United States Makes U-turn on Visa Restriction for Foreign Students Taking Online Courses


The United States Trump administration has bowed to opposition from universities, Silicon Valley as well as 20 states and abandoned a plan to strip international college students of their visas if they did not attend at least some classes in person, reports say.
The Trump administration, according to the BBC, agreed to drop its controversial proposal to prevent international students from staying in the United States if they are taking all their courses online. The government had argued the students didn’t need to be in the country if all their coursework was offered remotely.
It was gathered that the policy, which would have subjected foreign students to deportation if they did not show up for class on campus, had thrown the higher education world into turmoil at a time when universities are grappling with whether to reopen campuses during the coronavirus pandemic.
The loss of international students could have cost universities millions of dollars in tuition and jeopardized the ability of U.S. companies to hire the highly skilled workers who often start their careers with an American education.
Two days after the policy was announced on July 6, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed the first of a litany of lawsuits seeking to block it. On Tuesday, minutes before a federal judge in Boston was to hear arguments on their challenge, the judge, Allison D. Burroughs, announced that the administration had agreed to rescind the policy and allow international students to remain in the country even if they are taking all their classes online.
The government has argued that the requirement that students take at least one in-person class was actually more lenient than the rule that had been in effect for close to 20 years which required foreign students to take most of their classes in person.
But that rule was temporarily suspended on March 13, when Mr. Trump declared a national emergency and campuses across the country began shutting down, with classes moving online. On July 6, the government made its announcement that foreign students could not remain in the United States if their studies were entirely online.
“If they’re not going to be a student or they’re going to be 100 percent online, then they don’t have a basis to be here,” Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in an interview on CNN after the policy was announced. “They should go home, and then they can return when the school opens.”
Each year, about 1 million international students enroll in American universities. They contribute $41 billion to the economy annually and support more than 458,000 jobs.

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