ICE rescinds rule keeping international students from online courses


Jaden Edison

The Undergraduate Academic Center arch sits unoccupied, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, at Texas State.

Daniel Weeks, News Editor

July 14 update:

ICE agreed July 14 to rescind its rule stating nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students “attending schools operating entirely online” have to leave the U.S.

The announcement came during a court hearing revolving around Harvard University and MIT’s lawsuit to the July 6 rule announcement.

In response to this announcement, Texas State released a statement in support of the federal action allowing international students to continue their studies as originally intended.

The statement reads: “Texas State international students should proceed with fall 2020 enrollment plans in expectation of the conditions outlined in the Roadmap to Return. Texas State remains fully committed to supporting its international students. The university’s International Student and Scholar Services, Graduate College, graduate advisors and undergraduate advising centers will continue working with international students to answer any questions they may have as the fall semester approaches.”

We will provide more information and updates as they are made available.

July 9 update:

University President Denise Trauth released a statement July 9 in response to the announcement from ICE limiting nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students’ online course loads at risk of leaving the country.

Trauth said the Texas State Roadmap to Return states the university will operate in a hybrid format, delivering classes both online and in-person. This allows nonimmigrant students to take more than three credit hours of online courses. In a situation where Texas State moves to an online-only delivery and nonimmigrant students are at risk of being forced to leave the country, Trauth said the university is developing a “contingency plan for international students so that they may continue their studies at Texas State as they had originally intended.”

Trauth said several offices and advisors, including International Student and Scholar Services, the Graduate College, graduate advisers and undergraduate advising centers, are working with international students to ensure their fall schedules meet the new guidelines introduced by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

“Texas State University is deeply concerned about these new guidelines and is fully committed to providing a safe and supportive environment to our international students who make valuable contributions to the academic, creative, and cultural endeavors of the university and to our diverse and inclusive campus community overall,” Trauth said. “To that end, Texas State is standing with our peers in opposing this new guidance through whatever lawful means may be available.”

Original story, July 6:

ICE announced on July 6 Student and Exchange Visitor Program modifications to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes, due to COVID-19, during the fall 2020 semester. One of the exemptions states nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students “attending schools operating entirely online” may not take a full online course load and remain in the U.S.

The ICE news release states: “The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. 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.

2. Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

3. Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” certifying that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. The above exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursuing vocational degrees, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.”

The release states schools must update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System within 10 days if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but later switch to a full online model, or if a nonimmigrant student changes her, his or their course selections to an entirely online course load.

We will continue to provide updates as they are made available.

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