Changing US Migration Rules Affect Foreign Students

Changing US Migration Rules Affect Foreign Students. Change in US immigration rules brings uncertainty to thousands of foreign students.

Universities are forced to choose between resuming on-site classes in the middle of the pandemic or losing students on temporary visas.

Changing US Migration Rules Affect Foreign Students

Changing US Migration Rules Affect Foreign Students
Changing US Migration Rules Affect Foreign Students

“It is incredible that, in a situation that is already so uncertain, such an aggressive policy is being pursued”, says, from Barcelona, ​​Jaume Vives, doctoral student at MIT. In March, he had renewed his rent in Boston for a year, which he shares with two colleagues. That month, with the start of the pandemic, the university transferred all classes to the Internet and asked students to return to their cities. Vives planned to return to the US in August. He says that MIT is offering many facilities, but even so, he does not even know if he will be able to enter the United States again: “The uncertainty extends throughout the next school year. Many universities have made study plans in which only one semester can be spent on campus ”.

Changing US Migration Rules Affect Foreign Students

The order affects two types of student visas, called F and M. Vives has an F visa. In 2019, almost 389,000 documents of this type were granted, and 9,500 of type M. Only two countries together concentrate more than half a million foreign students: China and India. According to a study by the Association of International Educators (Nasfa), these students left $ 36.9 billion (almost $ 200 billion) in the country in the 2016-2017 academic year.

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Conditions for obtaining a student visa include that classes cannot be remote. When all education was transferred to the Internet due to the pandemic, Immigration made an exception for these visas not being canceled. That exception was canceled for the next school year. The immigration agency’s circular refers to an official order to be issued “in the near future”.

In the text there is at least one gray area to be realized. In one of the points, it appears that more online classes will be allowed than usual in institutions that establish a “hybrid model”. Students are also told that they can transfer to another university that offers face-to-face classes. The order appears just when these institutions are publishing their plans for next year. Examples range from those that will begin classes entirely online, such as Harvard, to those that have hybrid systems of some kind. Universities were just deciding their plans in the past few days.

Changing US Migration Rules Affect Foreign Students

On Tuesday night, the State Department issued a brief press release entitled: “International students are welcome”. In the text, he states that the new rules “will allow a mix of classroom and online courses to meet the requirements for non-immigrant student status (the mentioned F and M visas)”. The department seems to confirm that the only way out is to find mixed study models.

The student’s situation also adds its own variables. Jaume Vives, for example, considers the worst scenario to stay in Barcelona and take a gap year if there is no way to return to MIT in September. But there are people in their doctorate, especially at more advanced stages, who have moved to Boston with their family, and this situation may compel these people to return to their countries.

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The Trump Administration’s aggressiveness in this regard means that even those who have not been specifically affected by the measured measure for their future. The other most common student visa is type J, like the one with Javier Padilla, PhD student in Political Science at City University in New York (CUNY). He traveled to Spain for family reasons, with the idea of ​​returning in August. He thinks it is only a matter of time before he is affected. “Now universities have to choose which study model they will have. This creates a very dangerous dynamic, forcing them to open up and put people at risk. For many, losing your visa can also mean losing your scholarship, ”says Padilla.

Changing US Migration Rules Affect Foreign Students

This Tuesday morning, the Immigration department ordinance caused confusion in the emails from the admission departments and student groups on WhatsApp. Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter that “expelling international students in the midst of a global pandemic” is “meaningless, cruel and xenophobic”, and demanded that the decision be “immediately” reversed. Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, wrote “I assume that Trump and Miller [Stephen Miller, his immigration advisor] are loving that students end up at Tsinghua University (China).” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said that “we cannot be a world leader [as a country] if we close the door on the students’ future”.

To give an idea of ​​the confusion, universities did not have much more information than students. The University of Southern California, a private institution with many international students, issued a statement promising to provide information as soon as possible and saying its employees are “working diligently to see how to help them”. Something similar said the University of Florida to its student body. There are still no answers. At least two petitions started circulating on the network this Tuesday morning asking for the decision to be reversed. Hours before the announcement, with no one yet knowing why, President Donald Trump had tweeted: “SCHOOLS NEED TO OPEN IN THE AUTUMN !!!”.

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