MU assures international students amid changes to student visas

The University of Missouri issued a statement Wednesday assuring international students with F-1 student visas that, under the university’s current plan to return to campus in the fall, they will not be required to leave the country.

This announcement follows the Department of Homeland Security’s recent changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program that would require international students with F-1 visas to leave the country if they are enrolled solely in online classes.

With many universities around the country transitioning to online instruction for the fall semester in an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, many international students are faced with a tough decision under the new rules from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Either they transfer to a university offering in-person instruction or they are forced to return to their country of origin.

With both in-person and blended courses being offered at MU this fall, this rule does not apply to the university’s 2,000-plus international students.

International students will not be exempt from these rules if their university decides to transition to online learning during the course of the semester, DHS said. Additionally, academic plans for fall 2020 are still subject to change prior to the start of the semester as dictated by developments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Universities including Harvard and MIT, which have already decided to take their fall semester online, are filing lawsuits in an attempt to block the DHS rule changes, the Associated Press reports. An online petition to allow international students to stay regardless of whether classes are online or in-person has already received over 220,000 signatures.

MU’s statement said the new DHS guidance “was released without taking into account input the agency received from higher education leaders,” and it said the university would work with international students to “ensure they have the appropriate resources to live, work and learn here.”

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