The Trump Administration has stepped back from a policy that would have denied visas to foreign students in the event colleges and universities moved to virtual instruction for the 2020-2021 school year.
The July 6 policy announcement was met with immediate disapproval from higher education institutions and prompted a lawsuit from Harvard and MIT, along with a separate lawsuit from the attorney generals of 18 states.
Judge Allison Burroughs, a federal district judge in Boston, announced today that the government had reached an agreement with the universities to revert to a March policy that allowed foreign students to stay in the United States even while taking classes online. Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges and universities to adjust their program delivery, foreign students were only allowed to take one online class per semester, per Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidelines.
The announcement should bring a welcome relief to colleges and universities, said Russell Ford, founding partner of FordMurray.
“College and universities count on foreign students to bring diversity of thought and experience to U.S. campuses. Not only are the students a valuable part of campus culture, they are an essential part of many higher education institutions’ budgetary planning,” Russell said.
Additionally, many STEM employers use Optional Practical Training (OPT) to recruit highly skilled foreign students into hard to fill positions within their organization.
“This policy was clearly misguided and it is nice to see common sense has prevailed,” Russell said. “This is a win-win for U.S. colleges and universities, U.S. businesses, and for foreign students.”