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Kenyan students in the US to lose visas if their classes move online

Kenyan students in the United States may soon be forced to return home if their colleges or universities opt for online learning only, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

In a statement on Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that students on non-immigrant F-1 and M-1 visas who attend universities that operate entirely online amid the Covid-19 pandemic may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

FULL ONLINE COURSES

“Students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” said ICE.

The agency added that F-1 students who attend schools that provide a mixture of online and in-person classes will be permitted to take some online courses.

According to ICE, the schools must certify to the Student Exchange Visitor Program “that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree.”

F-1 students whose universities will maintain full in-person classes will remain bound by federal laws that allow a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

IMMIGRATION CONSEQUENCES

“Students who remain in the United States while taking only online courses could face immigration consequences, including the initiation of removal proceedings,” ICE said.

Last year, the number of Kenyans enrolled in US higher-education institutions rose by nearly four per cent, reaching a total of 3,451 students, according to a 2019 study published by a State Department Bureau and Institute of International Education, a New York-based NGO.

Africans overall account for 40,000 of the 1,095,000 international students in the US.

The updated guidance comes as schools in the US consider reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, while imposing restrictions on students’ return that will force some students to stay off-campus and learn remotely for entire semesters at a time.

The ICE announcement comes at a time when the US leads the world in coronavirus caseload. More than 2.9 million Americans have contracted Covid-19 with 130,000 deaths reported.