Immigration Law

Harvard, MIT sue to stop new rule prohibiting visas for international students taking online courses

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Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday brought a federal lawsuit challenging a COVID-19-related immigration rule, which prohibits visas for international students taking online courses.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts action, filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seeks a temporary restraining order and permanent injunctive relief from enforcing the policy.

Initially, ICE in March announced an emergency exemption that allowed students with nonimmigrant visas to attend remote classes while keeping their visa status, according to the complaint. On July 6 the agency announced it was rescinding the international student exemption.

According to the Harvard Crimson, ICE announced the change shortly after Harvard stated all of its fall classes would be online, and no more than 40% of its undergraduates would live on campus.

At MIT, the university announced July 7 that seniors and a small number students with specific circumstances, including visa status, will be able to be on campus for the fall term.

The ICE decision leaves “hundreds of thousands” of international students with no U.S. education opportunities. And because the fall term is so close, most can’t transfer to universities with in-person classes, Harvard and MIT argue.

“Moreover, for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impracticable, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous,” the complaint states.

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