International students will have to leave the U.S. if their university switches to online classes this fall or risk violating their visa status, according to an announcement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Monday.
“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in [online course] must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status,” the new rule says, modifying the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
Unless the foreign-born student is at a university where classes are operating in-person, or have at least adopted a hybrid model (which must also be certified) that includes both online and in-person classes, the student “must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status, such as reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.”
International students who violate the rule will be subject to “immigration consequences” which includes the “initiation of removal proceedings.”
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf says the rule was changed to reflect the facts that students are typically given a visa into the United States because their physical presence is required to attend classes, a condition nullified when a school moves to entirely online classes.
According to The Hill, the SEVP allowed foreign students to finish spring and summer 2020 courses while in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hill also reports that international students contributed $45 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018.