DHS revokes rule that prevented international students from taking only online classes


Featured photo by Vladislav Klapin on Unsplash

Pavithra Rajesh

This story will be updated periodically. Last updated: July 15

On July 14, the Department of Homeland Security reversed the previous announcement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that barred international students from staying in the U.S. if their classes for the fall semester were completely online.

The decision came shortly after a lawsuit against the implementation of the directive, led by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that was filed in Boston federal court only two days after the original ICE statement was released. Coupled with a multi-state lawsuit with the same purpose, both of which Northeastern University supported, pressure mounted on the administration, ultimately resulting in abandoning the rule that would have required all international students to either enroll in some in-person classes or leave the U.S.

“We opposed this rule because we believe that global diversity is one of our greatest strengths – both here at Northeastern and throughout the United States,” wrote President Aoun in an email to the international student community. Northeastern had already planned a hybrid system for the fall semester that would include in-person classes, preventing their international students from having to leave the country under the rule. However, students were still concerned about what would have happened if Northeastern had to switch to completely online courses in the middle of the semester.

In a statement from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Executive Director and CEO Dr. Esther D. Brimmer wrote, “While this is a positive outcome, we cannot ignore the damage inflicted by the perception of the July 6 guidance – the administration was willing, until this guidance was rescinded, to force international students to choose between maintaining legal immigration status and what is best for their health and safety.”

While the reversal means that international students in the U.S. who are already enrolled in U.S. universities can stay in the country, even if their classes are all online, not all students may be safe yet. According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the administration could still issue a modified policy that would apply to newly enrolling students at universities that are not planning to have any in-person classes this fall, preventing them from acquiring the required visas to travel to the U.S.

The Office of Global Services at Northeastern will update their FAQ page with expected updated guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program in the coming days. Students are encouraged to regularly check the FAQ page for any updates.