International students attending universities in the United States have been ordered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to leave the country if their university moves online.
They will not receive new visas, and therefore, need to “take appropriate measures, such as transferring to institutions that teach in person, to maintain their legal status,” the government department said.
If students do not take such measures, they may be at risk of consequences, including deportation.
Academic students (F-1) are limited to one online class, or three credit hours, per term as part of their full course load. Vocational students (M-1) cannot take any. ICE issued temporary exemptions in March allowing international students to move to online-only classes during the spring and summer semesters. However, the exemptions will not continue into the Fall semester.
Temple’s plan is to have a combination of online, hybrid and in-person classes. This hybrid model could be a problem for foreign students who are not currently in the U.S.
On June 2, President Richard M. Englert stated that Temple will be open for in-person courses for the Fall 2020 semester. “It is our intention for learning to be blended this fall, with classes being taught both in-person and virtually.” Based on this announcement and on current university planning, International Affairs has determined that Temple’s international students fall under the “hybrid course delivery” option presented by USCIS/SEVP. That is, Temple’s continuing international students are permitted to remain in the U.S. as long as they enroll at Temple in a combination of at least one in-person class and online delivery methods (hybrid scenario) and take the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.
Students whose programs switch to a “hybrid” model, with some in-person classes and some online classes, can remain in the United States. However, these students will need certification from their university that they are taking the minimum number of online courses possible. Students in vocational or English language training programs will not be allowed to take any online classes.
“Since Temple is adopting a hybrid model for the fall semester, international students can hardly take a full-line course load – an exemption that is exclusive to those enrolled in schools who only offer online classes,” Vivian Falcao, a foreign student from Brazil and the president of Freely Magazine said. “This is particularly troubling given that I, as well as other international students from countries under a travel ban, cannot re-enter the United States, leaving us with the disturbing question of what are we supposed to do?”
Freely Magazine is a student publication for international students and anyone who shows appreciation for diversity and culture. This unique and diverse magazine will be affected by this order.
“As an organization whose fundamental goal is to bring together students from all over the world, we are faced with the immediate concern of how to accomplish that mission without actually being able to operate in person,” Falcao said. “Not only does Freely ultimately rely on events like Temple Fest to recruit new members, but we also rely on frequent face-to-face meetings to build stronger connections and allow more vivid conversations among our members.”
Foreign students already in the United States will also face uncertainty with the possibility of their university switching to online classes in the middle of the semester, due to the unpredictable and nearly uncontrollable spread of COVID-19.
“International students who are already in the United States or who can return in time for the fall will be forced to live with another terrible question: what if my university has to switch to online classes only in the middle of the semester?” Falcao said. “Then should I leave the country within 10 days or transfer to an in-person school?”
Falcao said this order will affect all international students who could typically be its members.
“We can expect that the newly published guidelines for fall enrollment by USCIS/SEVP will have a severe impact on all international students, thus affecting many of our members and others who could potentially become part of Freely,” she said.
The English sophomore is sure that these rules will cause many changes.
“I think it’s safe to say that these guidelines are a big cause of uncertainty and anxiety, as they question international students a lot and therefore also largely interfere with organizations like ours.”
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