Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) just announced a major policy shift for international students currently in the U.S. 

As schools all over the country weigh their options for the upcoming school year, one group of students is anxiously awaiting their fate. Thousands of students are potentially affected by this latest decision by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program.

This includes any foreign students enrolled in an American school or program with a completely virtual fall 2020 semester. They will not be eligible for a student visa giving them permission to stay in the United States if their coursework is 100 percent online. Exceptions include schools with hybrid programs that include an in-person instruction component, according to the press release.


Courtesy of Sincerely Media

At a time when all of the country's schools are grappling with COVID-19 mitigation plans, social distancing is a key component of welcoming students back on campus. Many school systems and universities are choosing to remain completely online while the virus infection rates remain high in their areas.

This decision will affect any foreign students of non-immigrant classification, in the country with an F-1 or M-1 visa, enrolled in secondary, undergraduate, or graduate school programs. These students are advised to find alternative schools with in-person instruction or to leave the country voluntarily. ICE will be involved in the enforcement of removal orders once issued, as well as Customs and Border Protection at points of entry.

Current international students must supply documentation, along with their visa applications through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), showing in-person or hybrid courses for the upcoming fall semester. Each visa application is then reviewed by the State Department on a case-by-case basis. 

For more information, read the full press release here.

What are your thoughts on this latest development for international students currently studying in the U.S.? Sound off in the comments!