Harvard University recently claimed a major victory over our federal government by dealing a blow the the administration’s quest to ban international students from being in the United States if their schools were offering online-only instruction. When the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security announced this new guidance, Harvard and MIT filed suit. Hundreds of universities across the land would soon thereafter file amicus briefs in support of Harvard and MIT’s position. Just days later, the federal government would withdraw their newly proposed guidance — paving the way for international students to continue to study at schools even if their instruction is exclusively online. But there is one caveat: the federal government’s reversal does not apply to newly admitted international students to the Class of 2024 requiring F-1 visas.
As Juliet E. Isselbacher and Amanda Y. Su write for The Harvard Crimson in a piece entitled “Due to Federal Visa Restrictions, International Freshmen Will Not Be Allowed on Campus in the Fall,” “[Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana] wrote that any incoming Harvard student who received a Form I-20 to begin their studies this fall will be unable to enter the U.S. in F-1 status because all undergraduate fall courses will be fully remote. ‘We abhor any policies that seek to force us to choose between our community’s health and the education of our international students,’ Khurana wrote. He added that the University is collaborating with members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation to advocate for extending the online exemption to incoming freshmen and to guarantee flexibility for the duration of the pandemic.”
We hope that Harvard and other universities across the U.S. will find quick success in facilitating the in-person matriculation of international students this fall. Harvard has laid waste to government restrictions on many occasions in the past — including in their recent fight for upperclass international students to be able to come to campus this fall. While the battle for first-year international students might be an uphill one over these next weeks, we have no doubt that Harvard will take the fight to our government. We’re here rooting for them.
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