15 July 2020 – The US government has rescinded its 6 July immigration rule that would effectively have barred international students from entering or remaining in the US if their program of study transitioned to online delivery.
The education sector in the US – along with state governments and other stakeholders – banded together to launch a number of legal actions and it was during one of these lawsuits, launched by Harvard University and MIT, that the repeal of the directive was announced. Close to 200 universities supported MIT and Harvard in their lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance, issued 6 July, had stated that, as of fall 2020, international students studying in the US would have to leave if their program were to become online-only, and it meant that students coming to the US would have been denied entry to the country if their program transitioned to online delivery. It was far-reaching enough that even if an international student began an in-person program in the fall that later had to be moved online because of the pandemic, they would still have to leave the country. That new rule was withdrawn during a federal court hearing on 14 July.
The significant legal and political opposition to the 6 July guidance was able to prevent the new rule from taking effect. But the market signal conveyed by the directive simply can’t be pulled back. Prospective international students are understandably worried about whether they will be able to enter the US, and current international students will have legitimate concerns about their future status as well.