International students who are pursuing degrees in the United States will have to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only courses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made this announcement in a statement on Monday night.
“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.
“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,” the ICE said.
“If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
ICE said the State Department “will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will US Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.”
According to the Institute of International Education, there were more than one million international students in the United States for the 2018-19 academic year.
This accounted for 5.5 per cent of the total US higher education population and international students contributed $44.7 billion to the US economy in 2018.
The largest number of international students came from China, followed by India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.