Home >News >World >US student visa rule changed in the wake of COVID-19. Key points to know

The newly enrolled foreign students whole college and universities are conducting the entire course online this fall will not be allowed be in the United States, the Trump administration said on Friday. The decision came amid coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

"Newly enrolling students can come on valid visas if their schools certify they plan to take at least one course in person for the fall term," the Students and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the United States Immigration and Customs (USICE) Enforcement said in a statement.

The new visa rule will be applicable only for the new students. "Nonimmigrant students in new or initial status after March 9 will not be able to enter the US to enroll in a US school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100% online," the agency added.

The universities are directed not to issue a Form I-20 or 'Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,' to an international student in new or initial status who is outside of the US and plans to take who is outside of the US and plans to take classes fully online.

"As a result, new or initial nonimmigrant students who intend to pursue a full course of study that will be conducted completely online will likely not be able to obtain an F-1 or M-1 visa to study in the United States," said the guidelines issued by SEVP and ICE.

Those who have already enrolled in US schools this year

Those students who have enrolled in any US university or college before March 9, are allowed to stay in America. “Nonimmigrant students may remain in the United States to engage in full course of study online if they have not otherwise violated the terms of their nonimmigrant status since March 9, 2020," it said.

This includes students who have remained in the US in active status and are starting a new programme of study that is 100% online. These individuals do not need a new visa to continue their programmes of study.

What happens to those students who have left America amid pandemic?

"If a nonimmigrant student was enrolled in a course of study in the US on March 9, 2020, but subsequently left the country, that student likely remains eligible for a visa since the March 2020 guidance permitted a full online course of study from inside the United States or from abroad," it said.

However, those students who are already inside the United States and enrolled in only online courses will continue to maintain their legal status in the country, it said.

The new directive can affect a large number of international students as most colleges will be taking classes online. Harvard is conducting almost all its classes online in the fall semester, while Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has a hybrid model.

The US immigration authority announced on July 6 that foreign students will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only classes during the September to December semester, triggering an outrage against its order. A series of lawsuits were filed by over 200 educational American educational institutions, led by the Harvard University and MIT against the controversial order.

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