The new F-1 visa rules in the United States are likely to impact at least 2,00,000 Indian students pursuing their education in the foreign country. The move has left them shaken and anxious about their future.
The US said it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country if all of their classes are moved online in the fall semester. They have to take hybrid classes – a combination of in-person and online modules – to continue to stay in the country. Failure to follow the new norms would mean deportation or even a ban from entering into the US.
“I really don’t know what to form my opinion on and what to think about this because at every given moment, there is this uncertainty. And uncertainty induces so much anxiety, especially on students,” said Jaskirat Panjrath, who is majoring in Design Communication at Parsons School of Design told The Quint.
‘International Students Being Used As Pawns’
Asvatha Babu, who is currently pursuing her PhD from American University in Washington feels that the international students are being used as a "bargaining chip."
“The universities want to hold classes online in the Fall to protect faculty and staff and students. But the US government seems to want them to hold it in-person for some reason. So we are being used as pawns in this game and the decisions we have left are to either go to class, in-person and put ourselves at the risk of catching COVID-19 and dying. Or get out of the country and figure out a way to attend classes from outside the US.”Asvatha Babu to The Quint
Echoing her is Rayn Samson, who is pursuing his undergraduate degree at Reed College. Samson argued that Indian students are being forced to go back to the US, even those who have co-morbidities as they are at the risk of losing their visa status otherwise.
“So the flight schedule is really uncertain right now. We don’t know if we will get a flight in that 10-day window, if the college is forced to shut down. Even if we do get a ticket, we don’t know how expensive it will be and just that it is creating a lot of uncertainty about going back because we are being forced to return right now or we risk losing our visa status.”Rayn Samson
He also asserted that once he was in the US, his university could choose to shut down any time, in the light of the pandemic and then he would have to return.
‘Anxious About Livelihood & Finances’
Many students in the US, especially those pursuing graduate degrees, have fully-established families in the foreign country.
“What a lot of people don’t understand about the situation is that we are not just talking about young, undergraduate students from rich families in India. A lot of F-1 Visa holders are also graduate students who have been living fully-established lives in the US for the last few years. We have bank accounts and leases, and insurance payments. And a lot of grad students even have families in the US. These things don’t just disappear because the US government decides it wants to kick us out.”Asvatha Babu
Students also feel that the new visa rules are deliberate and make them feel alienated from their American counterparts.
“I don’t exactly understand. Just because we are international students who don’t reside in the United States or have a passport from the United States, does that make us different from students who are from the United States? Why are we facing this discrimination,” asks Panjrath.