Washington, D.C. – In response to new guidance issued earlier this week declaring that international students must take in-person classes to remain in the United States legally, U.S. Senator Susan Collins urged the Department of Homeland Security to immediately rescind this unfair and unrealistic policy.
International students often pay full tuition and enrich the learning environment for American students. Under the new guidance, however, foreign students will not be granted visas to enroll this fall in colleges and universities offering courses only online. Consequently, international students currently enrolled in these institutions must transfer to another institution offering in-person classes, leave the country, or face deportation. Even if these students somehow manage to quickly transfer to other colleges and universities offering in-person courses, they can be forced to withdraw and leave the country if these institutions later shift to an online model.
In a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, Senator Collins called for the extension of the exemption adopted on March 13 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through the end of the upcoming school year. The ICE exemption allowed international students with F-1 visas to attend classes online while retaining their visa status.
“[The March 13th] exemption worked and ought to be extended. Its termination on short-notice is especially troubling given that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s (SEVP) new guidance requires colleges and universities to certify by July 15 – just one week from now – whether or not fall semester courses will be offered online only, in-person only, or using a hybrid model,” wrote Senator Collins. “Allowing these students to take courses online, if that option is available to them, would tend to slow the spread of COVID-19, whereas the SEVP’s new guidance could have the opposite effect.”
“SEVP’s new guidance not only puts the education of one million foreign students at risk, but also the reputation of hundreds of institutions of higher education around our country, including many in Maine, such as Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby colleges, as well as the University of Maine system,” Senator Collins continued. “I fear that the arbitrary and capricious SEVP guidance will cause real, deep, and long-lasting harm to these institutions and to our nation’s interests.”
Click HERE to read the full letter.