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The US Abruptly Drops New Visa Rules for International Students

The Federal District Court Judge Allison Dale Burroughs in Massachusetts announced today that the government and the plaintiffs had resolved a lawsuit brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

After facing blowback and lawsuits, the U.S Administration revoked the plan announced last week by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), where the international students would not be allowed to stay in the country if they only attend online classes this fall. The exemption for online courses was made as a temporary exemption through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) due to COVID-19.

University leaders and immigrant advocates called the new policy cruel and reckless, with several education groups saying they planned to join the legal battle. The dispute escalated on Wednesday when Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) filed a pleading against the administration in federal court seeking to block and requesting the court to protect international students from taking in-person classes during the pandemic. They ask for a temporary restraining order preventing the government from enforcing the policy alleged to be a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 706. They also said that the July 6 Directive is arbitrary and capricious because it fails to offer any reasoned basis that could justify the policy and violates the APA’s requirement of notice-and-comment rule-making.

The reversal comes in the face of heavy criticism from higher education institutions and lawmakers, who argued that the new rules would be disruptive to students and undermine their opportunities and the value of their education—further, seventeen states and the District of Columbia joined the lawsuit against the administration. Today, Federal Judge Allison D. Burroughs announced during a brief hearing at Boston’s federal courthouse that the federal government abruptly dropped its plans.

Thousands of students were anxiously waiting on the decision and expressed fear for their safety. The universities alleged that this order would increase the loss of significant revenue, damage the universities economically, and consequently, all the economy for the cities that depend on the campus lifestyle if the students did not renew or lose their visas. The White House declined to comment. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency did not immediately return a request for comment.

If you have any questions regarding your student visa, extension, or immigration status, please contact our office. We are happy to provide free initial consultations for any immigration legal assistance.

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