The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued new guidance today exempting first-year international students from the March 2020 directive, which came after many universities went online-only due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that allows current international students to take online classes beyond standard federal limitation.
The impact of this guidance on Temple University’s first-year international students is yet to be determined, wrote Morgan Zalot, a spokesperson for the university, in an email statement to The Temple News.
“Because this guidance states students should remain in their home countries, but not must remain in their home countries, whether the first-year students will not be allowed to enter the U.S. is, unfortunately, unclear at this point,” Zalot wrote.
Temple will adopt a hybrid of online and in-person instruction for the Fall 2020 semester, but the U.S. Department of State must decide if new international students will be eligible to apply for visas for a hybrid program of study with online components beyond the federal law limitation, ICE’s new guidance states.
The guidance states new international students who plan to relocate to the United States for the upcoming academic year and take all classes online will likely not be issued F-1 and M-1 visas.
“Nonimmigrant students in New or Initial status after March 9 will not be able to enter the United States to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online,” the new guidance states.
The March 2020 guidance allows current international students to take full course loads online. Under regular circumstances, federal law requires international students to maintain the full-time status of at least 12 credits out of which only three can be online, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
ICE’s guidance from today states “the March 2020 guidance applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, and otherwise complying with the terms of their nonimmigrant status.”
On July 6, ICE issued a directive banning all international students from taking all their classes online. It was met with lawsuits from universities and states, resulting in ICE’s withdrawal of that decision, The Temple News reported.
International students will be able to maintain their status if their schools change from in-person or hybrid to online learning during the school year, the new guidance further states.
“The Office of International Student and Scholar Services works directly with any student who experiences issues obtaining visas to try to resolve any problems and make sure their education is not disrupted or delayed,” Zalot further wrote.