The United States has long been a popular destination for foreign students. The main reason is the number of highly ranked universities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is putting into question whether foreign students will be able to remain in the US next fall. In part, this is because of travel restrictions between nations. In part, it’s due to failure by the US to keep its number of infections under control.
Given the pandemic, many US colleges and universities might have to be entirely digital for fall semester. In response, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released new regulations that foreign students cannot stay in the country if classes are held online.
A release from the ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program says, “Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
The decision has frustrated many immigration activists and experts. They argue the decision will harm the US economy, noting that foreign students brought $41 billion in to the country and supported 458,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year. Another concern is for students who live in far away countries where time zone differences will make it difficult to attend online classes.
On Monday, Harvard university announced all fall classes will be online. However, the university still plans to bring 40% of undergraduates, including all freshmen, onto campus. Harvard President Larry Bacow objected to the new ICE policy calling it “a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem.”