International students, and the universities where they study, can breathe a little easier.
ICE and the Department of Homeland Security will no longer require international students taking an entirely online course load in the fall (thanks to coronavirus) to leave the country.
Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the government agencies after they announced on July 6 that foreign students taking online only classes would have to leave the country or transfer to a new school with in-person learning. The universities were later backed by a slew of tech companies.
Many big tech companies, including Google and Facebook, filed a court letter in support of the universities. They argued that making it more difficult for international students to study in the U.S. would negatively impact business, as well as the heavily international STEM workforce these companies rely upon.
Court proceedings were scheduled to begin Tuesday. Instead, Judge Allison Burroughs in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, announced that the two sides had reached an agreement.
“The Court was informed by the parties that they have come to a resolution to the combined temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction motions,” read the court docket, according to NPR. “The Government has agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 Policy Directive and the July 7, 2020 FAQ, and has also agreed to rescind their implementation.”
Before the pandemic, international students couldn’t take all of their classes online. However, the government changed that policy once schools largely went online in March. Amid a national fight about school re-openings — with Trump all-caps tweeting “schools must open in the fall,” and health experts warning against re-filling classrooms — ICE reversed the March policy.
That prompted a massive public outcry, and several legal challenges. Then ICE’s new decision Tuesday.
The extension of the online coursework policy for international students isn’t necessarily permanent. But it’s a win for Harvard, MIT, and Big Tech, for now.