University of California to Trump administration: Reconsider visa ban on new students taking online-only classes

RITU JHA

The University of California has urged the Department of Homeland Security to reconsider the decision to completely bar new international students from taking online-only classes in fall 2020.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) had announced July 24 that designated school officials should not issue a Form I-20 to a nonimmigrant student in new or initial status who is outside of the United States and plans to take classes at an SEVP-certified educational institution fully online.

Stett Holbrook, senior communications strategist, University of California (UC) Office of the President, told indica News that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should reconsider the decision.

The University of California urges ICE to extend to new international students seeking entry into the US the same flexibility that it has made available to continuing students in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Holbrook said.

He said that college students are already struggling to deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. ICE’s continuing restrictions on new students are pushing international students into deeper anxiety and uncertainty.

Making it more difficult for international students to study here undermines decades of collaboration between the US and our international partners, particularly in fields that contribute to America’s economic vitality,” Holbrook said.

The university, he said, has increased online instruction and decreased in-person classes “as part of our effort to respond to COVID-19 and to protect the health of all our students, and consistent with restrictions imposed by state and local health authorities.”

While the current guidance from ICE restricts new international students from entering the UC for entirely online programs, UC is committed to providing opportunities for international students to still enroll at UC and make progress toward their degree during the COVID-19 crisis, whether in the United States or by taking courses in their home countries,” he added.

The university’s biggest priority is protecting the health, well-being and safety of all students, staff, faculty and the larger UC community, he stressed.

The University of California (UC) is the world’s leading public research university system in California.

When indica News reached out for comment on the visa rule, Toni Molle, director, public affairs, California State University Chancellor’s Office said: “The California State University continues to keep the lines of communication open between the university, our students and prospective first-year students.”

Our program counselors continue to provide guidance and to answer specific questions that are posed, “ Molle said.

Asked how many students were impacted by the visa-rule decision, Molle said: “We do not have a full picture of the impact or the number of prospective students who may not be able to attend the CSU due to the guidance set out.”

She said students who do not have visas — because of the closure of embassies and consulates due to the pandemic — may enroll from abroad or defer admission, if that is their preference.

The Trump administration went back on its move to debar international students taking only online classes from being in the US after a lawsuit by MIT and Harvard University along with 180 other colleges and universities. According that lawsuit, 32,000 international students are attending public higher education institutions in California.

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Visa rule still clouds US-study dream of new international students