Trump Administration Rescinds Policy on Foreign Student Visas

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The Trump administration has dropped its policy that would require international students to take at least one in-person class this fall or face deportation. The decision was announced by U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs during a federal court hearing in Boston on Tuesday.

Burroughs was expected to preside over a lawsuit from Harvard and MIT against the Trump administration. The announcement came at the beginning of the proceedings, with Burroughs stating, “I have been informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution” and would “return to the status quo.”

More than 200 higher education institutions signed court briefs supporting the Harvard-MIT lawsuit. The policy on foreign student visas also received multiple lawsuits from other colleges and states.

Students on F-1 visas have always been prohibited from taking only online classes. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offered a reprieve from these requirements in March, but reversed their decision on July 6, declaring that the prohibition would remain in effect despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to protect students and faculty and prevent campuses from turning into hotspots amidst a recent national surge in cases, many schools, including Harvard and MIT, have transitioned their classes to either online-only or a hybrid model. ICE’s rule on visas meant that millions of students at colleges and universities around the country would have had to either transfer schools or leave the country.

In the lawsuit filed last week, Harvard and MIT asked for a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against the policy, noting that the government had failed to consider the harm it would cause to foreign students or the economic impact it would have on colleges and businesses in the U.S.

Major U.S. businesses and organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Google, and Facebook, also pushed back against the policy in court papers filed in the lawsuit, arguing that “America’s future competitiveness depends on attracting and retaining talented international students.”