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Trump Administration Reverses Course on Foreign Student Restrictions

Immigrants on Student Visas will No Longer Be Required to Take In-Person Courses

On July 14, 2020, international students were relieved to learn the Trump administration rescinded a new rule requiring them to take in-person courses to remain complaint with student visas. Previously, students on F-1 or M-1 visas were at risk of removal proceedings if they did not enroll in at least some in-person education at their institution for the Fall 2020 academic semester. This controversial rule, originally announced on July 6, 2020, was met with immediate and widespread criticism.

While F-1 and M-1 student visas typically require in-person courses as part of their criteria, the conditions were suspended earlier in 2020 due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Many educational institutions hoped the pandemic could be quelled over the summer in time for a return to campus in the fall. Unfortunately, cases have continued to rise in many states throughout the country, jeopardizing reopening efforts and sending administrators scrambling.

Several high-profile universities, including Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had already announced online-only learning when the new rule was initially announced. Both institutions immediately filed suit against the Trump administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that enforces matters relating to student visas. Their legal objections were soon joined by similar suits filed by 17 states as well as the District of Columbia.

Beyond the obvious health and safety risks of mandating in-person learning in spite of COVID-19, many other prominent educational institutions had yet to determine the shape of their forthcoming semesters. Some, like Boston University, have pitched a combination of in-person and online learning, while others appear to be hedging that outbreaks will be brought under control.

The Trump administration appeared to exploit this uncertainty, using foreign students – a lucrative source of university and college tuition income – as a bargaining chip to compel institutions to either partially or completely reopen. President Trump has frequently acknowledged his desire to see schools of all levels reopen in the fall. Both ICE and the Trump administration have kept quiet in the wake of the rule’s rescinding.

Immigration advocates have cheered the swift reversal but are also angry the policy was attempted in the first place. Many international students were justifiably anxious about their immediate future in the country when the rule was announced, especially for those who attend universities committed to online learning or those that had not yet announced a plan of action. Now universities and students alike can make decisions in the interest of public health instead of political machinations.

Struggling with a Student Visa? We Can Help.

Both the Trump administration’s restrictive policies and the evolving COVID-19 pandemic have upended education for international students. Though those on F-1 and M-1 student visas are safe to continue online-only learning for now, some fear more challenges may lie ahead. If you already have a student visa or are attempting to obtain one, we at The Alagiri Immigration Law Firm can help.

Our attorneys exclusively practice in immigration law, meaning we are focused and deeply committed to helping immigrants live, work, and learn in the United States. We have a proud history of delivering compassionate, individualized legal services to our clients and are prepared to put our over 15 years of experience to work on your case.

Do not wait to get help with your student visa. Call (650) 931-2509 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today!