If you are an international student intending to study in the United States this fall and your classes are online, you should prepare yourself to not get deported. You won’t get a chance to resume your classes, unlike students from America.

U.S. ICE’s (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) new deportation policy announced on July 6 states that international students on nonimmigrant M-1 and F-1 visas will not stay in the U.S. or lawfully enter the U.S. if their classes are conducted online.

However, the administration has rescinded the policy and permit international students to stay in the country even if all their classes are online. The university officials praised this revoke of decision. Although, they’ve warned the administration that they’re prepared to go back to court if any further changes are made to restrict international students from completing their studies.

The policy stated that for an international student to legally stay in the U.S., the student must transfer to a college that offers in-person classes. For schools providing a hybrid of online and in-person classes, international students can legally stay back in the country if it is confirmed they are not taking only online classes this fall.

The changes in the deportation policy by ICE is putting a strain on colleges to reopen even amidst growing concerns about the ongoing spread of COVID-19. Thousands of international students in the U.S. are stranded since last spring due to an outbreak of coronavirus as they’re forced to study online.

Initiatives by Universities

Top universities like Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, Brown Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania are taking necessary steps to assure international students.

NYU and Brown Stanford stated that they’ll adopt a hybrid model of online and in-person classes to help vulnerable international students. Stanford was looking forward to holding online classes in the fall. However, it is urging the government to rethink about the new deportation policy and support all of its students.

Harvard and Upenn are working with other institutions to outline a path to ensure that international students can finish their studies and not leave the country mid-way through the academic year.

However, Harvard and MIT filed a complaint stating that the new policy violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Federal agencies must notify by publishing any proposed change in the policy, in advance, in the Federal Register.

Further, the public has to comment on the proposed change before any changes come into effect. Since the administration did not follow APA’s rulemaking procedures, the court will be required to vacate this new rule.

Economic Contribution

International students make up 5.5% of the total students of American universities. However, since 2017, this number has been falling. Most of the students are from India, China, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, they contribute approx $45 billion to the American economy.

Universities across the U.S. have already encountered a sharp fall in the number of international enrollment this fall. Losing all international students can be detrimental for some colleges as they depend on international students’ tuition fees, which is typically higher than the tuition fees of American students.

This change in the deportation policy can further have negative impacts on the economy because every year international students contribute millions of dollars to the U.S economy. For the year 2018-2019, international students contributed $41 billion to the U.S. economy.

However, there are debates that this change is initiated to take advantage of the current pandemic situation to kick non-white immigrants out of the country. Putting restrictions is an absolute act towards educational discrimination.

International students were already suspended from certain requirements early in this pandemic. However, universities were awaiting guidance for its fall intake. ICE notified colleges of the deportation policy last week and stated that a formal rule will be released soon.

Conclusion

American universities are already struggling with the increasing unpredictability of the Covid-19 pandemic. Such policy changes can further add to the financial losses universities are facing. If international students happen to violate these policies, they’ll be subjected to immigration consequences and a procedure of removal will be initiated.