In Us more than 2 lakh students are enrolled in various educational institutes, mostly in the streams of science, medical and techonology. Nearly 300 top American universities and colleges have shut down the campuses, made online classes available, and has asked students to move out from the hostel accomodations.
However, with the tightened travel advisories both in the US and India, visa conditions permit them to stay in the country only for physical classes, Indian students are being gripped by anxiousness. It is notable that Indian students account for the second largest number of inrternational students only after China.
Apparently, for the past few days, the Indian Embassy and all its five consulates in Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and San Francisco, have been proactively running a round-the-clock helpline and have now reached out to the US State Department and the Citizenship and Immigration services to ensure that students from India do not face difficulties when it comes to their visa, legality of their stay in the country.
“The US government has indicated that it is closely monitoring the implications that this evolving situation may have for international students,” the Embassy of India in Washington DC said in a revised advisory issued for Indian students here.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP) will continue to provide guidance on distance-learning for international students. The SEVP has recently confirmed that international students can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the US or outside the country, in light of COVID-19, without affecting their visa status, said the advisory.
In a note, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said that if a school closes temporarily without online instruction or other alternative learning procedures, the students should remain in active status in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) so long as the students intend to resume their course of study when classes resume. This is similar to short-term breaks in the school calendar when classes are not in session.
USCIS futher added that if a school closes temporarily but offers online instruction or another alternative learning procedure, non-immigrant students should participate in online or other alternative learning procedures and remain in active status in SEVIS.
The Indian Embassy and its five consulates in its advisory urged Indian students to avoid all non-essential domestic or international travel.
“This is an unprecedented situation, but we can successfully manage it by taking decisions with a calm mind. Please take prudent health precautions and carefully review information and travel advisories,” it said.
“As of March 18, if you are planning travel from the US to India, then you will be subject to medical screening upon arrival and you may be put in quarantine at a government-earmarked facility for a minimum of 14 days if required,” the advisory added.
The coronavirus outbreak, which first emerged in China’s Wuhan city last year, has killed 8,809 people and infected 2,18,631 people across 157 countries and territories, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.