On July 6, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced temporary exemptions for non-immigrant students taking online courses during the Fall 2020 semester. Through the Department of Homeland Security, they announced that visas will not be issued to students on F-1 and M-1 visas if they are enrolled in schools/programs that are fully online for the Fall 2020 semester.
These students will not be allowed to enter the country. Students that are already in the country and whose school has chosen to move all classes online are required to depart the country. If they wish to stay in the country they must “take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.”
Like many countries, the U.S. has placed limits on who can enter the country in response to COVID-19, but banning lawful residents from entering the country or forcing them to leave would do little to halt the spread of the pandemic. Younger age groups are less likely to die from the new virus, whereas many of these students come from countries that have managed to contain the disease better than certain parts of the US. These students are more likely to interact with their peers and not transmit the virus to older people. It is unlikely they will transmit the virus to relatives, since their relatives are likely to be in different countries.
Some institutions have decided to continue classes as normal or are pursuing a hybrid system. This has little effect on international students. Students on F-1 and M-1 visas that are forced to take all classes online will be losing almost every aspect of their college experience. University is more than sitting in a classroom and taking exams. University students enjoy extracurricular activities, participate in clubs, and, most importantly, meet other people from different backgrounds and life experiences.
Even if all classes have been moved online, students should still be given the opportunity to be with their friends and significant others, especially when such activities were limited during the lockdown. Many of these students participate in internships and/or have part-time jobs that they will be unable to pursue while out of the United States.
Many international students come from wealthy backgrounds. They have the technology and means to work from home, but the same cannot be said about many of the students on scholarships who were given the opportunity to study in the United States. They may not have the same resources to study from their home country (i.e. lack of access to certain websites, lack of funds to purchase laptops and books). The time difference between the U.S. and other countries also makes it impossible for some students to attend some of their direct online courses.
The top priority for everyone at this point should be safety. Instead of banning international students from entering the country altogether, the federal government and the states should look at other methods to prevent the spread of the disease from abroad. For instance, testing should be mandated at ports of entry. Individual states can mandate that anyone entering the country, especially from COVID-19 hotspots, be quarantined for 14 days. Not only will the spread of the disease be better tracked and mitigated, but we will also be able to enjoy the best years of life with our friends from around the world, as tough as these times might be.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.