SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Thousands of international students in California and throughout the country are facing potentially losing their visas after the federal government announced modifications for taking online courses in the fall.
Throughout the Bay Area college campuses are responding to the Department of Homeland Security’s new guidance that could force many nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1students to return to their home countries if their campuses only offer online classes.
“I was shocked, we were waiting for guidelines, we knew there would be some guidance coming but we were deeply shocked that at this particular moment the federal government would put the health and education of some of these students at risk,” said San Francisco State President Lynn Mahoney.
“We have to move very very quickly at a time when we’re dealing with a lot of things, most importantly the health of our faculty, staff and students.”
In the South Bay, an international student population of over 5,000 at San Jose State were left in a state of uncertainty over their stay in the country.
According to the modifications, if students are not able to take any in-person classes due to COVID-19, they are required to either leave the country or transfer to another campus offering in-person courses.
“The news came in we were all worried and we buzzed our deans … all of the students on WhatsApp started some initiation of chats,” said SJSU international student Anirudhha Tiwari.
Tiwari is an international student from India and was in the middle of finishing his final summer classes when news of the modifications regarding student visas was announced.
“It was very uncertain because online classes were going very well, we were also safe at home, our professors were also handling it well,” said Tiwari.
“The rules should not have come at this moment when the fall classes are about to start, we are about to pay the fees, going back to our home country is really a set back”
San Jose State University President Mary Papazian released a statement to the campus community following Monday’s announcement.
“We know the recent changes to SEVP produces additional stress and uncertainty that has rippled across our campus community, affecting international students who are part of our Spartan family. ” said Papazian in a statement posted online Monday.
“I share in the great concern of our faculty, staff and student peers who care deeply about our international students.”
In response to the SEVP modifications, San Jose State and other campuses announced they will implement “hybrid courses” which will be offered in person and online in the fall — presumably allowing international students to stay in the country.
For Tiwari, SJSU’s response to the modifications from SEVP reassures him of continuing to pursue his goals.
“By evening or the next day SJSU got back to us that they would be selecting hybrid classes, after that we relaxed a bit that we do not have to go back,” said Tiwari.
“Initially it was worrying at this stage where the virus is at peak in our country and in the United States as well.”
For international students, the fight to continue to stay in the country continues but adds another layer of obstacles in their way of earning a higher education.
“Our parents are also worried about what’s going to happen, the media reports are so hyped, so San Jose State selecting a hybrid course … is really a great boost to our confidence but it really hurts that the visa rules are changing very quickly, ” said Tiwari.
“Even after history shows that international students have been a success in the United States, it’s really sad to hear those things.”
As of Thursday, California and state college leaders sued the Trump administration over its new modifications — marking the states 86th lawsuit against the administration.
Mahoney tells KRON4 News the modifications would put international students at risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic and also references there still planning left to do as the changes come as the school continues to balance budget cuts.
“But I remind everyone that this comes at great expense to a state university thats already experiencing an enormous budget cut for the fall and it comes at great expense to our international students who don’t get financial aid,” said Mahoney.
“We all feel strongly, it is an unnecessary law that puts students at risk and will actually cost the state university and the students money.”
Monday’s announcement was met with immediate reactions from other local colleges and universities around the Bay Area voicing their concerns and in support of their international students.