Thousands of Indian students in US affected by online classes rule

Washington: The Trump administration on Monday announced that international students might have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities moved classes entirely online in the upcoming fall semester.

This means that of the 250,000 Indian students currently enrolled in schools or programs, those in entirely online classes for the fall semester can stay back only if they take alternative steps such as a move to a school that offers “in-person instruction” or choose “appropriate medical leave”.

Students, who had come back to India after the pandemic forced American campuses to shut down, will not be permitted to enter the US if their classes are entirely online. The same applies to new students who were going to join in the fall semester.

Those  enrolled in universities that have announced a hybrid blend of in-person and online classes can remain in the US. However, the university or college will have to “certify” to the US government that “the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester.”  This exemption does not apply to F-1 visa students in English language training programs or M-1 visa students doing vocational training.

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) did not explain the reason behind the new directive except that there is “a concordant need to resume the carefully balanced protections implemented by federal regulations” as many universities and colleges are planning to reopen for the fall semester.

Some universities have been already changed their fall semester plans. Harvard Business School has decided against a fully online MBA programme this fall.  Columbia University is parsing the ICE notice and is working closely with the schools on its implications.

Harvard University and MIT are seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the US from enforcing new visa guidelines. “It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others,” Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said in a statement.

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