On Monday, July 6th, the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP)—which falls under the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—announced that nonimmigrant international students, whose institutions have decided to conduct fully online classes, will not be able to remain the U.S.
However, international students whose institutions have agreed to conduct hybrid courses (online as well as in-person), are allowed to stay in the U.S. This news comes on top of the uncertainty already created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This regulation puts the Indian international students in limbo. According to a report by the U.S. Embassy in India, there were 202,014 Indian international students studying in colleges and universities across the U.S. by November 2019. They make up about 18% of all international students, making India one of the top countries amongst China, Canada, and South Korea as a source of International Students in the U.S.
Asking international students to leave the country is a dismal situation for both universities and students. International students are not eligible for financial aid, and they usually pay full tuition that is more than out-of-state students. According to the Wall Street Journal, international students contributed $30 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2014-15 academic year. So, losing international students would have a severe economic impact on universities already struggling due to COVID-19.
“The last update from SFSU regarding Fall 2020 was that it will be completely online which means all three courses which I’m supposed to take will be online. Based on the latest ICE regulation, I will have to depart the country or try to transfer to other schools having in-person classes,” shared Vaishak Kusabhandra, a Masters student at San Francisco State University. “At this point, I believe almost all schools have already finished their 2020 application process, so I don’t think transfer is an option now.”
Meanwhile, students try to deal with the nuances of the situation. “The COVID situation is worse in my home country. The major concern for me is a higher infection risk,” said Sairaj Rege, a Master’s student at San Francisco State University.
Colleges are scrambling to find solutions, including suing the current administration Harvard University and MIT have filed a lawsuit against Trump administration, trying to block the decision calling it “recklessness” and potentially a forced hand to make universities reopen their campuses.
Himank Thakkar is a student at San Francisco State University and has a passion for social and environmental policies.