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ICE bars newly enrolled international students who take all online classes from entering US



New U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidance bars newly enrolled international students from entering the United States for the Fall semester if they take only online classes. 

In a July 24 news release, ICE clarified that their policy granting visa flexibility to international students taking a fully virtual course load—put in place because of COVID-19—applies only to those who were actively enrolled in a U.S. school on March 9. International students who are already in the United States but who are starting new “programs of study” qualify as active students.

“Incoming international students who are enrolled in a Duke program of study that is fully online for the Fall 2020 semester will NOT be able to enter the United States,” Executive Vice Provost Jennifer Francis wrote in a Saturday message to international students.

Newly enrolled international students will only be granted visas to come to the United States if their Fall course load includes at least one in-person or hybrid class. However, if their school shifts to fully remote learning later in the semester, new international students will be allowed to remain in the country, according to guidance issued the same day as the news release.

Duke currently plans to offer in-person, hybrid and online classes for the fall semester for undergraduate students, while graduate and professional programs will be online-only or hybrid. Incoming international students who are able to register for at least one hybrid class will be able to secure visas under the new guidelines. 

“Incoming international students planning to come to the United States should contact their advisor or program director as soon as possible if they are not able to register for at least one in-person or hybrid course for the Fall 2020 semester,” Francis wrote. 

The first registration window for Fall 2020 courses, for graduate and professional students,  opens Aug. 3.

Some incoming international undergraduate students may have to move into on-campus housing before registering for Fall classes, as first-year and sophomore residential students are scheduled to arrive on campus starting Aug. 6. Sophomores register for classes on Aug. 7 and 10 and first-year students on Aug. 11 and 12. 

Although Duke announced Sunday that only first-years, sophomores and select juniors and seniors will live on campus in the Fall, students living in nearby off-campus housing are still eligible to enroll in in-person or hybrid classes.

The ICE news release came 10 days after ICE and the Department of Homeland Security rescinded a similar policy that would have applied to all international students. They walked back the previous policy after Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology brought a lawsuit over it, which Duke joined an amicus brief in support of. 

Given the changes to the visa policy over the last month, Duke is continuing to monitor further developments, with undergraduate classes slated to start Aug. 17

“As we have seen, this is a constantly changing set of circumstances so we are paying very close attention to it and will advise students as soon as we see any changes that might impact them,” Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations, wrote in a Monday email to The Chronicle.

The original policy sparked significant resistance from colleges and universities across the country, including Duke.

“In this uncertain moment, we are committed to providing our international students the opportunity to begin and complete their education at Duke—because we believe that it aligns with our mission to train leaders for the global community, because we recognize the vitality that a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds brings to our campus, and because we seek to foster a welcoming community of learners that reflects the shared challenges and aspirations [of] our increasingly connected world,” President Vincent Price wrote in a July 7 statement in response to ICE’s initial decision.


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