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Foreign students taking full online classes in US face deportation

FOREIGN students taking online courses in the US may be facing deportation from the country following modifications on temporary exemptions for non-immigrant students taking online classes due to the coronavirus pandemic for the fall 2020 semester

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) under the United States (U.S,) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency on Monday announced the modifications indicating that non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States..

In a press release shared on its website, ICE disclosed that the F-1 visa is for students pursuing academic coursework and M-1 visa bearers are students pursuing vocational coursework.

The statement read that students whose schools and programs are now entirely digital must exit the country or take the option of transferring to other schools or programs that offer in-person instruction modules.

“Non-immigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes,”it said.

“If students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their non-immigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.”

It highlighted that only foreign students who operate under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations, stating that other foreign students face deportation if they choose to remain in the country.

For students taking a blend of online and in-person classes, the ICE stated that such students would only be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online, adding that schools offering such ‘hybrid’ model of classes must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20 titled Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status, certifying that the program is not entirely online.

It further disclosed that the U.S. Department of State would not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor would the U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit such students to enter the country.

It is not clear how many foreign students would be affected by the new guideline. The U.S. State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency’s data.

Many schools have begun announcing plans for the fall 2020 semester.Harvard University on Monday announced it would conduct course instruction online for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Meanwhile, Donald Tump, the US President earlier announced plans to suspend immigration into the country in a bid to protect ‘American jobs’ as the effect of COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll globally.

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