Incoming International Students with Online-Only Course Load Denied Entry to U.S.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a press statement on Friday, July 24 announcing that international students in new or initial status after March 9 will not be allowed to enter the country for the fall term if their course load is fully online. The statement also confirms that nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program certified U.S. school on March 9 are not impacted.

The release told designated school officials to not issue a Form I-20, a document that certifies eligibility for nonimmigrant student status, to new international students who plan to have a fully online course load. The agency also added that “SEVP will not issue a temporary final rule impacting nonimmigrant students for the fall school term,” meaning that guidance released by ICE in March will remain in effect.

The March guidance allows international students to engage in remote learning and grants visa flexibility due to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19. This rule was abruptly changed on July 6 when ICE announced that all foreign students would not be allowed to enter or remain in the U.S. if their fall coursework was conducted entirely online.

In response, the University of California announced plans to sue the Trump administration to seek a “temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief” to prevent ICE from enforcing the rule. The suit argued that ICE did not properly follow the Administrative Procedure Act and failed to consider the needs of international students during the public health crisis.

“The safety of our students and the campus community is our paramount concern and guides what we do,” UC President Janet Napolitano said at the time. “The idea that the federal government would add to the burden of students and universities working to navigate this global health crisis beggars belief. UC will fight this blatant disregard for the law and public health with all the legal means at our disposal.”

The rule was rescinded on July 14 in the face of public backlash and threats of legal action, and ICE reverted back to its March guidelines. According to undergraduate admissions data provided by the UC Infocenter, over 1,500 new international students enrolled at UC San Diego in the Fall of 2019. 

If you or a friend are affected by these new guidelines, please contact the UCSD International Students and Programs Office for more information and next steps going forward.

Photo taken by Sara Williams from Burst.

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