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US Government Revokes F1 Visa Rule after Standoff with Harvard and MIT

Bhavya Rawal Bhavya Rawal
Study Abroad Expert

The Trump administration, on Tuesday- July 14’ 20, rescinded the decision of F1 visa freeze announced by ICE on July 6’ 20. This swift change in the immigration policy was made after MIT and Harvard, along with over 100 institutions in USA, silicon valley, and 17 states opposed the decision and challenged it in a District Court of Boston. 

Minutes before the federal judge was to hear arguments on the challenge, District Judge Allison D. Burroughs announced that the administration has agreed on rescinding the policy and will allow the international students to remain in US even if their program mode is completely online for fall’ 20. Though she also added in her statement that the case is not closed.

The director of Immigration and Cross-border Policy, Theresa Cardinal Brown, stated “I don’t think this is necessarily over.” “I guarantee you they’re (ICE and administration) are probably saying that we will do something slightly different or may apply it to people who haven’t arrived yet.”

Impact of Revoking the F1 Visa Freeze

Students within the nation are now a bit relaxed with the rescinding of the policy as they are no longer worried about whether they have to leave the country or not. However, a freshman for fall semesters is still in a dilemma, as there has been no statement given in regard to the prospective students for fall 2020. 

Institutions can now plan their policies without being worried about announcing a decision by July 15 (as per the orders by ICE). Most US institutions have not announced their plans for fall semester, it is expected that around 40% undergraduates will be allowed to return to the campus. However, the mode of instruction would remain online/remote

Various Universities came forward with giving a statement as soon as the policy was revoked such as the University of Southern California. They stated “Our international students are an important part of the USC community and deserve the right to continue their education without the risk of deportation.”

Harvard’s president stated, “While the government may attempt to issue a new directive, our legal arguments remain strong and the court has retained jurisdiction, which would allow us to seek judicial relief immediately to protect our international students.”

Before the spread of coronavirus, international students with F1 visas were restricted to take only a single online course. As the country was struck by the pandemic, ICE adjusted its rule (March 6) and allowed fully online-course work for international students. Revoking of the July 6 policy means that institutions allowed to take online-only classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, as per the March 6 Policy.

US Visa Freeze for 2020

The US visa freeze policy, subjected international students to deportation if their classes were to be held completely online. This could have schools scrambling to the plan for the fall semester and could have cost them millions of dollars intuition. 

The loss of international students due to the F1 visa freeze for 2020 could have also jeopardized US recruiters’ ability to choose from the pool of highly skilled workers beginning their careers with an American education degree. 

The measure was seen as an attempt by the Trump administration to pressure the educational institutions that are opting for a cautious approach to reopening the campuses amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Despite having over 3.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US, the president aggressively insists on universities and colleges opening for the fall semester. 

The policy, in times where universities are already brawling with whether to reopen campuses or not, shook higher education in USA and international students. This resulted in Harvard and MIT filming a lawsuit asking the court to block the order announced by ICE asking students to leave the country. 

Though the decision is revoked and international students with an F1 visa in the USA are allowed to stay in the country, ICE may press the point that giving international students the right to stay in the USA with a full slate of online or remote coursework compromises with national security. It is expected that further rulings may be released in regard to the prospective students (freshman) who are yet to begin with their September 2020 semester. 

Irrespective of the dispute and upcoming decisions that the revoke of the policy has been a relief for both the institution which can now go back to reopening the business of education as well as students who were stuck in the USA amidst the health crisis. 

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