US President Donald Trump has revoked his July 6 rule that would have stripped visas from many international students if they chose to take online classes amid coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to bar international students from staying in America if they attend universities through online classes without any in-person instruction. The order required students to take at least one in-person class, amid COVID-19 outbreak.
The U-turn by the Trump administration comes following a nationwide outrage and a series of lawsuits filed by a large number of educational institutions, led by Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and later joined by a California public school and coalition of 17 states.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Massachusetts, challenged the order and calling it "cruel, abrupt and unlawful action to expel international students amid pandemic that has wrought death and disruption across the United States".
IT companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, joined MIT and Harvard in the US District Court in Massachusetts against the DHS and the ICE in seeking an injunction to stop the entire rule from going into effect.
The lawsuit alleged that the new rule imposed significant economic harm by precluding thousands of international students from coming to and residing in the US.
India also conveyed its concern regarding the F1 visa to the US during the virtual foreign office consultation between Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale last week.
The court said the Trump administration agreed to revert to a previous rule, implemented in March, when coronavirus caused shutdowns across the country. Under that policy, international students were allowed to attend all classes online during the pandemic.
The announcement comes as a big relief to international students, including those from India. In the 2018-2019 academic year, there were over 10 lakh international students in the US. According to a recent report of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), 1,94,556 Indian students were enrolled in various academic institutions in the US in January.