International Students in US Colleges May Be Forced Home, New ICE Guidance Says

Jul 6, 2020
6:49 PM

The Alma Mater in front of the Low Memorial Library, Columbia University (Photo by Meihe Chen/CREDIT)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released new guidance limiting international students’ ability to stay in the United States this fall.

International students whose colleges and universities opt to move classes completely online for the upcoming semester will not be allowed to stay in the country, according to ICE.

Students who are abroad won’t be permitted to return to the U.S. if their schools choose to move to a remote format, and those international students who are still in the U.S. will need to either return home or transfer to another school that offers in-person instruction.

The guidance, which is from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), comes as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is reaching new records. Many countries have put travel restrictions in place to minimize visitors from the U.S., the country that has been hardest hit by COVID-19.

The guidance may be challenged in court, according to immigration experts.

International students who are not in the U.S. and whose schools are going completely online won’t be issued new visas and won’t be able to enter the country. While the guidance isn’t yet enacted, many people looking to travel to the U.S. are already having trouble scheduling visa appointments at consulates.

“I was expecting [the Trump administration] to do this in a different way, which is to continue to choke the ability to apply for visas at the consulates abroad,” immigration lawyer Matthew Kolken said. “This is more definitive and is more forward-thinking because it would require a subsequent administration to publish new regulations in order to undo this.”

The new regulation comes on the heels of multiple immigration restrictions that have been put in place since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

President Trump is also expected to begin attempts to end the DACA program once again this week.

College students, faculty, and others expressed shock and anger on Twitter this afternoon:

Democratic politicians also weighed in:


Ana Lucía Murillo is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. and the 2020 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She tweets from @analuciamur