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US Backtracks on Decision to Revoke Foreign Students’ Visas

The United States (US) government under the administration of President Donald Trump backtracks on her decision to revoke visas of foreign students receiving online classes after much uproar.

US Halts Revocation of Foreign Student's Visa
President of the United States (US), Donald Trump

On Tuesday, the Trump administration bowed to pressure from universities, Silicon Valley and 20 states and set aside the plan to strip international college students of their visas if they did not attend at least some classes in person.

The policy, which would have subjected foreign students to deportation if they did not show up for class on campus, had thrown the higher education world into turmoil at a time when universities are grappling with whether to reopen campuses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The loss of international students could have cost universities millions of dollars in tuition and jeopardized the ability of U.S. companies to hire highly skilled workers who often start their careers with American education.

Two days after the policy was announced on July 6, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed the first of a litany of lawsuits seeking to block it.

In addition to Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the attorneys general of 20 states, including Massachusetts and California, also sued, charging that the policy was reckless, cruel and senseless. Scores of universities threw their support behind the litigation, along with organizations representing international students.

In court filings, universities said that some arriving students already had been barred from entering the country by immigration officials at airports who told them that their institutions were going online.

The pressure grew on Monday, when more than a dozen technology companies, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, also came out in support of the lawsuit, arguing that the policy would harm their businesses. Then on Tuesday, 15 Republican members of Congress signed a letter urging the Trump administration to restore its previous policy on international students.

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On Tuesday, minutes before a federal judge in Boston was to hear arguments on their challenge, the judge, Allison D. Burroughs, announced that the administration had agreed to rescind the policy and allow international students to remain in the country even if they are taking all their classes online.

Representative Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican who had organized the letter, applauded the Trump administration’s “right decision” to cancel its plan. “These hardworking students are the best and brightest from their countries, and they help our communities grow both culturally and economically,” he said.

University officials also applauded the decision of the US government to rescind its earlier policy on student’s visa and warned that they would be prepared to go back to court should the administration make any further moves to restrict the ability of international students to study online when necessary.

An analysis of the government’s earlier order by Moody’s Analytics found that it could have had a serious economic impact. According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, three jobs are created for every seven international students. In the 2019-20 school year, there were over 1 million international students enrolled in the United States, which would translate to almost half a million jobs. “ICE’s policy would put many of those positions at risk,” Moody’s Analytics said.

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