International students have become worried as federal immigration authorities notified colleges this week that international students must leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools operate entirely online this fall.
They said the new immigration policy could potentially cost them their visas and they feel stuck between being unnecessarily exposed during the coronavirus pandemic and being able to finish their studies in America.
The students from countries as diverse as India, China and Brazil say they are scrambling to devise plans after federal immigration authorities notification.
If they don’t leave the country, colleges were asked to transfer them to another college if their schools operate entirely online this fall, they said.
Some of the students said they are thinking about returning home or moving to nearby Canada.
Batuhan Mekiker, a Ph.D. student from Turkey studying computer science at Montana State University in Bozeman, said “I’m generating research, I’m doing work in a great economy.”
”If I go to Turkey, I would not have that,” he said. “I would like to be somewhere where my talent is appreciated.”
Mathias, a Seattle-based student, on condition of not using his last name for fear of losing his immigration status, said he is set to sell his car, break his lease, and get his cat Louis permission to fly back to his home in Paris in the next two weeks.
“Everyone’s very worried,” he said adding that “We have our whole lives here.”
Many American universities have come to depend on the revenue from more than 1 million international students, who typically pay higher tuition.
President Donald Trump has insisted that schools and colleges return to in-person instruction as soon as possible — and some universities have accused the administration of issuing the guidelines to force the schools into reopening.
Trump has alleged that schools are being kept closed for political reasons.
Meanwhile, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit this week to block the decision.
The guidance was released the same day Harvard announced it would keep all undergraduate classes online this fall and several graduate schools have said they would as well.
The university says the directive would prevent many of its 5,000 international students from remaining in the U.S.
The University of Southern California sent a letter to students and faculty, saying “It’s deeply troubled by the decision.”
“The policy could negatively impact countless international students,” it said.