International Students Banned from Online-only Instruction

  • A new temporary final rule, issued on July 6 by the Department of Homeland Security, prohibits international students from returning to or remaining in the United States if their colleges adopt an online-only instruction model for the fall.
  • The rule has caused confusion and generated anger from students, faculty and immigration advocates.
  • A growing number of colleges, including Harvard University, have announced that they will reopen their campuses in the fall but conduct classes online. Under the rule, even with campuses open, international students will be not be able to study in the United States.
  • Allen Orr, president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said it was just “mean-spirited” and will pose a myriad logistical issues for international students.
  • One of the issues for these students, for example, is if they are enrolled in a college conducting in-person instruction this fall and the college moves back online mid-semester, they will be required to leave the country or, according to the rule, “take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as transfer to a school with in-person instruction.
  • “There’s absolutely no reason for this underlying rule,” says Orr, “What is the issue? They are paying tuition, they are enrolled in the school program, they’re doing the exact same thing their counterpart students are doing.”
  • ACE, the Presidents’ Immigration Alliance, and other higher education institutions have already released statements strongly condemning the rule and urging the administration to rework its position.