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International students share their reactions to online course exemptions from ICE, Student Exchange Visitor Program

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 9:10 PM CDT
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LINCOLN PARISH, La. (KNOE) - Many international students now feel like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place with the future of online classes.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program announced Monday that nonimmigrant students would not be allowed to take a full online course load and remain in the U.S.

“What if Grambling does get a wave of COVID again and they shut down school and they make it full time, do we get deported?” Said Grambling State Student Jeunice Maximé who is from Trinidad and Tobago.

Maximé is a December 2020 graduating senior pursuing a Kinesiology degree with a concentration in Leisure Studies.

She says she will be able to remain in the U.S. thanks to her internship in the fall which will grant her 12 credit hours; however, she realizes other students aren’t as lucky.

“If I went to a different school that could’ve been me, that could’ve been me getting sent home. That could’ve been me not wanting to go to school anymore and giving up on a dream,” Maximé said.”

According to the Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement website, students must adapt to the following or they will need to transfer to another institution or risk their visa not being renewed, thus leading to deportation.

Temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester include:

  • Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.
  • Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.
  • Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in-person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” certifying that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. The above exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursuing vocational degrees, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.

She’s wasn’t the only one who was shocked by the announcement. LA Tech graduating senior Breno Yamada Riquieri, who is from Brazil, said he feels like he has a tough choice to make.

“[I have] a quarter left until I graduate and don’t really want to think about transferring so if I have to do that I might just go back to my home country because I don’t want to risk having to stay here longer than I have to,” he said.

Yamada Riquieri is pursuing a Computer Science Degree and is also scheduled to graduate in the fall.

He said he feels like online courses are the safest option due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, but he’s advocating for in-person classes for the sake of his education and health.

“If I have to go back to my home country I’ll be breaking quarantine and that will be a little not safe for me,” he said.

Grambling State University announced they will be doing hybrid courses in the fall. That means students will have half in-person and half online courses depending on the curriculum. LA Tech and ULM announced they will be doing a combination of in-person and online courses in the fall as well.

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