Beloit College condemns ICE ruling that would put foreign students at risk of losing visa

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BELOIT, Wis. (WTVO) — Beloit College President Scott Bierman issued a letter Wednesday condemning a recent federal ruling which could put foreign students at risk of losing their visas.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) is warning foreign students against taking a full load of online classes next month, even as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beginning this fall, non-immigrant students here on F-1 and M-1 visas can take no more than one class online at a college or university unless the class has an in-person component, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

Those who do will be out of compliance and may be placed in removal proceedings. Those whose schools offer only the online curriculum must depart the country or transfer to schools with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status, ICE posted Monday in its website.

“The Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester, nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States,” ICE stated.

The agency had made exceptions to this requirement during the late spring and summer sessions.

Foreign students can still take more than three credit hours of “hybrid” courses — which offer some lessons online but require physical presence for others. However, ICE requires schools to certify the student through Form I-20, which attests not only that the program isn’t exclusively online but also that the student is taking the hours required to make progress toward his or her degree.

F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursing vocational degrees aren’t permitted to enroll in any online courses at all.

On Wednesday, Bierman wrote: “In the midst of a global pandemic, we need every available option to ensure individual and community health. Period. The ICE ruling leaves us needlessly faced with decisions that compromise the health of our students and the quality of their education.

“We are fortunate that our Office of International Education is sophisticated in navigating these waters and completely committed to the success of our international students. And, OIE has willing partners all around the college: our faculty and staff are fully invested in realizing the mission of the college through delivering an education that is accessible to all students.

“We will support our international students through this moment in all the ways we can. This will include ensuring that the hybrid approach we take this fall allows for sufficient in-person classes to enable international students to comply with the new guidance.”

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