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International Students: Protect Future Opportunities

shutterstock_253351303The entertainment industry is built upon sharing disparate stories. Filmmakers, actors, production crews, etc. all come from different backgrounds and life-history. The immigrant narrative is one that cannot be lost. It is unique in its experience and is part of America’s story. People have migrated to the US to provide a better life for their family, increase their education, or prospective job opportunities due to the increasingly competitive global market.

For many, working for the opportunity to become an international student at a prestigious American university is the first step of transitioning from an international student to an American citizen. These opportunities, especially academics, have been earned and should not be taken away from prospective graduates.

However, due to the increase of COVID-19 cases in various States across the Nation, Universities are trying to assess how to resume classes in the Fall of 2020 while also limiting the number of COVID-19 outbreaks. As such, some campuses have adopted a hybrid model or simply decided that all classes will be taken virtually.[1] But this puts all international students with F-1 and M-1 visas at-risk.

As of Tuesday, July 7, 2020, The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency announced that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program released modifications to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes for the Fall 2020 academic semester. “Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. 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 nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.”[2]

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Furthermore, international students in the United States enrolled in completely virtual programs must “depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.”[3]

A study completed by NAFSA: Association of International Educators found that “international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $41 billion and supported 458,290 jobs to the U.S. economy during the 2018-2019 academic year.”[4]

As such, not only does this new modification take future opportunities away from international students, but it also takes away money circulating in the Nation’s economy.

These academics are future scholars, professors, screenwriters, directors, politicians, and actors. It is important that we come together as a country and do our part in ceasing the spread of COVID-19 so more opportunities are not taken from our future leaders, regardless if they are international students or not.

[1] Miriam Jordan, Trump Visa Rules Seen as Way to Pressure Colleges on Reopening, The New York Times (July 7, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/07/us/student-visas-coronavirus.html.

[2] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, SEVP modifies temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online courses during the fall 2020 semester (2020), https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/sevp-modifies-temporary-exemptions-nonimmigrant-students-taking-online-courses-during.

[3] Id.

[4] NAFSA International Student Economic Value Tool, Economic Value Statistics, NFSA,  https://www.nafsa.org/policy-and-advocacy/policy-resources/nafsa-international-student-economic-value-tool-v2 (last visited July 8, 2020).

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Eryn L. Pollard, is a second-year law student at Notre Dame Law School and is the secretary of the Black Law Students Association.