EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Some Texas colleges say they will work with foreign students to ensure their visas aren’t out of compliance with federal regulations on virtual learning.
The reassurance comes after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SVEP).
The changes did away with exemptions allowed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic so non-immigrant students here on F-1 and M-1 visas could take only online courses. The new rules are in effect for the fall semester.
ICE said the Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.
“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” ICE said a statement posted on the Department of Homeland Security web page Monday.
The University of Texas at El Paso expects to enroll more than 1,400 international students this fall.
“We will work individually with each of them so that their course schedule meets federal requirements for their F-1 visa. We will work with each of them so that they can start or continue progress toward earning their degree,” UTEP said a statement issued in response to the changes ICE announced.
The university urged international students with questions or concerns to contact the Office of International Programs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 915-747-5664.
El Paso Community College (EPCC) officials said they have 200 international students and are reviewing the changes.
“We value the diversity and multiple perspectives they bring into our classrooms,” the college said in a statement. “We will continue to assess the results of these changes and keep our students informed. EPCC is committed to doing everything we can, within the law, to help students move their lives and education forward.”
Migrant advocates on Monday expressed concerns about forcing students to be present in classrooms while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the country. One lawyer, Iliana Holguin of El Paso, said she feared students were being forced to choose between their health and keeping their student visa.