Foreign students still in danger of losing visas, despite settlement
By Nolan Rappaport


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The lawsuit over whether foreign students will lose their F-1 nonimmigrant student visa status and have to go home if their schools switch to online courses has been settled. The Trump administration has agreed to reinstate a directive it issued in March that increased the number of online courses they can count towards fulfilling the “full course of study” requirement for maintaining their student visas status.

But the students are still in danger of losing their status and having to go home — for the same reason Harvard and MIT were likely to win their suit.

Background

The federal regulation, 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G), restricts the number of online credit hours that foreign students can count towards fulfilling the “full course of study” requirement to one class or three credits per semester.

As the pandemic spread this spring and colleges and universities moved to online classes, the Trump administration tried to avoid this problem by issuing a directive on March 13, 2020, which permitted foreign students to maintain their nonimmigrant visa status in the following situations:
  1. If their schools close temporarily, they will be permitted to keep their status so long as they intend to resume their course of study when classes resume.
  2. If their schools close temporarily but offer online instruction or other alternative learning procedures, they will be permitted temporarily to count more online classes towards meeting the “full course of study” requirement than the student visa regulations allow.
  3. If their schools close temporarily but offer online instruction, they can maintain their status by taking the online courses even if they have left the United States and are taking the online courses from another country.
The administration walked back these generous online course provisions in a second directive issued on July 6, 2020. The second directive is more restrictive than the first, but far less restrictive than the federal regulation, which limits the online courses foreign students can count towards meeting the “full course study” requirement to one class or three credits per semester.

It includes a hybrid provision which permits a foreign student to take more online courses than the regulation allows if his school certifies that his program is not entirely online and that he is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in his degree program.

The news media characterizes this as an attempt to strip visas from international students taking online courses.

Read more at https://thehill.com/opinion/immigrat...ite-settlement

Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @NolanR1 or at https://nolanrappaport.blogspot.com.