As many campuses in the US have announced they will teach virtually for the fall semester, this new guidance effectively forces the hand of institutions to re-appraise their teaching plans or the feet of international students – to return home.

The guidance states: “Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

Active 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.”

Esther Brimmer, CEO at NAFSA, tweeted that the move was “harmful to the health & well-being of students and puts the entire higher ed community at risk”.

In a press statement, NAFSA went further: “Unfortunately, this administration continues to enact policies which only increase the barriers to studying here, and that’s a serious concern.”

Various stakeholders have started a petition as the ramifications of such a severe rule begin to settle.

The number of international students in the US during the coronavirus outbreak has remained high; an IIE survey that The PIE reported on indicated that over 250,000 international students remained on campus in the spring term.

Mirka Martel, the report’s author and IIE’s head of Research, Evaluation & Learning said at the time, “Since the Covid-19 outbreak, institutions reported that 18,551 international students have left. As a result, we saw that 92% of international students from these institutions have remained in the United States for the spring, whether on campus or in another location.”

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