Fully online courses could threaten legal status of some international students

The steps of Wilson Hall at James Madison University.
The steps of Wilson Hall at James Madison University.(WHSV)
Published: Jul. 11, 2020 at 8:06 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- Colleges are making decisions on whether or not students will be returning to in-person classes this fall.

Some colleges, like James Madison University, have decided to welcome students back in a few weeks, but the risk of coronavirus outbreaks on campus could still cause the university to shift back to completely virtual coursework, which could put some students at risk.

This week, the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program announced, ”The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester... Active students currently in the united states enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.”

“We’re looking at a number of different scenarios to understand which of our students and how they’d be affected and if there’s anything we can do in our course offerings,” Caitlyn Read, a JMU spokesperson, said.

On Friday, JMU hosted a virtual town hall for international students to share and voice concerns about uncertainty in the coming semester.

“The university has been busy consulting with state legislators, with our legal council and working with our Center for Global Engagement to best understand options and outcomes for these students,” Read said.

JMU welcomed over 350 international students representing 65 countries in the fall of 2018.

She said the university’s immigration experts will be there to help students if their legal status is of concern.

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