Foreign students US universities are to leave the country at the will of the American government, provided their universities only offer online courses in the winter semester due to the corona pandemic. This was announced by the US Immigration Service ICE. Students would have to leave the country or move to a university that offers face-to-face classes.
Foreigners who want to study at a university that will only offer digital teaching from autumn onwards are said not to be issued a visa. They should be denied entry into the country. An exception applies to universities that offer a mix of distance and classroom instruction.
The new regulation affects students who hold or want to apply for an F1 visa, a student visa for the USA, but also students at non-academic educational institutions such as flight schools (M-1 visa). It modifies a derogation created due to the spread of the virus for the past semester, the authority said. Because of the pandemic, more online courses were allowed than are actually allowed for foreigners.
Trump’s containment of legal immigration
Critics suspect, however, that the US government is using the corona pandemic again to advance its own agenda and curb legal immigration to the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump had already suspended various work visas last month. He also extended the stop to legal immigration until the end of the year and justified this with the high US unemployment as a result of the pandemic.
The new regulations on online teaching and student visas could affect a few hundred thousand foreign students, like the one CNN broadcaster reported. Among other things, the Harvard elite university announced on Monday that all lectures would be held online in the winter semester because of the corona virus. At the same time, only a limited number of students who live on campus can move back to the dormitories.
The university announced that around 40 percent of the Bachelor students should come back. The usual double occupancy should no longer exist. At Princeton University, “most classes” will take place online, it said on Monday. There, only around half of the Bachelor’s students are allowed to come back to dormitories on campus.
Announcement triggers horror
Education experts and those affected were dismayed by the announcement by the Immigration Service. “There is so much uncertainty about this release,” said Valeria Mendiola, 26, a Mexican PhD student at Harvard, CNN. “It is so frustrating. If I have to go back to Mexico, I can do it, but many foreign students have no way of traveling home.”
In the report, Theresa Cardinal Brown from the non-partisan organization Bipartisan Policy Center warned that some of the foreign students’ home countries had travel restrictions due to the pandemic: “Students cannot go home. What do they do then?”
Student visa rules have always been strict in the United States. It was also forbidden to come to the country and only take online courses there. But, according to critics, the current regulation does not do justice to the particular circumstances of the pandemic. Brad Farnsworth, vice president of the American Council on Education, warned of “confusion and uncertainty.”
“We hoped that the different rules at the universities would be taken into account more,” CNN cites Farnsworth. The new guidelines would become a major problem, for example if the infection situation worsened in autumn and universities that had previously offered face-to-face classes had to switch to online courses. Should the students then go in the current semester?
Farnsworth warned that the message was simply “not in the right tone.” For international students who are already in the US, the message will cause fear, “and those who are still thinking about where to go to study in the fall will probably choose another country.”