International Students Can Take Online Classes After All


On July 6, 2020 the Trump Administration provoked outrage and lawsuits by instituting a rule which said international students could not keep their visas if they were taking online-only classes to protect themselves from Covid-19. Pennsylvania was one of 17 states who sued over it. Harvard and MIT also launched separate lawsuits, and were joined by 200 additional schools.

Many universities in Pennsylvania adopted hybrid models to take advantage of loopholes within the rule. 

As of July 14, 2020, the rule has been rescinded. Federal immigration authorities agreed to “pull the July 6 directive and return to the status quo.”

This means that students with F-1 and M-1 visas may return to their school of choice as normal and take online courses if offered, even if these offerings are 100% online. The status quo, in this case, is the modification made in March 2020 that authorized a temporary exemption regarding online study. 

Online classes have always been restricted for foreign students, but the reasoning behind the modifications was that it would be safer for students and professors if the exemption were possible. This means there may be a time in the future when F-1 and M-1 students must attend classes in person, but they are safe to pursue their education like citizen-born classmates at this time.

The Harvard and MIT suit argued that “immigration officials violated procedural rules by issuing the guidance without justification and without allowing the public to respond.” The state lawsuits sought both a temporary and a permanent injunction against the rule. 

Workers right now often face similar issues, given work visas are tied to a physical job site location. Many workers and employers have had to make adjustments to allow their employees to follow CDC guidance on working remotely, with those who live within commuting distance of their workplace receiving some advantages under existing law. The truth is that current immigration law is not well-equipped to handle a crisis whose best solutions revolve around the use of newer technologies to free people from working or studying at specific physical locations. 

As a result, additional legal battles are likely. 

It’s important to stay on top of changes in policy…they come often. Do you have an immigration attorney who you can call to ask for advice?

If not, consider contacting the team at Hykel Law. We can help you navigate the confusing and ever-shifting field of immigration law and give you the advice you need to stay in the United States. 

See also:

Coping With Loss of Status in a Crisis

Remote Work and US Immigration Law

Immigration Appeals and Litigation


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