US visa
Trump administration is introducing a series of new restrictions to bar the entry of immigrants to the US Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The US administration has asked foreign students in the country, whose colleges have shifted to online teaching, to move to schools that have in-person classes or leave the country. It is a move that could potentially affect thousands of students from GCC countries studying in the US.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Monday night issued a statement saying that Non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the US.

The US will also not issue visas to students whose colleges will offer full online courses from later this year.

There were more than one million international students in the US for the 2018-19 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE).

That accounted for 5.5 per cent of the total US higher education population, the IIE said, and international students contributed $44.7 billion to the US economy in 2018.

The largest number of international students came from China, followed by India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

ICE has threatened that students who don’t comply with the new rules of finding a college that offers in-person teaching could be removed from the country.

What the rule book says:

• Non-immigrant 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. Visas will not be issued to students enrolled in schools and/or programmes that are fully online for the fall semester nor will US permit these students to enter country.

• Active students currently in the US enrolled in such programmes 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.

• Non-immigrant F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

• Non-immigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status,” certifying that the programme is not 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 programme.

• The above exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursing vocational degrees, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.

• Schools should update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 10 days of the change if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to only online classes, or a non-immigrant student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an entirely online course load.

• Non-immigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. If students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their non-immigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.

• Harvard is among the first universities that has shifted completely to online teaching till a vaccine is found to tackle Covid-19. Students, even who are in the campus, will have to learn courses remotely.