After being met with a slew of lawsuits and backlash from hundreds of universities, the Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a rule issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would have revoked international university students’ visas in the case of an online-only semester.
The now-rescinded regulations, handed down July 6, prohibited F-1 students — those in an academic program — and M-1 students — those in a vocational program — attending schools operating entirely online from entering or remaining in the U.S. if they were to take a fully online course load. The policies initially raised concerns among the international student community at the University, adding to the uncertainty they were already facing about the fall.
The directive prompted a lawsuit from Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology against the ICE — the court briefs for which garnered backing from over 200 higher education institutions, including many public universities. The University did not sign an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit.
19 attorneys general, including Virginia’s Mark Herring, also filed a suit Monday against the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement seeking an injunction against the White House’s regulation.
“Today’s win is great news for Virginia’s schools, our students, and our communities, and stands as a reminder that when you stand up to bullies, they tend to back down,” Herring said in a Tuesday statement.
Wes Hester, director of media relations and deputy spokesperson for the University, told The Cavalier Daily that U.Va. is in support of rescinding the policy and had provided materials to support Herring's filing.
"The University supports the decision to rescind this policy, which would have added tremendous uncertainty to an already difficult situation for international students at U.Va. and institutions all over the country," Hester wrote in an email statement. "We thank the many members of the [U.Va.] community who spoke out against this proposal and the harm it would cause to the international students who contribute so much to our University."
In an email to international students last week, University President Jim Ryan and Provost Liz Magill committed to providing some amount of in-person instruction to all international students to avoid visa jeopardization.
More than 13,500 international students currently study in Virginia. At the University, there were a total of 2,968 enrolled international students and OPT visa holders in 2018-2019, along with 566 visiting scholars and 147 exchange students representing 135 countries, according to a 2018-2019 report from the International Studies Office.
The DHS and ICE will return to prior guidance they issued in March that allowed international students with F-1 and M-1 visas to take classes online for the duration of the emergency.
This article has been updated with a statement from the University.