International students studying at universities in Louisiana were recently faced with a troubling situation regarding their statuses in the United States. The problem was that an immigration policy would have forced some of those students to return to their home countries. Although the policy has since been rescinded, there is still a lot of uncertainty about how these students will navigate the upcoming school year.
Student visas generally require international students to enroll in in-person classes if they want to stay in the country. In March 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — ICE — announced that students would be allowed to stay even if they only took classes online. In July 2020, they withdrew that reprieve and told online international students that they could either enroll in in-person classes or return to their home countries.
ICE commented on the policy again in early July 2020 and said that they would begin enforcing this rule for international students. As more and more universities shift toward an online model for many of their classes, this would have forced many students out of the country. There was also concern that ICE’s policy was an attempt to force universities to shift back toward a primarily in-person model. ICE reversed their decision a week later.
For the time being, international students who are completing their studies online are allowed to stay in the U.S. However, with so many immigration policy changes — many of them involving quick reversals — it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Some Louisiana students might not even be sure where to turn for help. In general, speaking with an experienced immigration attorney can yield reliable information.