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Trump administration to suspend visas for international students enrolled in online-only programs

Students with nonimmigrant F-1 visas, who make up one-fourth of USC's population, will need to depart the U.S. or transfer to an in-person institution.

International students in fully online programs must depart the United States this fall, the Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP) announced Monday.

The U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made several exemptions for nonimmigrant students regarding the upcoming semester. These include barring students in online programs from staying in the U.S., allowing those whose schools are operating on a hybrid model to take more than their allotted maximum of one class (three credit hours) online and granting students at in-person institutions the opportunity to take one class online.

According to the statement, international students in online programs must transfer to an institution that offers in-person classes if they want to keep their nonimmigrant F-1 status. An “F” visa includes students attending a university, high school or other academic institution. These students are offered conditional privileges such as working on campus.

This comes a week after USC announced 80-90% of its undergraduate courses will be conducted remotely for the fall semester.

In Fall 2019, USC reported that 25.4% of its student body was composed of international students. The university sent a letter to incoming international students on June 24 detailing the process for eligibility to begin their studies, which included instructions for obtaining a student visa, registering for classes, living in on-campus housing and traveling to USC.

According to current Los Angeles County regulations, students coming from China, Brazil and most European countries need to self-quarantine in an “approved” country for two weeks, then self-quarantine for an additional two weeks when they arrive in the U.S. before they are legally allowed to enter campus. Students from China make up nearly half of USC’s international student population, and many are debating whether returning to campus in the fall is logistically and financially worth the risk.

USC has not yet announced the modality for graduate-level courses — each school must individually create and communicate a plan for resuming graduate programs to their students.

If universities switch their in-person courses to online later in the semester, they must update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).