The Federal Lawsuit filed by Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to stop the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing guidelines saw positive results following the dissent from the education communities. The Directive, however, was withdrawn by US Immigration and Custom Enforcement, which initially prohibited currently enrolled International students from taking an all-online course load in the fall. Harvard University in its recent announcement said that International first-year students will not be able to come to the campus due to federal visa restrictions.

On July 21, addressing the current students, Harvard Dean, Rakesh khurana, wrote that the reversal of the directive does not apply to the newly admitted international students requiring F-1 sponsorship. The guidelines issued by the ICE in March allowed currently enrolled International students to continue online, but it did not change the regulation to address new students.

According to ICE, “F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken online or through distance education and does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class”.

The possibility of offering courses in-person or through hybrid model that includes in-person instruction as a way to help first year international students to obtain F-1 visa was also explored, but was concluded not to be a suitable alternative said Khurana.

The prolonged travel bans, the unpredictability of current Government policies and the uncertainty of the Covid-19 crisis has jeopardize the path for International students’ ability to enter or leave the United States in the future. The current move from the Harvard makes more sense because it protects the International students from the possibility of coming to the United States only to be asked to return to their home country when local travel restrictions might make that impossible.

Harvard’s first-year International students have a choice of taking their course remotely online from home or choose to defer. The university has extended the deadlines for deferral for first-year international students to July 31 and has guaranteed all International first-year students housing when they can come to campus safely.

The International first-year students are now faced with a difficult situation. Will more universities from US follow the suit? Let’s wait & hope that things get better as Covid-19 situation eases.


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