International students not allowed to take online courses

International students not allowed to take online courses

The current US administration overnight came out with a rule that students who attend online classes at US universities will be in violation of their student status. Universities went online due to the pandemic and to safeguard students, faculty and staff. However, the government now says that international students cannot attend these online courses and if the university is fully online, international students have to leave the US. Now, if these students are about to graduate and they leave the US, for even a semester, they have to get a new visa to enter and they would not qualify for working in the US after graduation, if they have not been full time students for at least one academic year.


Harvard and MIT are suing the US government and are asking for this new rule to be immediately repealed.


What can students do during this time? They can apply for a leave of absence and stay in their home countries for 1 semester or 1 year and then go back when things improve. Or they can take hybrid classes with some courses online and some courses in person, if their university offers this option.


And does this affect students who are entering the US for the first time? No, as long as the classes are hybrid, students who are entering the US for the first time will not be affected by this new rule.


For students who are graduating in a semester, things are complicated. To qualify for OPT, you must be enrolled with the academic institution for at least 1 year. Hence, if your institution is offering online courses only, you would have to delay your graduation by taking additional universities.


Why has the US come up with this rule? There are two reasons – one to force universities to stay open for the next semester and not move online. And second to make sure that international students who are taking online only classes do not work full time. In either case, this rule adds to the suffering of international students in the US and needs to repealed as soon as possible.

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