Coronavirus continues to impact the higher education sector and international students. In a recent announcement, a Dean of Harvard informed first-year international students they will not be able to come to Harvard this fall, due to the immigration rules on online education, imposed by the Trump administration.
A week prior, a Harvard and MIT lawsuit, convinced the administration to remove the guidance which would affect returning international students negatively. However, incoming international students will not be allowed to enter the country, since course instruction is fully-online. The Harvard announcement ensured all students that they will be supported throughout this challenging time.
“Despite the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division’s decision to withdraw the directive that would have prohibited currently enrolled international students in the United States from taking an all-online course load this fall, this reversal does not apply to our newly admitted international students who require F-1 sponsorship,” wrote Harvard Dean Rakesh Khurana.
“At present, any incoming student who received a Form I-20 to begin their studies this fall will be unable to enter the U.S. in F-1 status as course instruction is fully remote,” he added. Due to the “unpredictability of current government policies and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis,” Harvard has concluded that options, such as hybrid models of teaching, which include some in-person instruction, cannot be made possible.
According to ICE regulations:
“For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken on-line or through distance education and does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.”
Currently, incoming Harvard students are faced with two different options. They can either start their classes from home or defer the start of their time at Harvard. The deadline of deferral for first-year international students has been deferred to July 31, in order to provide students with the necessary time to make the right decision, something that is currently quite challenging.
“If you choose to defer, Harvard will guarantee all international, first-year students housing when we are able to welcome you to campus safely,” Harvard Dean admitted.
The Harvard announcement also mentions the University is collaborating with members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, with hopes of extending the online exemption to students who have just been admitted and maintaining this flexibility for as long as the public health emergency lasts. However, the University does not foresee any change to the policy in time for the upcoming fall semester.