international student visas
The Department of Homeland Security flag flies outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters in Washington, DC, on July 17, 2020. Source: Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP

Accepted to a US university after March 9 this year? This is a group that will not be able to get international student visas this year if their universities are offering online-only courses this fall.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) agency confirmed in its latest guidance that “nonimmigrant students in new or initial status after March 9 will not be able to enter the US to enrol in a US school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online. ”

They warned against designated school officials issuing Form 1-20s to international students outside the US who plan to take classes fully online.

US universities are yet to confirm their plans for the fall semester, although Harvard has already announced that they will be conducting online classes only.

On July 23, the US recorded four million confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a daily increase of 50,000 to 70,000 in the past few days.

This makes it unlikely and difficult for universities to hold in-person classes, with the fear of causing further spread among large student populations.

international student visas

Harvard University is not holding any in-person classes in fall, meaning new international students will not be allowed in the country. Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

International students mull deferral due to the pandemic

International students who were initially planning to study in the US are now considering deferring to the January semester, instead of starting their courses online in the fall.

Ishmeet Bagga, co-director at Mindscan education, which offers overseas education consultancy and career counseling, told Hindustan Times that undergraduate students may accept starting off their studies online this fall, but graduate students aren’t so keen.

He said, “A lot of undergraduate students do not mind the online programme since they have a four-year course. So even if they end up taking six months of online lessons, they know that they can study in the US for the next three-and-a-half years. Postgraduate students, on the other hand, are rethinking their decision.”

Many universities are not offering a significant reduction in tuition fees despite students taking classes online.

Students are also concerned about travelling to a high-risk country such as the US, where healthcare costs are known to be exorbitant.

Many are also considering deferring their semester as they were hoping for the full study abroad experience when they applied to study in the US.

Sangram Mukherjee, who planned to begin his postgraduate degree in the US this year upon securing a scholarship, said he was admitted into two universities.

He told Hindustan Times, “However, only one of them offered a three-fourth reduction in tuition fee for online classes and that was a factor in choosing the university … while it has given the choice to students to opt for online or offline classes, I have chosen to defer my admissions till January due to the uncertainty arising out of the COVID-19 situation.”

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