US: Foreign students have to leave if all their classes go online
WASHINGTON: The US said on Monday it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country if all of their classes are moved online later this year because of the coronavirus crisis.
"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," US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement.
"Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programmes must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status," ICE said.
"If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings."
Universities with a hybrid system of in-person and online classes will have to show that foreign students are taking as many in-person classes as possible, to maintain their status.
Critics quickly hit back at the decision.
"The cruelty of this White House knows no bounds," tweeted Senator Bernie Sanders.
"Foreign students are being threatened with a choice: risk your life going to class in person or get deported," he said.
For Mr Gonzalo Fernandez, a 32-year-old Spaniard doing his doctorate in economics at George Washington University in the US capital, "the worst thing is the uncertainty".
"We don't know if we will have classes next semester, if we should go home, if they are going to throw us out."
Most US colleges and universities have not yet announced their plans for the fall semester.
There were more than one million international students in the US for the 2018-19 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education.
The largest number of students came from China, followed by India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.
Mr Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, who works as the policy counsel at the Washington-based think-tank American Immigration Council, said the new rule is "almost certainly going to be challenged in court".
President Donald Trump has taken a bullish approach to reopening the country.
"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he tweeted Monday. - AFP