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US government drops plans to take visas from online-only students



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The Trump administration rescinded federal rules Tuesday that would have stripped visas from international students taking classes entirely online.

As a result of the resolution, thousands of IU international students are no longer under threat of being forced to return home if a coronavirus outbreak forces the university to move instruction online mid-semester.

The agreement was announced during a hearing Tuesday in the federal lawsuit brought against the Trump administration by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. IU signed an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit last week.

According to the Harvard Crimson, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs announced five minutes into the hearing that a resolution between the government and the institutions was made. Government authorities agreed to “return to the status quo” and cancel the new federal guidelines.

The Trump administration faced at least eight federal lawsuits prior to the new agreement, including a multi-state lawsuit filed by 18 states. Numerous universities and technology companies spoke out in opposition to the policy before the agreement was reached.

"During this unprecedented global health crisis, it is imperative that we and other universities retain the flexibility to allow any international student to continue their education — regardless of whether that student is receiving that education online or in-person — without threat of deportation,” IU President Michael McRobbie said in a press release last week.

Harvard and MIT said the policy contradicted a directive issued March 13 telling schools that students could reside in the U.S. on F-1 visas while taking entirely online instruction “for the duration of the emergency.”

The universities also said the policy was issued without justification and without allowing the public to respond, putting it in violation of procedural rules.

Many universities said the policy would have put the health of students and staff in jeopardy by forcing instruction to continue in person. Universities also argued the policy put institutions at risk of financial trouble because many schools rely on international student tuition.

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