IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump administration backs down on restrictions for international students

A judge announced Tuesday the administration is rescinding its directive blocking international students from staying in the United States while taking online-only classes.
A view of the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology on July 08, 2020 in Cambridge, Mass.
The move was announced as the resolution in a lawsuit brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Facing blowback and lawsuits, the Trump administration is rescinding its directive blocking international students from staying in the United States while taking online-only classes.

U.S. District Court Judge Allison Dale Burroughs in Massachusetts announced Tuesday that the government and the plaintiffs had reached a resolution in a lawsuit brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The government was to rescind its July 6 rule that said foreign students on F-1 and M-1 visas would need to take at least some courses in person in order to legally remain in the U.S. in the fall semester amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia had also sued the administration over the requirement.

The reversal comes in the face of heavy criticism from institutions of higher education and lawmakers from both major parties, who argued that the new rules would be disruptive to students and undermine their opportunities and the value of their education.

The White House declined to comment. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency did not immediately return a request for comment.

Lawmakers began to react shortly after the announcement.

"This is terrific news for more than a million international students studying in the United States and for all the American students, institutions, and businesses benefiting from their contributions," Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said on Twitter.

"The Trump Administration appears to have seen the harm of its July 6 directive but it shouldn’t take lawsuits and widespread outcry for them to do their job,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, said in a statement. “In the midst of an economic and public health crisis, we don’t need the federal government alarming Americans or wasting everyone’s time and resources with dangerous policy decisions."

The earlier restrictions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement were seen by some as an attempt to strong-arm colleges and universities into reopening even as coronavirus cases rise in many parts of the country.

The Trump administration has made numerous efforts to limit immigration during the COVID-19 crisis, including by suspending the processing of work visas like the H-1B and green cards issued outside the country through the end of 2020.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

Geoff Bennett contributed.