Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sued the Trump administration over the recent policy change that requires international students to transfer or return home if their college offers only online courses.
On Monday, July 6, 2020 the Trump Administration announced that if a college is offering only online classes the fall term, international students at that college will lose their visa and have to leave the United States. Students are able to continue their online coursework from abroad.
Update: In a court hearing on the MIT-Harvard lawsuit on July 14, 2020, the Trump Administration agreed to rescind the new visa policy.
Prior to the pandemic, international students who are studying in the U.S. are limited in their ability to participate in online education. Students on an M visa are not allowed to have any of their classes online. Students with an F visa are limited to just one online class per term.
This policy was waived during the spring and summer terms because of the pandemic, but U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has returned to the old policy for the fall term.
Harvard has previously announced that there won’t be any in-person classes this fall due to COVID-19.
Students will not be permitted to enter or remain in the United States to attend college programs that are offered only online. But they are able to continue their online coursework from abroad. Under normal circumstances, international students are allowed to take no more than one online course per semester.
“This approach balances students’ ability to continue their studies while minimizing the risk of spread of COVID-19 in our communities by ensuring that individuals who do not need to be present in the United States are not physically here,” the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s website says.