International students in the United States have launched a petition to bring attention to what they are calling a lack of direction from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regarding the upcoming fall semester.
So far, SEVP — a program within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that issues guidelines to international students — has not issued guidance to schools and international students for the fall semester.
Since the coronavirus pandemic caused many universities and colleges to switch to online classes, international students say they worry that they won't be able to return to the United States.
"We understand international students and schools have questions, and SEVP is actively working to issue guidance," ICE stated in a June 4 press release.
When international students on an F-1 visa are not enrolled full time, they are required to take a temporary absence. If this leave of absence is longer than five months, their immigration status is in danger of being jeopardized.
"We understand that this situation is extraordinary, which is why this lack of support for international students is alarming," the petition reads.
Before universities can decide about what action to take to accommodate students on an F-1 visa, they, too, need guidance from SEVP.
"As soon as SEVP finalizes guidance for the fall term, the academic community will be informed and we will update this website," stated the University of Maryland Global Campus website.
When universities transitioned to remote learning, SEVP allowed flexibility for students to continue their courses online. "[Students] can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19," said SEVP in a statement on March 14 to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA).
However, some international students believe they should get the option to take classes remotely, despite universities' plans to reopen in the fall.
"Some international students wish they could be taking the fall semester online and stay with their families back home," the petition reads. "We demand that the option to take the fall semester fully online be also given to international students."