USF school officials, students push back against restrictions for international students

The University of South Florida is defending international students after ICE announced it will enforce federal rules that could lead to their deportation.

Concerns over what could be next for international students began to grow after ICE announced it will require international students to attend in-person classes in order to stay in the U.S. for the fall semester. 

This means even if their degree program at their university goes completely online, in order to avoid being sent back to their home country, students would have to find an in-person class to attend or find another university that offered in-person classes in order to be able to stay in the U.S.

Many international students are now on edge and concerned what their academic  future could look like.  However, USF said they are offering every reassurance to their students saying they promise to make sure those students will have a safe environment to stay and continue pursuing their degree. 

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The government said this rule was put in place to keep foreign nationals from entering the U.S. illegally by receiving student visas from online colleges in order to work under the table.

However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many universities have moved some, if not all, of their classes to an online setting in order to keep students and staff safe. For many students, these rules are concerning. Some say that forcing someone to attend an in-person classes could be a danger to their health. 

USF President Stephen Currall released a statement Thursday saying, in part, that no international student attending USF will be asked to leave the country.

Instead, Currall said they will continue to support students' decisions to pursue a degree at USF, and that they will be actively working to ensure the international students course schedules meet immigration requirements. To read the full statement, visit

USF has implemented a hybrid Instructional model for the upcoming semester, ensuring that international students will have options for in person classes to attend. 

Students at USF have also taken action by creating a petition that has already garnered over 110,000 signatures asking ICE to change the rules in order for international students to stay, even if they don’t attend any in-person classes.

Currall's full statement can be read below:

Dear students,

I know many of our F-1 visa international students are concerned with recent announcements from the federal government that may affect their ability to study in the United States. To be clear, the University of South Florida’s aim is for all students to begin or continue their academic journey at USF without disruption.  International students are cherished members of our university community and we recognize that many of you are coping with unique challenges as a result of COVID-19.

USF plans to resume classes for the fall semester under a hybrid instructional model with precautions in place to provide a healthy environment for teaching and learning, in the classroom and online. We are committed to ensuring that our F-1 students are enrolled in courses that meet immigration requirements. The recent statements from the Scholar and Exchange Visitor Program are extremely unsettling, but at USF, we are committed to supporting international students — regardless of whether you join us on campus or find it necessary to remain abroad for the fall semester. All international students have received, and will continue to receive, communications from USF World and International Admissions that provide further guidance regarding fall enrollment and opportunities for Q&A sessions.  Most importantly, no USF international student is being asked to leave the country as a result of the federal government’s announcement. On the contrary, we enthusiastically support your decision to pursue a degree at USF.

USF’s course schedule for fall 2020 will be released later this month and we will actively work with academic programs across our campuses to ensure that international students’ course schedules meet immigration requirements.  In case you have not seen the recent message from the Office of International Services, I encourage you to review it. USF World’s FAQs are also a resource for important information. 

In addition, USF has contacted our representatives in Washington, D.C., to express our concerns and to request action that will protect international students during these unprecedented times. Like many institutions, we have very serious reservations about the federal statement issued this week and we pledge to keep you updated as we seek greater clarity.   

USF is here to support you! USF is proud of its commitment to global engagement and your presence among our student body is a point of pride for the USF community.


Steven C. Currall
President and Professor