guidance on online knowing in making decisions about visas.

“On July 24, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Migration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that nonimmigrant trainees and schools certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) should abide by SEVP guidance originally released in March 2020, which enables some distance learning in excess of regulatory limitations due to the public health emergency situation generated by COVID-19,” the State Department authorities stated. “Students who please SEVP requirements as reviewed the DHS type I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility) and in [the Student and Exchange Visitor Details System] might get approved for student visas.”

Jenny Lee, a professor of college at the University of Arizona, stated 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 too numerous obstacles for internationals throughout time zones, firewalls, web bandwidth,” Lee said. “While internationals tend to have higher retention rates than domestics, the online obstacles from abroad will definitely make their success and extension far more challenging.”

Brad Farnsworth, the vice president for worldwide engagement at the American Council on Education, said while the association is “disappointed that there’s inconsistency in between the treatment for existing students who are in the United States who will be allowed to register in fully online organizations and the treatment of brand-new trainees,” it’s nonetheless pleased to see the flexibility for hybrid learning options.

Farnsworth added the brand-new Frequently Asked Question does not deal with whatever. “We still have questions, and we’re keeping our options open regarding how to respond.”

Rachel Banks, senior director for public law and legislative technique at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, echoed the requirement for higher clarity.

“These are welcome information that move in the instructions that will help most schools prepare for a productive and safe fall 2020 term,” Banks said. “This assistance confirms continuing trainees can pursue a full core curriculum online, whether they are still in the U.S. or whether they need to return from outside the U.S., which brand-new students can not go into the United States to pursue a complete course of study online. These guidelines are less clear for new or preliminary students who wish to enter the United States to pursue a hybrid course of study that is less than 100 percent online. We are thoroughly analyzing this promising language.”