August 6, 2020

ICE Walks Back Policy; New International Students Face Uncertainty

Harper Memorial Library

Jeremy Lindenfeld / The Chicago Maroon

Returning international students will be allowed to remain in the U.S. while taking entirely online classes. Newly admitted international students will not be able to enter the U.S. if they are only taking online classes, according to updated guidance released on Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In early July, ICE announced new rules stating that international students must leave the country if they choose to exclusively enroll in online classes. Facing backlash and lawsuits filed by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ICE rescinded said policy.

Although ICE walked back their original policy, international students will still face new restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Incoming and newly admitted international students, who have not previously studied in the United States, will not be able to obtain a visa or enter the United States if taking virtual classes only. They may apply for a visa to enter into the U.S. to pursue a partially in-person, partially online program.

ICE revised its policy toward all international students and will now allow returning international students to take entirely online coursework to remain in the U.S. Regardless of the class format, returning international students can maintain their F-1 status as long as they are enrolled full time.

Although this guidance states that newly admitted students can enter the U.S. pursuing a hybrid in-person and online academic program, it is unclear whether incoming international students at UChicago can arrive on campus this fall. U.S. embassies and consulates around the world have suspended routine visa services since March 20. Although the Department of State announced on July 13 that visa issuance will be resumed, it did not specify when or where these services will be offered.