International students must leave the US if colleges only available online in fall, feds say

New federal guidelines say international students must leave the country or risk deportation if their schools decide to offer online-only classes in the fall.

Felix Amenyo is from Ghana and studying biochemistry at Seattle Pacific University. He said he was really troubled and worried after Monday’s announcement from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said students like Felix would have to leave the U.S. if their universities transition to online-only classes.

The release from ICE said active students on F-1 and M-1 visas enrolled in such programs, "... must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings."

Felix said he’s grateful SPU will operate on a hybrid model of both in-class and online classes in the Fall, allowing international students to stay in the country, but fear things could change. If they do, he’s worried he won’t be able to finish his degree in his home country.

“Even if I’m taking classes somewhere else, would I be able to have consistent internet access? Would it be reliable enough to finish my classes? Can I get an internship that I need to do the research I am currently doing and get the mentorship I need to go to medical school?” said Amenyo.

SPU said it's very committed to international education.

“We are doing everything we can to help our international students to stay in the country. We're also concerned about our students that are not here yet. We’re still working out finding creative ways to meet the needs of the students and provide the best education that we can,” said Caroline Maurer, Director of Global Engagement at SPU.

The University of Washington is also planning to offer in-person courses in the fall, allowing international students to stay.

UW President said in a statement, "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."

The new federal guidelines requires universities to certify by July 15 on whether they will be fully online or operate on a hybrid model.