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US changes student visa rules – again!

In July we reported that US federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) had ‘rescinded’ its earlier ban on international students following online courses. Days later, immigration lawyers began reporting that US Customs and Border Protection staff overseas were refusing to allow visa-holding students to board US flights unless they could prove their courses were a hybrid of online and face-to-face.

On 24 July, ICE flip-flopped again, stating that they would not issue any new student visas for university courses taught online. Even if this new ban is rescinded it will mean little if students can’t get visas or even attend a mandatory interview for a visa at a US consulate, which only slowly started reopening on 15 July.

Meanwhile, as figures for coronavirus infections have begun to soar across the US, this has prompted many universities to postpone plans to deliver more ‘hands-on’ courses, such as film studies, face-to-face from September.

Most universities will now start the academic year with courses still online. Most first-year international students will join courses online from their home countries, often facing a time zone difference of 11 hours.

US student visa policy developments are now so rapid and chaotic that this article is probably out of date by the time you read it.

Image courtesy of Ron
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Matt Salusbury
Matt Salusbury
MATT SALUSBURY, news editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also joint Chair of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor, most recently at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.
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