Facing mounting pressure, ICE rescinds visa rule

Amid mounting pressure from colleges and universities, including Penn, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has revoked a controversial policy affecting international students with F-1 visas.

College Hall in the daylight in summer

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced that it will rescind the new federal policy that would have revoked F-1 visas for international students if their course of study is entirely online. The reversal came amid mounting pressure from the higher-education sector, including the University of Pennsylvania. 

The response to the policy was swift and decisive. A lawsuit brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and an amicus brief filed by Penn and 58 other colleges and universities called on the courts to block the new policy. 

The decision resolved the lawsuit which argued that the policy’s “effect—and perhaps even the goal—is to create as much chaos for universities and international students as possible.” The lawsuit also argued that it posed a “grave risk to public health and safety.” 

The subsequent amicus brief further argued that the policy “reveals no consideration of its action’s impact on the health of students, faculty, staff, or the surrounding communities.” It concluded that, “In all cases—and in addition to the tremendous harm this will do to these students—our universities and our society will suffer. The preliminary injunction should be granted on a nationwide basis.”

Responding to the news, Penn President Amy Gutmann said, “We are extremely pleased that the federal government has rescinded its misguided policy that would ban international students from our country if they took online-only courses. Penn joined with universities nationwide in staunchly opposing the government’s move to initiate this ban, which was a capricious and cruel effort to set a different and unfair standard for international students.

“We are unrelenting in our commitment to continue fighting for our international students to ensure that they are treated as equal members of our educational community. Today we can celebrate an important step forward in that effort.”