A flurry of confusing pandemic-related changes to immigration policy have international students struggling to understand how their visas and, ultimately, academic careers may be impacted by these troubling directives. This alert clarifies the most current policies impacting international students and which visa categories may be affected. As always, GYH attorneys are available for consultations to answer any questions you have about your immigration process.
Good News: Online-only Course Loads Allowed for International Students
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on July 6th issued a directive that would have required international students to have at least some in-person classes in order to stay in the country. Last week, a swift lawsuit by Harvard and MIT, which argued the directive forced schools to choose between sacrificing international students and risking public health and safety, forced DHS to rescind the order.
The rescission of the directive restores the March 13 guidance permitting current students on F-1 visas to remain in the U.S. while taking online-only only course loads.
Unfortunately, newly enrolling international students are still not allowed to take online-only course loads but the case remains open and it is expected that the Trump Administration will also be asked to defend the restrictions facing newly-enrolled international students.
National Interest Exceptions to Schengen Travel Ban
The Department of State (DOS) announced that some students in the Schengen area, UK, and Ireland may qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE). Students with valid F-1 or M-1 visas traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK and Ireland have been granted a blanket exception and do not have to take any special action to travel. Students travelling from these areas on J-1 visas should contact the nearest embassy or consulate to request a NIE.
Note that consular closures, which have been in place for months, largely remain in effect. Some posts are reportedly opening but, for the most part, we have seen little movement from these posts and few visas are being issued at this point.