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Abu Dhabi: Thousands of Kuwaiti students studying in America may be forced to leave the country after the United States announced it will withdraw visas of foreign students taking classes online when the academic year resumes next fall, Kuwaiti media reported.

The Ministry of Higher Education announced that an emergency meeting will be held tomorrow, Thursday, for the Equalization Committee to discuss converting the study to e-learning (online) in various scholarship countries.

The spokesperson for the ministry, Under-Secretary of Missions and Cultural Relations, Fatima Al Sinan, said the meeting came after the decisions of the US Immigration Department on Monday.

Foreign students must leave the United States if their school’s classes this fall will be taught completely online or transfer to another school with in-person instruction, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced on Monday.

It was not immediately clear how many student visa holders would be affected by the move, but foreign students are a key source of revenue for many US universities as they often pay full tuition.

She explained that coordination is underway to meet with officials at the American embassy to discuss the decision and follow-up on what will happen regarding the conditions of students studying in the United States. The US embassy in Kuwait called on all Kuwaiti students studying in the United States to contact the advisor of international students in their universities to confirm the nature of the student’s study programme, noting that new students who will start their academic year through “distance education” only, must not apply for a student visa at the present time, until their universities move to a personal attendance or mixed system.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said it would not allow holders of student visas to remain in the country if their school was fully online for the fall. Those students must transfer or leave the country, or they potentially face deportation proceedings, according to the announcement.

Colleges and universities have begun to announce plans for the fall 2020 semester amid the continued coronavirus pandemic.

Harvard University on Monday announced it would conduct course instruction online for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The ICE guidance applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency’s data.

The guidance does not affect students taking classes in person. It also does not affect F-1 students taking a partial online course-load, as long as their university certifies the student’s instruction is not completely digital. M-1 vocational programme students and F-1 English language training programme students will not be allowed to take any classes online.