Credit: Jim Ruymen/UPI

International students will be required to leave the country if their schools become online-only.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, numerous schools and universities around the United States were forced to take their classes online, and there is a very real possibility of this continuing into the fall semester. Foreign students come to the US to attend these schools on student visas, but according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, attending online classes may no longer be enough.

ICE announced on Monday that any international student enrolled in a US university that takes their classes online will be required to leave the country. The only way to subvert this new ruling is by attending at least one in-person class. ICE made this decision through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, or SEVP, which is the governing body of student visas that allowed foreign students to remain in the US for online spring and summer courses.

In a public statement, SEVP representatives said that should a foreign student remain in the country without any in-person classes, they could face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

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Those enrolled in fully in-person programs will be permitted to remain in the country, while students participating in hybrid in-person/online courses will need to submit certification that their program is not entirely online. English language courses and certain vocational degrees will not be offering online classes.

While international student enrollment has been down in recent years, with only 269,383 international students registered from 2018 to 2019, the loss of these students could still have an impact on the US economy. In 2018, international students contributed approximately $45 billion to the US economy, according to the US Commerce Department.