US visa move: Its impact on Indian students and available options, check details

US visa moveStudents attending universities/schools offering normal in-person classes can stay, but they cannot take more than “one class or three credit hours online,” said a statement from United States’ ICE on Monday. (Photo: The Indian Express)

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICR) on Monday announced that foreign students will not be allowed to remain in the country if their universities moved classes entirely online in the upcoming fall semester.

However, students attending schools offering “normal in-person classes” can stay, but they cannot take more than “one class or three credit hours online,” said a statement from ICE on Monday.

The new ICE directive impact on Indian students:

Indian students in the US who are currently enrolled in schools or programmes that are entirely online for the fall semester will have to come back home. However, they can stay back if they move to a school that offers “in-person instruction” or choose “appropriate medical leave”.

Students, who are in India now after the COVID-19 pandemic forced educational institutes to shut down their campuses, will not be allowed to return to the US if their classes are entirely online. The same applies to students who were going to join in the fall semester.

Sumeet Jain, co-founder of Yocket, an online platform for students planning to study abroad, said, “One thing is very clear, students who are going to start an online course will not get a (US) visa till they are actually going on campus,” as reported by The Indian Express.

However, Indian students enrolled in US universities offering a hybrid blend of in-person and online classes for the fall semester can stay in the US; and those students who returned to India will be allowed to re-enter the US also. These students will even be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. But, the university needs to certify that though the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, he is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree programme. However, this exemption will not be considered for F-1 visa students in English language training programmes or M-1 visa students, who are not allowed to enroll in any online courses.

Reasons behind the US visa move

In the US, foreign students generally do most of their learning through in-person classes. The US government has provided some temporary exemptions for foreign students to take more online classes in the wake of Coronavirus pandemic which has forced educational institutes to close their campuses. However, the US government has made these exemptions only for the spring and summer semesters. According to some students and educationalists, this is a pressure tactic to get universities to reopen for the fall semester.

ICE directive impact on international enrollments in US universities?

The move could encourage new students to defer their joining to the next semester. The enrolled students might even consider dropping a semester. After the Chinese, Indian students are the second-largest group of foreign students in the US.

Jain said it is not going to be easy for universities and educational institutions to now convince foreign students to join the fall semester online.

According to a QS survey conducted in June, over 50% of respondents say they are planning to defer or delay their entry into foreign universities until next year due to the uncertainties triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the options available now for Indian students enrolled in the US?

According to Sudhanshu Kaushik, Executive Director of the North American Association of Indian Students (NAAIS) students must put pressure on their individual universities. Kaushik said students should ask their universities to either create a structure that complied with the three different requirements that ICE has given or lobby extensively for this measure to be rescinded and take this to the court, where there’s a big chance it will be contested, as reported by The Indian Express. “These are the things that parents, students, and alumni can do sitting at home.”

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