Trump White House backs away from ban on international students

Jul 15, 2020

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Coronavirus has changed almost every aspect of our regular lives this year. However, in recent months states began to reopen, and some restrictions were lifted. Many students who had their semesters cut short started getting hopeful that fall might mean a return to classes even if many will be online.

Last week the Trump Administration announced regulations that would have stopped many international students from taking part. it could even have led to them being kicked out of the country. The measures would have banned any international students unless they were taking at least one face-to-face in-person class. There was a huge uproar and a lawsuit.

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But now after a week of conflict between schools, states and the Trump administration, the regulations have been rescinded. The Trump White House won’t deny international visas for foreign students if classes are online after all.

Under the student and exchange visitor program (SEVP) updates, international students  would not have been allowed to take a full course load of online classes. There are 1.1 million international students in U.S colleges, making up 5.5% of the collegiate population.

The program ordered students in the U.S. who were enrolled under these programs to leave the country. Those who are not yet here would not be permitted in. The only advice SEVP offered is for students to transfer to a school that is not fully online. Here’s what it said on the FAQ page.

“Under DHS’ fall 2020 guidance, all students scheduled to study at a U.S. institution in the fall will be able to do so, though some will be required to study from abroad if their presence is not required for any in-person classes in the United States. Through this guidance, DHS is seeking to maximize flexibility for students to continue their studies, while minimizing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by not admitting students into the country who do not need to be present to attend classes in-person.”

Some students had expressed concerns that their educational lives would drastically change if they were to return home, and attempt to take courses online in their home countries. Unstable internet connections, time differences and access to software were among their concerns. Some countries also are not permitting anyone into their borders, not even citizens.

Related: Country by country guide to reopening 

Many U.S. colleges had released fall plans before ICE made its announcement that varied from fully online to a hybrid model where some classes are in person and others are online.  All University of California and California State Universities announced back in May that they would be fully remote.

Universities were given 10 days from the posting of the changes to update their status in the student and exchange visitor information system (SEVIS). Many schools that already announced their plans for the fall scrambled to make new ones. Seventeen states, D.C., MIT and Harvard moved to sue the Trump administration  as a way to stop the new regulations from going into effect.

During a hearing in that case on July 14, the judge reported the federal government had come to an understanding with the schools and the lawsuit was now “moot.”

The Trump Administration seems to have backed down for now after receiving major backlash. Neither the White House nor ICE have given an official reason for rescinding the changes.

Featured photo by David Butow/Corbis via Getty Images

Related reading:

Travel tips students should know before studying abroad

What study abroad students need to know about transit visas

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