U.S. says foreign students can't study online onlyForeign students in the United States could be forced to leave the country or transfer to another college if their schools only offer online classes this fall, according to new guidelines released by U.S. federal immigration authorities Monday.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement that the measures will apply to all F-1 non-immigrant students pursuing academic coursework and M-1 non-immigrant students pursuing vocational coursework while studying in the United States.
Under the guidelines, international students cannot attend schools operating entirely online this fall, and students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must “depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.”
If not, “they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” ICE said.
The agency said the U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools or programs that are fully online, nor will the U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.
Students attending schools that are set to adopt a hybrid model — a mixture of online and in-person classes — will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online, but their schools must notify ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program that “the program isn’t entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program,” the ICE notice read.
Precisely how many Korean students will be affected by the measures remain unclear as American universities are still in the process of deciding how to conduct their fall semesters.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, a news source that is tracking the reopening plans of about 1,090 American colleges, estimated Monday that about 60 percent are planning in-person classes, while 24 percent are considering a hybrid model. Nine percent of American schools plan to be entirely online, while the rest are “considering a range of scenarios” or “waiting to decide,” according to the publication.
Some 52,000 Korean students were known to have studied in American universities last year.
The Associated Press (AP) reported that universities received the ICE guidance Monday, the same day that some institutions, including Harvard University, announced that all undergraduate classes will be offered online in the fall semester. According to the AP report, it appears U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to use the measures to pressure colleges to return to face-to-face learning as quickly as possible.
A Korean student at Harvard Business School, which is adopting a hybrid model, told the JoongAng Ilbo she was flabbergasted.
“I couldn’t understand the policy at all so I called ICE,” she said. “They told me if all my classes are held online [this fall], I have to leave the United States, and that if I wanted to stay in the country, I needed to transfer schools.
“I was speechless.”
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, JEONG EUN-HYE [firstname.lastname@example.org]