DHS and ICE Rescind Policy Barring International Students Taking Online Courses


UPDATED: July 14, 2020, at 6:30 p.m.

The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have agreed to rescind a policy that would bar international students taking online-only courses from residing in the United States, District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs announced at a hearing on Tuesday.

ICE will revert to the guidance it issued in March that allows students taking online courses to reside in the United States on F-1 visas, and it will rescind any implementation of the policy.

Burroughs said the parties had agreed to a resolution less than five minutes into a hearing for the case Harvard and MIT filed last week asking the courts to bar DHS and ICE from enforcing the policy. The universities drew support from hundreds of peer institutions, dozens of cities and states, and student organizations.


Since the agencies announced the policy, it created significant issues for international students. In a hearing last week, Harvard’s lawyers cited the case of an incoming Harvard sophomore stopped at the airport in Minsk, Belarus due to the new guidelines. Other students also filed declarations in the case attesting to the challenges the policy would have posed.

In an email to affiliates on Tuesday, University President Lawrence S. Bacow wrote that he was “delighted” by the withdrawal of the policy.

“This is a significant victory. The directive had disrupted all of American higher education,” Bacow wrote. “I have heard from countless international students who said that the July 6 directive had put them at serious risk. These students – our students — can now rest easier and focus on their education, which is all they ever wanted to do.”

Bacow acknowledged that the government could issue a new directive of the same nature — a possibility that reporters attributed to senior officials in the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday.

“While the government may attempt to issue a new directive, our legal arguments remain strong and the Court has retained jurisdiction, which would allow us to seek judicial relief immediately to protect our international students should the government again act unlawfully,” Bacow wrote.

He wrote that in light of the ruling, he expects the school year to “proceed as we have carefully planned.”

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.