Trump U-turns on student visas but bans entry for some of Fall 2020 intake

President Trump has reversed the decision to impose a ban on visas for international students currently having to take online-only classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under initial proposals, international students in the US would have had to transfer schools or leave the country if their colleges held classes entirely online because of the crisis.

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) brought legal action against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), claiming the rule was unlawful. The action was backed by more than 200 schools.

The institutions subsequently came to a settlement with the Trump Administration to rescind the policy directive, which would have impacted an estimated 1 million international students.

The reversal, however, applies only to students actively enrolled at American institutions on March 9, 2020.

Foreign nationals due to start studies in the US in Fall 2020 are subject to an entry ban if their institution is only offering online classes.

ICE confirmed: “Nonimmigrant students in new or initial status after March 9 will not be able to enter the U.S. to enroll in a US school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online.”

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 12% of US institutions are planning for online-only classes.

ICE has suggested deferment as an alternative for new students whose schools are modifying operations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The change in policy is one of a number of challenges affecting international students, who also face continued travel restrictions and bans, reduced flight availability and limited US visa services as a direct result of the pandemic.

ICE advised that newly enrolled international students who are already in the US can stay in the country.

US immigration advice

NNU Immigration is actively monitoring the impact of the pandemic on US immigration policy and application processing.

As the situation continues to develop, please contact our US immigration specialists for the latest advice for your specific circumstances.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

Last updated: June 24, 2020