On July 14, 2020, the Trump administration agreed to rescind a new policy to bar nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students taking only online classes from entering into or remaining in the United States. U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs announced the Trump administration’s agreement to rescind the new policy during a court hearing related to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which have about 9,000 international students between them.
The policy, against which numerous entities had also filed lawsuits, declared that students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester would not receive visas or be allowed to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs were told they must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.
NAFSA: Association of International Educators welcomed the decision to rescind the new policy, saying the organization was “heartened to see the guidance put to rest.” However, NAFSA said it “cannot ignore the damage inflicted by the perception of the July 6 guidance” that would have “force[d] international students to choose between maintaining legal immigration status and what is best for their health and safety.” NAFSA noted that regardless of the rescission, international student confidence in studying in the United States “has been lagging as shown by three straight academic years of declining new international student enrollment (nearly 11% since fall 2016).” According to one analysis, international student enrollment at U.S. universities in the fall semester of the 2020-21 academic year is expected to decline 63 to 98 percent from the levels in the 2018-2019 school year.
The controversy may not be over. Reportedly, the Trump administration is considering applying the new policy to new students only rather than to those already in the United States. For now, according to reports, the administration will revert to its policy guidance issued in March. As of press time, the Trump administration had not issued any official communications related to the rescission of the policy.
- Harvard/MIT complaint
- “NAFSA Applauds Decision to Rescind ICE Guidance Threatening International Students with Deportation,” NAFSA
- “Trump Move Against International Students May Have Backfired,” Forbes
- “Trump Administration Drops Restrictions on Online-Only Instruction for Foreign Students,” CNN
- “Trump Administration Backs Off Plan Requiring International Students to Take Face-to-Face Classes,” Washington Post
- SEVP notice about the new policy issued on July 6, 2020