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Why foreign college students are worried about their US education

Foreign college students in the US are worried right now, and for good reason.

As if the COVID-19 crisis in the states couldn’t get any worse, now international students are facing the possibility of being deported.

And for those who have already returned home, they may not be allowed back into the country. This frightening reality comes into play as a result of recent changes the Trump Administration made to student visas in the past few days.

These new changes won’t just devastate the livelihoods of international students. They will also negatively impact universities and create a logistical nightmare for many people to deal with.

Here’s how ICE’s changes could harshly impact students and universities alike, and what some institutions are doing to combat it.

Foreign college students are worried

For many students, their college experience is a key part of their life, and this arguably is especially the case with those coming from abroad.

Leaving one’s home country to spend an extended period of time abroad is a big adjustment to get used to, especially if one is studying there for four years, or more if they’re getting a graduate education.

Despite the adjustment, it’s usually an experience many look forward to. It’s a chance to explore a new place and culture, a chance to learn and connect with others, a chance to enrich one’s own life.

This has all been upended by the COVID-19 crisis, and the new changes to international student visas are only making things worse.


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I was recently given the space in a class to speak about what is happening with SEVP and ICE. I was encouraged to turn that speech into an open letter that that is what I did. You can read the full letter through the link in my bio, but these are some key quotes I wanted to pull from the entire post. I am aware that this is one side of a very complicated story, one that is unique to every international student. However, often we do not have the chance to speak about these experiences as a result of many factors. Especially to my American friends, if you’ve never had this discussion with your international friends I encourage you to give this a read. Thank you. #protectinternationalstudents #sevpupdate #openletter @intlbruins @ucla_isr @uclapresident @ucla.evp

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International students already face troubles in university such as worrying about the cost of their education, their immigration status, and life after graduation, all in addition to everything else most university students juggle.

Many international students have expressed their concern via social media over the de facto travel ban that is essentially in place for them.

Without international students, the US will be deprived of individuals who bring their skills and experiences to this country. To some, the university they study at is practically their permanent residence, and they visit their home country typically just over winter and summer breaks.

The changes ICE made for international student visa holders is doing more than just depriving them of their education. For some, it’s depriving them of a home.


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I had a pit in my stomach all day today and was holding back tears after reading so many articles online. As a fellow international living the the U.S., I am used to working hard to earn my place here, despite the odds being against me. I cannot begin to imagine what it would feel like to be forced to leave the U.S. without the degree you have invested so much time, energy and money into pursuing. This new ruling by ICE is DISTURBING, and I highly encourage you all to read through the articles in my story to find out why. The new rulings of the Trump administration towards hardworking internationals are not helping the American people like they claim it is. Please read why, and if you are American, PLEASE GO VOTE. Vote for people (like me) who don’t get a say in what happens to them in this country.🌟 #ProtectInternationalStudents . . A little heavy for #10daysofcreativity but it needed to be said❤️

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How these new changes work

The changes ICE plans to make for international students are related to their visas and temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The US grants these students either an F-1 visa or an M-1 visa. An F-1 visa is given to those who are attending any academic institution, seminary, conservatory, or language program. Most international students have this type of visa. M-1 visas meanwhile are given to those typically in vocational or technical schools.

These changes for visa holders include:

Students with F-1 and M-1 visas will not be allowed re-entry into the US if they’re taking a full course load that is entirely online.

These students also cannot remain in the country, or they may face immigration consequences that even include being deported. These students can remain in the country if they enter a program that has at least some in-person instruction.

F-1 students who are in courses that are all in-person can stay in the country and are bound by existing federal regulations. However, they can only take a maximum one course or three credit hours of online courses.

Students who enrolled in programs that use a hybrid of in-person and online teaching can also stay in the country as well as take more than one online course.

Their institutions must also fill out the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.”

This doesn’t apply to F-1 students in language training programs or M-1 students, as M-1 visa holders are prohibited from taking online courses.

These policies can be found in full on the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s website.

With most institutions transitioning into online teaching to keep students safe from the pandemic, an immense amount of international students are at risk.

The most cruel part of all this: students are forced to choose between potentially exposing themselves to coronavirus through in-person courses or to sacrifice their education and leave the country.

The impact of Trump’s policies on students and universities>

Not only will the Trump administration’s policies impact the lives of countless students, but it will also create logistical nightmares for them and the universities. 

Students would have to adapt to doing coursework scheduled around US timezones, all while in their own country’s respective timezone. For students from Europe, that can mean they’re up to 5-8 hours ahead of some US timezones. As for those in Asia and Australia, they’re typically at least 12 hours ahead, if not more. 

One also needs to consider factors such as access to the internet and technology. Unfortunately, not everyone around the world has readily available access to these.

Some students may even be taking courses in the US which they normally can’t learn in their home country. This would make learning their coursework online and abroad even more difficult. 

International students are also vital parts of university student populations. They generally make up a decent portion of many universities’ enrollments. Some institutions can have up to 30-40 percent of their student population be international students.

Universities have already suffered immensely due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it is likely admissions in the coming semesters will be down because of it. Depriving institutions of such a large population of students will likely be another devastating blow to them.

Not just in regards to funding, but also in terms of their diversity and community. International individuals in general also play a key role in this country’s economy.

International students are so much more than just a statistic or economic benefit for universities or even this country. They also bring their diverse background and experiences to their institutions. As they seek to learn here, we can also learn from them about their global perspectives.

In this time where many are divided, it’s essential that we reach out to those who can share their range of experiences with us. Connecting with others and their cultures does more than just foster better communication. It better informs people’s global perspectives as a whole.

Universities are not happy

In the wake of ICE’s new policies, many universities are rising up in defense of their students. Most significantly, Harvard and MIT filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for these new changes. 

Not only that, but institutions around the country are helping out in this effort by filing amicus curiae briefs. These are documents filed by parties not involved in the lawsuit that help to provide insight and expertise. In this case, it’s these universities’ way of making their voices heard and supporting their international students. 

With these new changes announced by the Trump administration, international students are having their education, their livelihood, and in some cases, even their homes threatened to be ripped away from them.

A country providing a visa for someone to study there is arguably a commitment. It’s an unspoken agreement that not only will the student diligently pursue their education there to the best of their ability, but that the country will also accommodate them and their efforts to do so. 

These changes to student visa-holders break that agreement, and it threatens to destroy much of what these people hold dear.

If you are an international student or want to help them remain in the US, here are some resources and petitions to view: