International students on F-1 and M-1 visas will not be permitted to stay in the United States or re-enter if their schools will be operating fully online in the fall.

This announcement made by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency came as a surprise to many as they announced its modifications to temporary exemptions for non-immigrant students on Monday.

The temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester outlined that international students currently enrolled in a school operating fully online must transfer to a school that offers in-person classes to remain in lawful status. If students are unable to meet this requirement, they will be required to leave the country.

“If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” ICE said.

These modifications however do not affect students taking classes in person or students taking hybrid courses (a mixture of online and in-person classes), once their university certifies the student’s program is not completely online.

Also, M-1 vocational program students and F-1 English language training program students will not be allowed to take any classes online.

This announcement made due to the coronavirus pandemic has upended months of planning as universities and college boards navigated how to safely reopen their campuses this fall; they are now left with more to consider.

No official statement has been released from St. Francis College on the matter as of yet, however an email addressed to international students on Tuesday from the Assistant Director of International Student Programs and Services, Grayson Savoie, stated that SFC International and the entire institution at St. Francis College are currently figuring out what their next steps will be for the enrollment of international students this fall semester.

Harvard University, which announced it would hold all classes online for the 2020-2021 academic year, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, two of the most elite universities in the U.S., filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday asking for an emergency restraining order on the policy issued.

Harvard and MIT are the first to challenge the policy that threatens all international students in the United States if their schools’ transition to fully online learning.

“We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students – and international students at institutions across the country – can continue their studies without the threat of deportation,” Harvard President Lawrence Bacow wrote in a statement addressed to the Harvard community.

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