Homeland Security To Ban International Students From U.S. If Their Colleges Adopt Online-Only Instruction
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 or potentially face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.
That text is from a new order issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security yesterday. (See also this press release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)
The impact of the order at this time is not quite clear, as it applies to students enrolled at schools or in programs that will be going “fully online,” and (a) not many schools have made the decision to go fully online and (b) it is not clear how “fully” is to be interpreted.
Many professors have been discussing the option of offering to conduct in-person independent studies with international students, but again it is unclear now whether that would be sufficient to allow international students to lawfully remain in the United States.
Discussion welcome, as are links to informed commentary elsewhere.
More details at:
It looks like the regulations may also have an impact beyond schools that have moved entirely on-line. From the new order:
“Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model… These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, 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…”
It’s not clear what’s meant by an entirely on-line course load. An obvious case, it seems to me, would be a student who is still in coursework, at a place where some classes are on-line and others are in-person, and they’re taking entirely on-line classes. But what about somebody who is done with coursework and is now only doing thesis or dissertation research? The courses on the books for thesis or dissertation research don’ have a set meeting time and place, and I myself wouldn’t normally call them on-line classes. But I can imagine the folks at Homeland Security ruling that if the student is meeting with their advisor and committee via Zoom or the like during the pandemic, then those have become on-line classes.Report
Another thing is that, however willing and able the universities are to help students (say, by creating ad hoc courses to circumvent the regulations), there remains too much uncertainty for international students.
Earlier this year, we experienced a sudden switch to online instruction due to COVID-19 right after the spring break. As the virus is not successfully contained in many areas in the U.S., and respiratory illnesses tend to get worse in colder months, it is possible that some universities will be similarly forced to go online due to severe, local outbreaks out of a sudden. (Also, I have heard that certain schools will conduct only remote instruction after Thanksgiving or a certain point of the year, which is equally problematic in this case.)
According to the ICE policies, the affected students will then be ineligible to stay in the U.S. They must “leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status.” We do not know how long the window would be for such students to comply with this requirement, though it is said the schools must notify the authorities within 10 days. Meanwhile, students who fail to comply may “face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.” Again, I doubt most of such students will be really facing these consequences; but should that happen to individuals, the effects will be dire.Report
pressuring schools and college towns into business as usual and potentially hurting foreigners and higher ed is surprisingly cogent for these for these assholes.Report
As best as I can tell, almost no colleges will be formally adopting online-only instruction (as defined by the government) because of how CARES funding is being allocated. Most classes that we would call “online” are being classified as “hybrid” for reporting purposes.
That doesn’t change the fact that the signal our federal government is sending here is disgusting. But I guess this is what “winning” looks like. Trump was right, I’ve gotten tired of winning.Report
if colleges have to close again like bars and restaurants have already had to do lots of folks will be up in the air.Report
Colleges didn’t close–they just moved classes online. But those classes were never classified as online for reporting purposes. The issue is with how the classes are characterized and reported.Report
I presume that by “close *again*,” they meant close down classrooms and move to on-line instruction, as happened this Spring.
But in any case, I think you’re not right about what happens if programs move on-line. From the link, here is what the memo says:
“If a school changes its operational stance mid-semester, and as a result a nonimmigrant student switches to only online classes, or a nonimmigrant student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an entirely online course load, schools are reminded that nonimmigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. If nonimmigrant students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as transfer to a school with in-person instruction.”Report
indeed thanks, being informed apparently too much to expect from the Founding Director, Urban Entrepreneurship & Policy Institute…Report
I did my degree in the States and sadly would not return to live, even if there were a job offer. I applied to no US-based jobs. In fairness, I do believe that the most egregious atrocities of the Trump administration are anomalies–they don’t reflect America but rather distort it. Nonetheless, the toxic political culture predates Trump and will undoubtedly postdate him, at least for some time. But regardless, the thought of raising a family there right now is just plainly undesirable. The public school system, especially in red states, is just facing constant assault. I couldn’t in good conscience send my kids there when I know back home they have so many more opportunities in a properly funded public system.
It’s sad, because when I was kid I had this idea that America is where people went when they are really ambitious and successful. And, more to the point, it’s sad because in my experience, having traveled through much of the country over the years, the vast majority of Americans are entirely sensible, friendly people. But there is something about the political and civic culture that is just poisonous.
After ~6 years there I couldn’t wait to get out. It seems that ICE is just giving a lot of international students one more reason to pack up and take their talents elsewhere. And who the hell would want to go there during a pandemic in an election year when a 2-bit authoritarian tinkers with ways to discredit the electoral process to, it would appear, raise skepticism about the legitimacy of its outcome? I sure as hell don’t want to be there in November and December this year.Report
As an ‘alien’ grad student raising kids in the US, I couldn’t agree more.Report
Yes, I decided not to pursue graduate study in the US for these kinds of reasons despite the fact that it was recommended to me as the best option if I wanted a chance of getting a job post-PhD. When on the job market I also decided I was not interested in jobs in the US. Fortunately, I was still able to secure a decent position. I know several people from my country who made similar decisions to me.Report
Agree. I was born and raised in the northeast US, went to grad school in US, met my Canadian partner when we were both doing American PhDs at a top school. We both got TT jobs and tenured in Canada, but I’d always vaguely assumed our kidlets would go to the States for Uni or PhDs or work. I agree with the ‘sad’ assessment–when my kids were small I was always talking about how great NYC, Boston, Philly, Chicago were– eg I insist my family call the ‘bagels’ here “Ontario rounds”, haha. But now there’s no interest from them to go to the US for school, even my American family is trying to immigrate here to Canada. Sad to see.Report
Plus, the best bagels in the world are, in fact, found in Canada (in Montreal).Report
For what it’s worth, this is one more area where Trump administration immigration policy is, wittingly or not, is following Australian immigration policy, as a rule essentially similar to this is long standing in Australia and is being applied in a straight forward way, even though it is seriously hurting Australian universities, which are even more dependent on tuition from foreign students than are US universities.Report
That rule was in place in the United States for quite a while. I think in the past, at least some of the reasoning was that many of the 9/11 hijackers were in the country on student visas, and they wanted to make sure people on student visas were actually at the university studying rather than somewhere else doing something else. But in March of this year, they issued a directive announcing that the move online wouldn’t impact international students on visas. But I guess now they’re trying to undo that.Report
I am a Turkish academic who has earned two graduate degrees from two different American R1’s. Around the time I got my phd, I looked into staying but couldn’t find an academic job in the US. I was lucky to secure a full-time position at a research university in my home country and I am very thankful for my job where I teach mostly undergrad courses, do research with undergrad assistants and publish in internationally prestigious journals. Occasionally, some very bright, talented and hardworking students seek my advice regarding grad school overseas. I used to encourage them to pursue grad school possibilities especially in North America as I had considerable experience as a foreign grad student in the US. But over the last years I also started to feel the need to warn them that things are very different now. I started my graduate training in the US before 9/11 and when it happened I witnessed how things changed overnight. If I had a stubble going, I’d get suspicious and mean looks from white people on the street, be cursed at on the street because I spoke Turkish with my friends, and even some students who were in my discussion sessions would look at me a certain way. It continued to worsen ever since 9/11 and now it is nearing its final point of just excluding foreigners from American universities. In good conscience, how can I still encourage my brilliant and deserving students in Turkey to go to the US for grad school? I simply can’t. I never thought it would come to this. Lately, most of my best students have been reluctant to consider America for grad school and they have been successful in securing admission in highly prestigious research universities in Spain, Germany, the UK, Netherlands, and Sweden. If this trend continues, America will lose its once deserved position as the best country in the world for graduate training. It is so very unfortunate because American research universities still have the best grad programs in the world but maybe not for non-Americans anymore.Report
As a follow-up to my post, here is a FAQ about the rules, made by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, an extremely capable immigration law professor at Penn State. It is facially directed to Penn State students, but most of it should be generally applicable. I would give very significant weight to what Wadhia says about practical immigration law matters, so think it’s well worth considering. https://pennstatelaw.psu.edu/sites/default/files/documents/pdfs/Immigrants/FAQStudentsFall2020CIRCOGP.pdfReport
Some careful speculation about this news. Conclusion: online only classes may become more common, up to a point. https://allcaution.com/2020/07/07/international-undergraduate-students-ice-and-university-policies/Report
Harvard and MIT have filed suit: https://harvard.edu/sites/default/files/content/sevp_filing.pdfReport
This is a horrible and misguided policy that will be harmful to international students and result in permanent damage to the reputation and finances of U.S. higher education.
But I can’t help but see this as simply another erosion of the privileged status of colleges and universities here in the U.S. Overall our nation’s immigration policies are cruel and place unjust burdens on on would be immigrants and their families. Heretofore, colleges and universities had been given the privilege of granting partial exemptions to these cruel policies – a privilege which allowed them to sell access to the U.S. as one of the perks of enrollment. The tragedy for our students is that now they’re at the mercy of the same capricious and unjust set of rules that already applied to other foreign nationals.
Once again, colleges and universities (and those of us who work for them), are learning that they’re not so special after all.Report