San Diego

Online Course Schedules Put International Students at Risk of Deportation

ICE's new guidelines say that international students enrolled in all online courses in the fall semester could risk being deported

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International students who are set to take their entire course load online this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic must leave the United States, according to new rules announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Varun is an international student from India at a law school in San Diego. He's entering his final year and has invested almost $80,000 into his education, but now he's in jeopardy of having to leave the country if he doesn't take a sufficient number of in-person classes this fall semester.

"My entire life could go down the drain, my education, my two years brow beating myself to study the law, to follow the law, to pay attention to the law, to be aware of what is happening, all goes down the drain. It's kaput and at that point it's three years to get nothing? Not even a degree?" he said.

Studies show there are approximately 1 million international students studying at American higher education institutions. They contributed more than $40 billion to the U.S. economy and were responsible for more than 458,000 jobs in the 2018 academic year.

"The economic figures that you cite are vitally important. They are important not only to the campuses in terms of tuition dollars that international students pay, but that figure also constitutes the living expenses of international students and so that has a direct impact on the local economy," said Rachel Banks from the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers.

The ICE announcement also states that schools who change their teaching methods halfway through a semester and go to all online classes must notify their international students within 10 days of the change. Those international students will either have to take medical leave, reduce their course load, transfer schools or leave the country. ICE allowed international students an exception this spring semester to take all their classes online.

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