Temple international students won’t have to leave U.S. under new ICE guidelines

Students will be able to stay in the United States as long as they don’t take their course load entirely online.

International students at Temple University will be able to satisfy ICE’s new policy to take in-person classes since the university will use a hybrid teaching program in the fall. JEREMY ELVAS / FILE

The international student community at Temple University should not be affected by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new temporary guidelines requiring international students to attend in-person classes when on U.S. soil, wrote Joan McGinley, director of immigration services for the Office of International Student and Scholar Services, in an email to Temple’s international community on Tuesday.

“Temple’s continuing international students are permitted to remain in the United States as long as they enroll at Temple in a combination of in-person and online delivery methods (hybrid scenario) and take the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program,” McGinley wrote.

The new guidelines released on Monday require F-1 visa holders, or academic international students, and M-1 holders, or vocational international students, to either attend in-person classes or leave the United States if school opts for exclusively online learning due to COVID-19.

Temple intends to adopt a hybrid program of instruction for the Fall 2020 semester, according to a statement from President Richard Englert on June 2, enabling international students to satisfy the requirement.

“It is our intention for learning to be blended this fall, with classes being taught both in-person and virtually,” Englert wrote.

Newly admitted international students will be able to apply for visas and enter the U.S. as long as consulate services are available in their countries, McGinley further wrote.

There were 3,000 international students enrolled at Temple during Fall 2019 semester, according to Temple’s 2019-20 statistics. 

Under regular circumstances, international students are required by federal law 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.

International students were granted a temporary exception for the Spring 2020 semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing them to take more online courses than permitted by federal law and still maintain their status. 

The hybrid program adopted by Temple is one of three options universities have in regards to fall semester plans. The program allows international students to take more than three online credits as long as their course load is not entirely online.

Students at schools that will resume in-person learning are bound by the original rules, according to the new regulations. For schools implementing online learning only, international students have the option to transfer to another university which offers in-person classes or leave the U.S. 

Failing to follow the guidelines could result in consequences, including the initiation of a removal process.

Under the new guidelines, the U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to international students with only online coursework, nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection allow them to enter the U.S, according to ICE.

Dipanshi Agarwal, a junior advertising major and international student from India, must now add an in-person class to her fall schedule, which she originally planned to take completely online while staying in her off-campus apartment.

“I got so freaked out, I booked an appointment with the [International Student and Scholar Services] the first thing in the morning,” she said.

During her appointment, Agarwal was told to take at least one in-person class to satisfy ICE’s new policy, she said. 

As long as students take at least one in-person class, the requirement will be satisfied for them to remain in the U.S., The New York Times reported.

The issue Agarwal sees is that Temple has not yet decided which classes will be held in person.

“Live updates are being made to student course schedules to reflect the changing class structures planned for the fall,” Temple University tweeted from its official account on June 30. “The schedule is a work in progress and not complete.

The guidance issued by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program falling under ICE is a “Temporary Final Rule,” and additional information is expected to be released, McGinley further wrote in the email.

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