ICE Declared Exemptions for Non-Immigrant Students Taking Online Classes

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently announced temporary exemptions for non-immigrant students taking online classes for the fall 2020 semester due to the COVID pandemic.

According to the press release, international students may not take the full online course and remain in the United States, as schools and colleges are still confused and undecided on how to take classes.

Important exemptions for the students

According to the temporary exemptions for non-immigrant students published by SEVP, non-immigrant students under F1 and M1 visas who are enrolled in schools and colleges that are operating entirely on online mediums may NOT take an online course and remain in the country (United States).

The Department of State of the United States will not be issuing visas to students who are enrolled in schools and colleges that are offering course/programs that are fully online for the fall 2020 semester. 

The United States Customs and Border Protection has been ordered to prevent the entry of these students in the United States. Students who are enrolled in fully online courses/programs must depart the United States or transfer themselves to a school or college that has in-person teaching mode to remain lawfully in the country.

If these instructions are not abided, the students may have to face an immigrant problem like legal removal proceedings. Those students (non-immigrant under F1) who are enrolled in courses/programs with the in-person mode of instructions are bound by the existing federal rules. These students can take up to one class or three hours of credit class online. 

Exemptions also applicable for hybrid classes

The exemptions have also touched those schools and colleges that are offering instructions in a hybrid mode- a mix of online classes and in-person instructions. According to the exemptions, the non-immigrant F1 students under the mixed model will be allowed to attend more than one class or three hours, credit class, online.

The schools and colleges under this type of mode of instructions must be certified under SEVP that the students enrolled in their programs are not taking a fully online load, and the student is taking the minimum number classes as instructed by the regulations.

Above exemptions do not apply if you are an F-1 non-immigrant student enrolled in English Language programs or if you are an M-1 non-immigrant student enrolled in any vocational degree course not allowed to enrol in any online course. 

Schools and colleges are given ten days of time to update their mode of instructions and other related information to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Non-immigrant students under f-1 and M-1 visas are not allowed to take full online courses in the United States.

If they are enrolled in such colleges and schools offering only online classes, the non-immigrant students must leave the country or take other measures such as transferring to any other school with in-person teaching or maybe take an appropriate medical leave in order to retain their non-immigrant status in the United States.

Reaction to the exemptions

The introduction of such restrictions to the non-immigrant students’ community has caused a stir in the United States. Non-immigrant students are left with little choice to no choice to decide on what to do.

In the wake of such complications in the education system of the United States, universities like Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come together to file a lawsuit against the new education policy for non-immigrants.

According to Harvard and MIT, the new decision against non-immigrants students has put the entire higher education of the United States at stake.

The colleges and schools were better off earlier with the confusion to go in for online classes or offline mode, but as the new F-1 and M-1 exemptions have come in, colleges and schools are in a very chaotic and worsened situation where they have to decide between going for online classes and asking the non-immigrant students to depart the country or go for in-person classes and take the risk of COVID pandemic. 

Harvard and MIT have both decided to take online classes for their fall 2020 semester, but with the ICE decisions against non-immigrants, colleges are finding themselves in a very difficult situation.

According to them, it looks like the federal government is attempting to force educational colleges and school to re-open amidst this pandemic situation. The “in-person” option is not only unsafe for public health but is also difficult for colleges to employ health facilities in colleges and schools in such a short period of time.

The effect of these exemptions, according to them, is to create chaos ONLY. Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council of Education, has also commented on exemptions put forward by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. According to him, the ICE announcement is distressing and horrifying for students, for colleges and for the whole of the United States.

On 14th of July,2020 the Trump government decided to revoke the very controversial ICE announcements barring non-immigrants F-1 and M-1 students from living in the United States while taking a full online course.

Judge Allison Burroughs while deciding on the lawsuits filed a week ago by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University said that the requests put forward by the universities were moot as the government has agreed to revoke the much controversial policy. 

The court said that the law has been cancelled which was earlier implemented by the Trump government. The non-immigrant students are now allowed to attend full online courses without any danger being imposed on their immigrant status.

The colleges and schools are now free to decide their mode of instructions and not be worried about their non-immigrant students being deported. The nullification of the policy not only shows the hastiness in policy-making by the Trump government but also the unanimity in decision making between educational institutions. 

Stay connected with fellow students on PaGaLGuY for CAT Exam 2020 Discussion

Stay connected with fellow students on PaGaLGuY for All about Study Abroad: 2020

Read Next