New ICE policy would deport international students if not attending in-person classes


Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay

Stock photo of international flags.

Caitlyn Dark, News Editor

Washington, D.C. — Though international travel has been brought to a near halt by the COVID-19 virus, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may still be deporting people if many U.S. colleges remain completely online in the fall semester.

The new Student and Exchange Visitor Program policy announced this past Monday, states that students on an F-1 or M-1 visa will not be allowed to remain in the country if their Fall 2020 schedule is fully online. They further state that the State Department will not issue visas to international students registered at universities that have elected to go fully online due to the coronavirus precautions.

Currently, several schools have responded to this issue. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have both filed lawsuits on Wednesday against the Trump administration over this new policy. The universities’ lawsuits argue that the new policy works to pressure universities to reopen regardless of the potential danger to the health and safety of students.

Closer to home, the Director of UNCW’s Office of International Students and Scholars Jennifer Fernandez-Villa has said that the department is currently working with international students on an individual basis to assist them through their particular situations.

Currently, UNCW is labeled as a ‘hybrid’ institution, so international students will be allowed to remain as long as they take one face-to-face or hybrid in-person/online course. However, as the situation concerning the coronavirus continues to change and many colleges and universities have already decided to pivot entirely online, many are wondering what would happen to international students’ visas if UNCW may follow this trend as well.

Wednesday, in a college-wide email from Chancellor Saratrelli and Provost Winebrake, UNCW addressed this concern, saying:

“If UNCW were required to move to fully online instruction at any point in the Fall 2020 term, we will use all available measures to enable international students to remain on campus. However, there is the possibility that students would be required to leave the U.S. and continue their UNCW courses online elsewhere. Again, OISS is closely monitoring this situation and is advising international students regularly with updates.”

This information is repeated in the Frequently Asked Questions section of UNCW’s new student-centered COVID-19 virus information website, Best For The Nest, created in anticipation of the Fall 2020 semester.