On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced new guidelines for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that prohibit international students from returning to or remaining in the United States if their colleges adopt an online-only
instruction model for the fall.
This announcement requires institutions to certify whether they will offer online-only classes by July 15, or whether they will be fully open or operate on a hybrid model by August 1.
The directive by ICE is extremely short sighted and potentially dangerous. As Covid-19 cases continue to rise in many states, campuses are navigating growing challenges to protecting the health and safety of their students, faculty and staff.
Attempting to coerce campuses to open only adds to the uncertainty they are already facing. We applaud the lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT to block this move and encourage the administration to extend the flexibility for international students
they have provided to higher education institutions during this unprecedented challenge.
Ahead of the announcement of the new guidelines, AACRAO joined 38 other associations in sending a letter last week to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the State Department requesting extended and/or expanded prior guidance "to continue
providing regulatory flexibility for international students enrolled at our institutions of higher education in the upcoming 2020-21 academic year and participating in coursework through various alternatives either inside or outside the U.S."
The letter also asked for additional guidance to answer questions about the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which permits international students to work in the United States for 12 months or an additional 24 months in a STEM-related
job, usually after graduation, including whether there will be flexibility for international students applying for OPT who are unable to meet the one academic year of study to qualify because of remote classes due to COVID-19.