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Administration Rescinds F-1 Visa Online Learning Directive

July 17, 2020

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Matthew Shick, Sr. Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs

The Trump administration agreed on July 14 to rescind its July 6 directive, released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), prohibiting international students from returning to or remaining in the United States if the institutions they attend adopt online-only instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic [see Washington Highlights, July 10].

The action is in response to a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The AAMC joined 70 higher education associations in a July 13 amicus brief supporting Harvard and MIT in their lawsuit opposing the directive, which would have impacted institutions as they plan for the fall semester. The brief stated, “A mass exodus of international students at this juncture poses obvious and substantial health risks, not only to the displaced students and the communities where they would be sent, but also domestically in light of the significant pressures the Directive puts on colleges and universities to begin in-person classes without regard for circumstances.”

The ICE directive comes on the heels of significant delays in F-1 visa processing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAMC joined higher education organizations on a July 2 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf regarding the backlog of F-1 visas and lack of guidance regarding international students.

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