The United States is the country most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the virus has infected 2.9 million people in the country and killed 1,30,000 people.
International travel restrictions in the US because of the pandemic have made it more and more difficult for foreign students in the United States to return to their home countries, while foreign students outside the United States are not sure whether they can travel to study in universities and colleges in the United States.
The Trump government has made several changes to the US immigration system because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The United States has declared that it will not renew the F1 and M1 visas of foreign students studying there if their class has moved entirely online due to the coronavirus pandemic. This move will have an adverse impact on the thousands of Indian students.
According to the latest “Student Exchange Visitor Program” (SEVP) “2018 Digital Report”, India sent the most students (251,290) to the United States. The number of students from India increased by 4,157 from 2017 to 2018.
What is the new United States order on the F1 visa?
According to the US new order on F1 visa, Visas for foreign students attending online-only classes in the US will not be renewed.
As per the order, M1 students who are pursuing vocational courses and F1 students who are pursuing academic courses entirely online must take immediate action, as if they could face legal action and immigration procedures if they do not leave the US.
According to sources, online courses were never eligible for an F1 visa. Therefore, there have been no changes in US policy.
While the new order demands the foreign students to take immediate action, most of US universities and colleges have not even announced their plans for the fall semester.
However, Several major institutions in the United States, including Harvard University, Columbia University, and New York University have accepted distance learning to cope with the spread of coronavirus.
F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant students who study completely online cannot take a full online course load and remain in the United States, said the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) in a statement.
ICE announced: “Students currently engaging in such programs in the United States must leave the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instructions to maintain legal status.”
The immigration department furthered that if such students choose not to leave, they may face immigration proceedings.
ICE also asserted that Eligible F aspirants can take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.
The agency said that students who are already in the country and face fully online courses can take other measures to maintain their nonimmigrant statuses, such as reducing the course load or appropriate medical leave.
Sumeet Jain, Yocket’s co-founder, and higher education expert remarked that this move was aimed primarily at US universities and not at students since the decision would “choke their international student revenue that is immense and will force them to open the campus.”
On July 7, the US ordered on F1 visas is a serious matter of concern for India as the largest number of foreign students in the US are from India.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the official spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava, stated that: We are concerned over the possibility that this decision may cause the return of enormous numbers of Indian students studying in the United States. We’ve expressed and conveyed our concern to the US side. “