ICE says foreign students must take in-person classes to remain in US

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At USC, 25% of the student body is international. Now ICE says international students must return to their native countries if they don’t take some in-person courses this fall. Photo by Amy Ta.

The federal government released new guidelines that say international students must take a portion of their classes in-person in order to remain in the U.S. 

This is a big deal for schools like USC and UCLA.

COVID-19 has brought most instruction online for safety reasons, yet 12,000 students at USC come from abroad. They make up 25% of the university’s student body. They won’t lose their enrollment, but online learning would have to happen in their home countries. 

“I already got my plane booked for mid-August, and I still have my apartment,” says 20-year-old USC business major Jake Jung. He’s a South Korean citizen who’s in Seoul for the summer. “I am planning on entering the U.S. temporarily, and then move all my stuff into storage, and return to Korea because there's no other option for me to stay.”

Some students have a home to go back to, but others may not.

“One of my friends, he would have to return to Australia where he hasn't been in over 10 years and has no family there,” says Karen Carlson,  co-director of the International Student Assembly at USC. “I just hate the way that it's written where it's so simple, leave the country or transfer, because that is not a possibility.”

This decision has ripple effects, including how a student can live and work in the U.S. after graduating. 

“This is going to be pretty impactful for me getting a career in the United States,” says 21-year-old Jenny Jiang, a Canadian citizen studying computer science at USC. “For seniors who want to apply for the work visas, you need to be in the U.S. for at least one year. Meaning that if you won't be here next semester, you won't be able to legally get a job on a visa.”

According to the Daily Trojan, USC Annenberg will hold 128 classes online and more than 50 hybrid classes, which blend in-person and remote learning, in the fall. They will work with international students to revise their schedules in accordance with new policies.