The arrival of the pandemic and international students
The sudden arrival of the global Coronavirus pandemic affected multiple sectors of society as we know it. On the one hand, countries had to adopt emergency measures to control the massive outbreak, protect the economy and safeguard essential resources. On the other hand, governments also had to implement strategies to protect the employment of local citizens amid quarantines, the health system and boost local businesses in times of crisis.
Controlling COVID-19 is almost impossible since it is a highly contagious virus through human contact, so governments tried to mitigate the impact of the pandemic with the tools they had and save as many lives as possible.
In the US, and many other countries, one of the sectors most affected by the health emergency is education, more specifically international students. Institutions such as colleges, schools and universities had to adopt virtual methodologies to continue with their previously established study periods and guarantee economic stability during the current juncture.
However, since the Trump administration closed the borders to prevent the massive spread of the Coronavirus, international students were unable to enter the US for a considerable period of time and those who already reside in the country are having trouble extending their study or work permits.
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Delays in immigration processes affect international students
Foreigners who complete their studies in the US have the possibility, if they meet mandatory requirements and submit the application on time, to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows them to work in the country in their study areas.
However, since the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) offices closed during the health emergency, immigration processes are substantially delayed and many international students, who applied for OPT, have not received responses to their applications, some of them since 2019.
According to the testimony of several foreign students, there is a constant fear of deportation as they have not been able to renew, extend or change their legal permits due to the current backlog of immigration cases.
Adding to that, they have gone through precarious situations during the pandemic under the presidency of Donald Trump, who tried to restrict their future in the country on the grounds of health emergency.
Let’s look at some important facts:
- In early July 2020, amid the massive Coronavirus outbreak, the Trump administration stated that international students had to attend at least a portion of face-to-face classes during the fall to avoid deportation proceedings.
Clearly, this news sparked a gigantic controversy and dozens of universities came together to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration.
Shortly after proposing it, the Trump administration lifted this restriction during the first court hearing.
- At the end of September 2020, the Trump administration stated that international students from 59 countries could no longer have visas under “duration of status”, but that the USCIS would issue study visas with fixed time period to prevent them from residing in the US after completing their studies.
This rule has not come into force, but there are already multiple legal complaints from recognized universities, critics and experts, who state that international students are absolutely necessary in times of crisis.
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