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ICE Decision Forces International Students Out of the U.S. if Their Institution Has Online-Only Fall

Earlier today, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced modifications to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes because of the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester. This modification could result in tens and thousands of international students losing their visas and being forced to return to their countries of origin.

In response to today’s decision, Kyle Southern, Policy and Advocacy Director of Higher Education and Workforce at Young Invincibles, issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision by ICE is just the latest reflection of this administration’s xenophobic and misguided response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision forces international students to make a cruel decision between either leaving the country abruptly or scrambling to find a new program or institution. In the midst of a global pandemic, the administration is pressuring colleges and universities–particularly those enrolling large numbers of international students–to bring students back onto campuses while infection rates reach new records. This decision puts numerous difficult choices in front of administrators, students, and their families. The Department of Homeland Security could have extended a period of flexibility and taken a more humane approach, but these officials have chosen not to.”

Under the SEVP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s announced temporary final rule will:

  • Require students enrolled by colleges that move to online-only formats this fall to return to or remain in their home countries, despite many countries having travel restrictions that prevent flights from the U.S.
  • Disrupt education by allowing students to remain in the U.S. by changing programs or transferring to institutions that have decided against online-only instruction.
  • Force many students to attend virtual classes from time zones across the world and with broad disparities in internet connectivity.
  • Jeopardize up-front tuition payments for students and families who do not receive federal financial aid.