US drops plan to strip visas from for­eign stu­dents


The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has walked back a pol­icy that would strip in­ter­na­tional col­lege stu­dents of their U.S. visas if their course­work was en­tirely on­line, end­ing a pro­posed plan that had thrown the higher ed­u­ca­tion world into tur­moil.

The pol­icy an­nounced on July 6 prompted an im­me­di­ate law­suit from Har­vard Univer­sity and the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, and on Tues­day, the gov­ern­ment and the uni­ver­si­ties reached a res­o­lu­tion, ac­cord­ing to the judge over­see­ing the case.

Un­der the agree­ment, which was an­nounced by the judge, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­in­stat­ing a pol­icy that had been put into place in March amid the coro­n­avirus pan­demic that gives in­ter­na­tional stu­dents flex­i­bil­ity to take all their classes on­line and re­main legally in the coun­try with a stu­dent visa.

“Both the pol­icy di­rec­tive and the fre­quently asked ques­tions would not be en­forced any­place” un­der the agree­ment, Judge Allison Bur­roughs said, adding that it ap­plied na­tion­wide.

The guid­ance that was the sub­ject of the agree­ment, is­sued by Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, would have re­quired for­eign stu­dents to take at least one in­per­son class or leave the coun­try. Stu­dents who re­turned to their home coun­tries when schools closed in March would not have been al­lowed back into the United States if their fall classes were solely on­line.

The higher ed­u­ca­tion world was thrown into dis­ar­ray, with most col­leges al­ready well into plan­ning for the fall se­mes­ter. Two days af­ter it was an­nounced, Har­vard and MIT filed the first of sev­eral law­suits seek­ing to stop it.

The at­tor­neys gen­eral of at least 18 states, in­clud­ing Mas­sachusetts and Cal­i­for­nia, also sued, charg­ing that the pol­icy was reck­less, cruel and sense­less. Scores of uni­ver­si­ties threw their sup­port be­hind the lit­i­ga­tion, along with or­ga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sent­ing in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.

On Tues­day, more than a dozen tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Google, Face­book and Twit­ter, also came out in sup­port of the Har­vard and MIT law­suit, ar­gu­ing that the pol­icy would harm their busi­nesses.

“Amer­ica’s fu­ture com­pet­i­tive­ness de­pends on at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing tal­ented in­ter­na­tional stu­dents,” the com­pa­nies said in court pa­pers.

The gov­ern­ment had ar­gued in court pa­pers that the new re­quire­ment was ac­tu­ally more le­nient than rules that had been in ef­fect for close to 20 years, which re­quired for­eign stu­dents to take most of their classes on­line to re­main legally in the coun­try with a stu­dent visa.

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