Good news, international students won’t have to lose their US visas

Published July 15, 2020, 11:17 AM

by Kerry Tinga

After pressure from top American universities and tech companies, the controversial ICE restriction that would have required many international students to leave the US will now be rescinded

The Trump administration has agreed to rescind the new restrictions on international students announced by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week. 

On Monday, July 6, ICE wrote that international students taking classes exclusively online would not be allowed to remain in the US. Incoming students, meanwhile, would neither be issued visas nor allowed to enter the country. This would affect over one million international students in the US.

The modifications were met with criticism by higher education institutions. Harvard is one of many universities that have announced that they plan to go fully online for the upcoming school year due to the health crisis. The Ivy League institution, along with MIT, jointly filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts seeking to block the directive. The case saw support from over 200 colleges, as well as some of the world’s top tech companies including Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.

Within minutes of the hearing, it was reported that the Trump administration would withdraw the latest ICE directive.

“The ICE directive sought to force each of us to choose between the health of our communities and the education of our international students—a false and dangerous choice which we rejected,” writes Harvard president Larry Bacow in his message to the Harvard community. “In the end, the public overwhelmingly agreed with us, and the government, in response, withdrew its order.”

At a time when this pandemic continues to rage, we must continue to act with vigilance, informed by the best available science and with commitment both to carrying forward the vital enterprise of learning and to safeguarding public health.

Harvard University president Larry Bacow

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which is run by ICE, is said to revert back to its previous modifications announced in March. Due to the sudden shift to online classes during the health crisis, the SEVP gave a temporary exemption to international students, allowing them to take online courses while still allowing them to maintain their non-immigrant student status.

“I decided to study in the US because I want to take advantage of the opportunities and resources that aren’t available in the Philippines,” says Axelle Miel. The valedictorian of Cebu International School is an incoming freshman at Duke University where she has received a full scholarship. “I’m going to apply what I’ve learned abroad to solve our problems back here.”

There are over 3,300 Filipinos currently in the US as international students. Many, like Axelle, seek to learn from world-renowned institutions then come home with a new perspective and give back to the Philippines. 

There are still many other issues that need to be resolved, such as the suspension of visa interviews in the meantime. But the recent news may give aspiring Filipino students hope that around the world student safety is taken seriously.