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*UPDATED* Ending flexibility for international students is cruel and oblivious to the reality of the pandemic

(Updated Tuesday, July 14, 2020)

We learned today that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has rescinded the order that would have required international students to take in-person courses in order to maintain their visa status and stay in the U.S. This news is extremely welcome to both the University of Washington and to our international students who should never have been asked to choose between their safety and their education.

The UW will continue to monitor this situation closely in recognition that today’s victory is no guarantee against future policies that threaten our international student community. We will always stand with our international students and will continue to advocate for their health, well-being and educational opportunity. Thank you to all the members of our community – and to educators, students and members of the public across the nation – who worked for this outcome.


On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it plans to end an emergency waiver put in place earlier this year that responded to the COVID-19 by allowing international students to maintain their visa status while taking only online courses, which were often the only option as colleges across the country moved to remote instruction due to the pandemic.

Taking away that flexibility is cruel and completely oblivious to the reality of the pandemic in this country, which, unlike the outbreaks that many of our allies have tamped down, continues to surge. And at a time when America’s global leadership is under severe strain, during a crisis demanding a spirit of international unity and cooperation, this proposal isn’t just cruel, it’s counterproductive.

The University of Washington will work with our state’s congressional delegation, other key federal officials and higher education associations to try and change this proposal so that it does not harm international students here or across the country. But we also must prepare for the eventuality that this action will stand and plan for how the UW can assist our international students.

The proposed changes would allow international students to stay in the United States if they are taking at least one in-person course and the UW is planning to offer in-person courses this fall. However, this offers little comfort to those students at higher risk for coronavirus who are seeking to take only remote courses. This federal rule change would also mean that if the virus resurges in Washington and we have to return to remote-only instruction, or if case counts aren’t reduced enough to let us go to Phase 3 in this region in time for autumn quarter, then international students could have their lives upended for no reason.

Because the proposal is so new, we continue to analyze its potential effects as well as what options the UW can provide to help international students continue their education uninterrupted. International Student Services is working on answers to your questions and will continue to communicate with and provide updates directly to international students as they are available.

The University of Washington stands with our international students and scholars, and against this and other recent immigration-related actions that are pointless, heartless and a betrayal of the nation’s values.