Foreign students whose courses are 100% online won’t be given visas to enter the US this year

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Newly enrolled international students whose colleges and universities are operating entirely online this year won’t be allowed to enter the U.S.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed on Friday that its guidance granting visa flexibility to nonimmigrant students only applies to those who were actively enrolled at American schools on March 9.

“Nonimmigrant students in new or initial status after March 9 will not be able to enter the U.S. to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online,” the agency said.

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It told designated school officials not to issue a Form I-20 to an international student in new or initial status who is outside of the U.S. and plans to take classes fully online. (Nonimmigrant students need a Form I-20, or certificate of eligibility, to apply for a student visa, apply for benefits and enter the country.)

This announcement comes after the US rescinded a hotly contested order to expel those already in the US and preparing for online study because of the pandemic.

President Donald Trump has suspended several kinds of visas for foreigners during the coronavirus crisis.

The original policy change of revoking the visas of foreign students whose classes will move online in the autumn was taken to court by top universities including Harvard and MIT, teachers unions and at least 18 states. And on July 14 the administration reversed course and rescinded the decision.

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That measure had been seen as a move by Trump to put pressure on educational institutions that are adopting a cautious approach to reopening amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump is eager for schools at all levels to reopen with in-person classes as a sign of a return to normality.

Most US colleges and universities have not yet announced their plans for the fall semester but Harvard has said all its classes for the 2020-21 academic year will be conducted online, “with rare exceptions.”

ICE says foreign students on visas must leave the US or risk deportation if schools go online-only

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