After revoking sweeping new restrictions on international students, American immigration officials on Friday announced that new foreign students will be barred from entering the United States if they plan to take their classes entirely online this fall.
In a memo to college officials, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said new students who were not already enrolled as of 9 March will "likely not be able to obtain" visas if they intend to take courses entirely online. The announcement primarily affects new students hoping to enroll at universities that will provide classes entirely online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Further, international students who are already in the US or are returning from abroad and already have visas will still be allowed to take classes entirely online even if they begin instruction in-person but their schools move online due to COVID-19 outbreak.
The previous rule that threatened to deport thousands of foreign students if they took all their classes online was widely seen as part of President Donald Trump's recent campaign to pressure the schools and colleges in the country to reopen this fall.
Immigration officials rescinded the policy on 14 July after it was challenged by eight federal lawsuits from states and universities.
Several education groups issued letters this week urging ICE to allow all international students, including new ones, to enter the country even if their schools were operating entirely online. They said that many colleges had already prepared housing for their international students, even including universities offering online instruction only.
American colleges are already expecting sharp drops in the number of students coming from abroad due to the pandemic and a slowdown in visa processing. It's likely to hit to colleges that rely on revenue from international students, who typically pay higher tuition rates.