Harvard, MIT Sue Trump Administration Over New Visa Rule for International Students

July 13, 2020 | United States of America

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have sued the Trump Administration over a rule banning visas for international students taking only online classes this fall. On July 8, 2020, Harvard and MIT filed a lawsuit in a Massachusetts federal court against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) over a rule that would deny visas for international students planning to enroll in online-only courses in the United States during the 2020 fall semester. The rule requires students who are currently in the U.S. on F-1 visas to attend classes in person to remain in the country. If they are currently enrolled in a school that only provides remote classes, they must switch to a school that offers in-person instruction or a combination of online and in-person learning. Students enrolled in only remote coursework will be required to leave the U.Ss or will be deported.

In the lawsuit, Harvard and MIT condemned the agency’s decision as unlawful. They argue that the policy would jeopardize the health and safety of thousands of international students who would either be forced to attend classes in person or travel home. Both situations carry a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. In light of the ongoing threats from COVID-19, Harvard and MIT have both announced that they will offer most, if not all, of their fall 2020 courses online to protect the health and safety of their students, staff, faculty, and communities. Many other schools around the country have taken the same approach.

The lawsuit also indicates that, along with significant health implications, the Trump Administration’s rule would have detrimental economic impacts for Harvard, MIT, and other schools nationwide. Approximately 5,000 international students would be impacted at Harvard and 4,000 would be affected at MIT. Nationwide, over one million international students rely on F-1 visas to study in the United States. In 2019, they comprised approximately 5.5% of the higher education population in the United States. In 2018, international students contributed $44.7 billion to the U.S. economy. Schools nationwide are concerned about the immediate and longer-term financial repercussions that the visa rule would create.

Nearly 60 universities across the United States have filed a court brief supporting Harvard and MIT, including Stanford University and Northeastern University. Collectively, the schools are requesting the policy to be halted permanently and declared invalid.