LUBBOCK, Texas — The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SVEP) has announced modifications Monday to exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes in the fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Students attending universities on a non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 visa cannot take a full online course load and remain in the U.S. If this is the case, the students must leave the country. If they don’t, they may face deportation.
Zarmina Faizan is an international student from Pakistan studying at Texas Tech University. She is pursuing both a Bachelors and Masters degree in accounting. Much like other students, she attends sporting events and enjoying what the city has to offer. Right now, however, she feels her remaining college career is at stake.
“I feel like I have a lot to lose right now,” Faizan said.
She said she feels the rule change is unfair, especially since she has invested so much of her time, energy and money to study in the United States.
“This pandemic is not in our control. We did not cause it. Why would you punish us for something that’s not in our control,” Faizan said.
Faizan said since finding out about the new rules, it’s been the only thing on her mind, and the possibility of facing deportation is unsettling to her.
“I’ve been in the states for about four years now, and I’ve worked super hard to maintain my legal status,” Faizan said.
International student, Anisha Navlekar, said the news came as a surprise to her as well.
“To suddenly see the news on Twitter or seeing it going on social media was kind of frightening because we didn’t know how it would directly affect us,” Navlekar said.
Navlekar is pursuing her PhD at Texas Tech. She has completed her coursework, so the change doesn’t affect her directly. Still, however, she feels for other students.
With the new policy, students may only take a maximum of one class. For students attending hybrid universities, students may take more than one online class but the school must provide documentation.
“For those people who are taking courses right now, finding those face to face courses–I can see them just being so confused about what to do after this,” Navlekar said.
Texas Tech has implemented a hybrid model, but Faizan is worried this may change.
“I want to believe that it’s not going to apply to me but then who knows–it might apply to me next month or maybe next week,” Faizan said.
Faizan adds it would be very expensive to pay for a flight back home. Additionally, she is already paying for many of her living expenses here in Lubbock.
Texas Tech University sent the following message to their students:
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications on Monday (July 6, 2020) to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to publish these new procedures and responsibilities in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.
The purpose of this memorandum is to give a quick update on how this rule might affect our international student population. Texas Tech University plans to resume in-person teaching and learning for the Fall 2020 semester using a blend of face-to-face, hybrid (combination of face-to-face instruction and online learning), and online modalities. Our course modalities will remain flexible with approximately two-thirds of our courses being taught using some degree of face-to-face instruction. As long as international students are not registered for an online-only degree program and are not taking an entirely online course load for Fall 2020, they will be able to meet the requirements of this Temporary Final Rule and we will be able to maintain appropriate student records. This will allow international students to return to or to remain at Texas Tech University for the Fall 2020 semester.