The notice states that foreign students cannot attend online courses; they must go back home if their college shifts to online teaching.
On Monday, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a notice to international students stating that if their universities have shifted completely to the online mode of teaching, they should either shift to schools offering “normal in-person classes”, or go back home. Alternatively, they can choose “appropriate medical leave”.
The notice also states that students whose schools have a hybrid system, i.e. some classes to be held online and some to be held in-person, can stay back. However, those students cannot take more than one class or three credit hours online. Their school has to certify that the student has not taken more than the permitted number of classes or credit hours online.
On failure to adhere to the rules, the state has the power to deport the student.
What Does This Mean for Indian Students?
This has come as a shock to several Indian students, some of whom have temporarily moved back to India after the pandemic hit the US.
This means that students who cannot shift to in-person schools with contact teaching may have to go back home.
It also means that students who had moved back to India due to the pandemic will not be permitted into the US if their university does not provide some form of contact teaching.
It should be known that foreign students constitute 5.5% of the total number of students enrolling in universities across the US. In 2019, India sent over 2 lakh students to the US, second only to China. Given that Indian students choose to pursue their further studies in the US in order to build a better future, this move is unprecedented and scary for those involved. In their interview with The News Minute, several students voiced their fears and concerns. While some students with scholarships are unsure about where they stand, others such as PhD students cannot afford to leave and transfer schools midway as the questions of funding and supervisors come up. It goes without saying that the time and investment put into foreign education is a significant factor for those involved, and this move has caused incredible confusion and panic among students.
It also goes without saying that the health concerns these students have are important. With a pandemic looming over their heads, does making all these moves make sense?
A Silver Lining
On a positive note, MIT and Harvard University have filed a plea in the US District Court in Boston, seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting the enforcement of the order. Lawrence S. Bacow, President of Harvard University, wrote a statement (available on the university website), stating that for a lot of students, studying in the US “is the fulfilment of a lifelong dream”, and that they would “pursue this case vigorously so that our international students – and international students at institutions across the country – can continue their studies without the threat of deportation”.
Sudhanshu Kaushik, Executive Director of the North American Association of Indian Students (NAAIS), told the Indian Express that there are two ways to go about this problem – one, to put pressure on individual universities and international student offices in those universities to create a structure complying with the ICE requirements, and two, to ask universities to lobby for these rules to be rescinded in court.
Going abroad for a good education is something students and their parents put immense thought into, and regulations such as this are damaging and discouraging. Here’s hoping the backlash proves effective.
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