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U.S. Reverses Student Visa Curbs After Harvard, MIT Fight (Last Updated: 15 July 2020)

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Great news for students worldwide planning to study in the US. The U.S. reversed a new policy on student visas after a high-profile confrontation with Harvard University, MIT, and hundreds of other colleges, ending a standoff that could have sent thousands of students back to their home countries and left schools scrambling to plan for the fall.

On July 6 the US announced that it'll withdraw visas for foreign students if classes are moved fully online. This caused a huge uproar in student communities worldwide. Hopefully, this situation has been sorted out. We'll be closely following this & keep updating you all.

U.S. Reverses Student Visa Curbs After Harvard, MIT Fight

Source: Bloomberg URL: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-14/harvard-and-u-s-make-deal-on-foreign-student-visas?srnd=premium-middle-east

Deal ends the standoff that could have sent thousands back home. Schools can now resume planning for the fall semester.

15 July, the United States: The U.S. reversed a new policy on student visas after a high-profile confrontation with Harvard University, MIT and hundreds of other colleges, ending a standoff that could have sent thousands of students back to their home countries and left schools scrambling to plan for the fall.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs announced at an online hearing on Tuesday that the government had agreed to rescind last week’s requirement that international students take at least one in-person class, even amid the resurgent coronavirus pandemic and as colleges prepare online-only coursework. But she said the case isn’t closed, raising questions about the nature of the agreement and whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had abandoned its position or was retreating and regrouping to fight another day.

“I don’t think this is necessarily over,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “I guarantee you, they’re probably saying, OK, well, we’ll do something slightly different or maybe we’ll just apply it to people who haven’t arrived yet. Maybe the president issues an executive order -- it comes from the White House this time rather than from an agency.” At the hearing, which was attended by hundreds of journalists and others but lasted only minutes, the judge asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Rayford Farquhar if she had described the case’s resolution correctly. “That is correct, your honor, no change,” he replied. “The motion is mooted,” Burroughs declared, referring to Harvard and MIT’s request to put a freeze on the new policy while the two sides continued to battle. “The hearing will be adjourned.” She added: “The case will remain open on my docket pending further motion practice from the parties.” Neither ICE nor the White House responded to emails seeking comment on the outcome.


The hearing followed a separate lawsuit by 17 states and a dozen multi-party “friend of the court” briefs filed in support of the schools from universities, trade groups, and some of the country’s biggest tech companies. In the end, the government agreed to rescind the July 6 directive, the question-and-answer document it issued the next day, and any implementation of the new guidance, returning to a March 9 policy permitting the students to take online-only classes during the health crisis.

Schools can now resume planning for the fall semester, said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government and public affairs for the American Council on Education, which represents more than 1,700 colleges and trade groups.

“Colleges and universities can get back to the business of reopening higher education,” Hartle said. “Their education plans for the fall can continue unabated. This is unreservedly good news.”

The deal averts a chaotic spell for the thousands of international students who have been stuck in the U.S. pending a resolution and means schools won’t have to find workarounds so international students can stay, he said.

Harvard’s president, Lawrence Bacow, called Tuesday’s reversal a significant victory for U.S. colleges. “While the government may attempt to issue a new directive, our legal arguments remain strong and the court has retained jurisdiction, which would allow us to seek judicial relief immediately to protect our international students,” he said in a statement.

Important Students

Harvard is conducting almost all its classes online in the fall semester, while MIT has a hybrid model.

The two said in a lawsuit filed last week that the government had failed to consider the harm to students from the new directive. They also noted the impact on businesses, pointing to the role foreign students play in American innovation, and on the U.S. gross domestic product, citing “the loss of the tens of billions of dollars that international students contribute to U.S. GDP each year.”

They acknowledged that some students could, in theory, take part in online classes from their home countries, but not without serious disruption. They cited time zone differences, unreliable or state-managed Internet and armed conflict in some of the students’ homelands.

The new policy also stirred widespread concern at colleges that reap billions of dollars in revenue from international students each year at a time when some schools are issuing refunds over closures amid the pandemic and as public university systems see decreased state funding. ICE said in court filings that it weighed the impact on students before it issued the new guidance, choosing not to simply go back to its earlier strictures.

Before the pandemic, international students on F-1 visas were required to take most of their classes in person, allowed only a single online course per semester. After the virus appeared and some universities stopped offering in-person classes, ICE adjusted its rules “for the remainder of the emergency,” allowing fully online coursework.

Last week’s new order ratcheted that back, requiring students at colleges that have announced online models, including Harvard and the California State University system, to transfer or go back to their home countries. ICE also contended that a full slate of virtual coursework compromised national security by giving foreign students free rein within the U.S., and says a freeze would undermine “the deference afforded administrative agencies in complex and interrelated fields like immigration enforcement.”

And it may yet press the point. As Brown of the Bipartisan Policy Center looks at it, “It’s rare that this administration would do something like this and then not try again.”

Top Tech Companies Back Harvard, MIT Suit Against Trump Admin’s Student Visa Restrictions

Source: Forbes URL: https://www.forbes.com/sites/siladityaray/2020/07/13/top-tech-companies-join-harvard-mit-suit-against-trump-admins-student-visa-restrictions/#426a6e0a1e46

A new Trump administration rule that would force many international students to leave the U.S. this fall is being challenged by more than a dozen U.S. tech majors including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and 18 state attorneys general in separate lawsuits.

13 July, the United States: Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Paypal, and others filed a court brief on Monday in support of a lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT challenging the new rules, arguing that the restrictions would “inflict significant harm,” Business Insider reported.

"America's future competitiveness depends on attracting and retaining talented international students," the brief notes, adding that "Individuals who come here as international students are also essential to educating the next generation of inventors.”

Last week, the state of California had filed its own suit challenging the rules. Under the new directive, international students on nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 visas cannot remain in the U.S. or legally enter the U.S. if their courses are entirely online. Students who remain in the U.S. while taking only online courses may face “immigration consequences” including “the initiation of removal proceedings,” the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

“The Trump administration didn't even attempt to explain the basis for this senseless rule, which forces schools to choose between keeping their international students enrolled and protecting the health and safety of their campuses," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement announcing the states’ suit.


$44.7 billion. That is how much international students in the U.S. contributed to the national economy in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Top Universities Back Harvard, MIT Lawsuit Over Student Visas

Source: Bloomberg URL: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-13/top-universities-back-harvard-mit-lawsuit-over-student-visas

13 July, the United States: Almost 60 U.S. universities filed a brief supporting Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in their effort to stop the Trump administration from enforcing new visa guidelines that would bar some international students from entering and staying in the country to attend college.

Stanford and Duke universities, and the seven other Ivy League schools, filed an amicus brief Sunday night in the case. They’re being represented by Jenner & Block, which was among several law firms that convinced the Supreme Court to protect young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation.

Harvard and MIT sued the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency last week after it issued the new rules which would block visas for applicants studying at colleges that only offer virtual instruction. Students on existing visas who want to remain in the U.S. must transfer to a school with in-person instruction or attend one that offers both remote and on-campus learning.

The Trump administration’s decision to rescind a coronavirus exemption to ICE’s in-person class requirements was “arbitrary and capricious,” Harvard and MIT said. It also violates the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to allow public comment and consider harm to students, they said. Late Friday they filed a request for a preliminary injunction. A hearing is scheduled for July 15. The case is President and Fellows of Harvard College v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 20-cv-11283, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts.

Harvard and M.I.T. Sue to Stop Trump Visa Rules for Foreign Students

Source: NY Times. URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/08/us/harvard-mit-trump-ice-students.html

Universities opposed a policy that would require students to take at least one in-person class or be denied permission to study in the United States.

8 July, the United States: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration in federal court on Wednesday, seeking to block a directive that would strip foreign college students of their visas if the courses they take this fall are entirely online.

University leaders and immigrant advocates called the new policy cruel and reckless, with several education groups saying they planned to join the legal battle. The Massachusetts attorney general vowed to support Harvard and M.I.T.’s efforts to block the rules, which were announced Monday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Massachusetts is home to thousands of international students who should not fear deportation or be forced to put their health and safety at risk in order to advance their education,” Maura Healey, the attorney general, said in a statement. “This decision from ICE is cruel, it’s illegal, and we will sue to stop it.”

The universities argued that the policy was politically motivated and would throw higher education into chaos. It was widely seen as an effort by the White House to pressure colleges and universities into reopening and abandoning the cautious approaches that many have adopted to reduce coronavirus transmission. “The political intent cannot be clearer,” said Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, which includes the leaders of about 450 public and private universities. “They want to force campuses into the position they have to declare themselves open, or at least in a hybrid model.”

Harvard is planning to teach its classes entirely online over the next year, and many other universities are planning a hybrid model, with some in-person instruction but mostly remote classes. M.I.T. will have a small selection of in-person classes, but said that most will be online. Harvard’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow, called the administration’s action reckless and said in a statement that it appeared to have been designed to pressure universities to hold in-person classes “without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors and others.” The two universities said that the new directive would prevent many of their 9,000 combined international students — and hundreds of thousands of students at other universities across the country — from staying in the United States. Their suit, filed in federal court in Boston, seeks a temporary restraining order preventing the government from enforcing the policy because it violates the Administrative Procedure Act. ICE said it would not comment on pending litigation. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, defended the agency’s order in an interview Tuesday on CNN, saying that the agency was providing more flexibility for international students than in the past, when in order to qualify for a visa, they could take no more than one of their courses online. Now they can take more, as long as at least some of their instruction is in person. “If they’re not going to be a student or they’re going to be 100 percent online, then they don’t have a basis to be here,” Mr. Cuccinelli said, adding, “They should go home, and then they can return when the school opens.” The Harvard and M.I.T. suit says that the government recognized that the pandemic posed a unique crisis on March 13, when it suspended a rule that students in the country on F-1 student visas had to attend most classes in person. “The government made clear that this arrangement was in effect for the duration of the emergency,” the lawsuit says. In reversing that earlier guidance on Monday, the universities say, the government has put the ability of international students to continue studying and working in the U.S. in jeopardy, and it has disrupted the careful planning process that many universities have used to restart higher education in the fall, after shutting down campuses in mid-March. “The financial repercussions to institutions are potentially very traumatic,” said Daniel J. Hurley, chief executive of the Michigan Association of State Universities, which represents the state’s public universities. He cited studies showing that 33,236 international students contributed $1.2 billion to Michigan’s economy in 2018. The leaders of many universities, including the University of California Los Angeles, Princeton and Cornell, issued statements this week supporting their foreign students and criticizing the administration’s directive. “The impact will be devastating — on the lives of international students, on the ability of America’s top research universities to recruit the world’s best and brightest, and on our economy,” wrote Daniel Diermeier, the chancellor of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and Susan R. Wente, the school’s provost.

The US to withdraw visas for foreign students if classes moved fully online

Source: BBC Url: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53315651

Foreign students will not be allowed to stay in the US this autumn if their universities have moved classes fully online unless they switch to a course with in-person tuition.

6 July, the United States: The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said people could face deportation if they do not comply with the rules. Many universities are moving classes online due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It is not clear how many students will be affected.

Large numbers of foreign students travel to the US to study every year and are a significant source of revenue for universities as many pay full tuition.

Harvard has announced all course instruction will be delivered online when students return for the new academic year, including those living at the university.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which is run by ICE, had permitted foreign students to continue with their spring and summer 2020 courses online while remaining in the country.

But Monday's announcement said foreign students who remain in the US while enrolled in online courses and fail to switch to in-person courses could face "immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings".

The rule applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in the fiscal year 2019, according to the agency's data.

According to the US Commerce Department, international students contributed $45 billion (£36 billion) to the country's economy in 2018.

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