A clear answer isn’t always the one you want to hear.
That’s the lesson of the latest student-visa policy guidance
, released Friday by the Department of Homeland Security. After federal officials had withdrawn an earlier policy in the face of court challenges, colleges had urged
the publication of an updated FAQ that would state that all students, both new and continuing, be permitted to come to the U.S. to study this fall, regardless of whether their classes are in-person, hybrid, or online. Instead, DHS clarified that new students won’t be allowed into the country if their classes are wholly online. (It also affirmed that if colleges switch to remote learning midsemester, students in the U.S. will be permitted to stay, a more welcome piece of news.)
In short, the resolution of the Harvard-MIT court case was a victory for some international students but not for others. There are now effectively two student-visa policies.
Sarah Spreitzer, director of government relations for the American Council on Education, said it was disappointing that the new guidance did not give students greater flexibility for fall, given the uncertainty they face. While students can take remote classes from their home countries doing so could be difficult because of time differences, connectivity problems, and local censorship, she said.
At the moment, just 12 percent of colleges will be all-online, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education tracker
. But that list grows longer daily, as colleges that had planned for face-to-face teaching walk it back
. And in a number of states, governors have yet to give the go-ahead for campuses to reopen, no matter colleges’ plans. This raises the possibility that a new student could apply for a visa for in-person or hybrid study, only to have her college shift to remote learning before classes even begin. What then? It might be better not to ask.
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