The U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), on Monday announced a much-needed update regarding the guidelines for foreign students hoping to return to campuses for the autumn semester.
A statement published on ICE’s website clearly spelled out the guidelines. Unfortunately, for some of the foreign students, these guidelines might as well come across as confusing instead of straightforward/explanatory.
Before we proceed to ICE’s modified guidelines, it is important to first note that some American universities have announced various modalities for class attendance amid the ravaging pandemic. For instance, while some schools said their classes can only be attended online, for now, others said they are committed to regular classroom settings, even as some others have plans to combine both face-to-face lecturing and online classes.
As a foreign student planning to return to school in the USA this autumn, the modality adopted by your school will simply determine how ICE’s new guidelines will affect you. Let us now examine the guidelines.
Modifications to ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP)
Guidelines on online classes: ICE said that foreign students enrolled in American universities offering only online classes, will not be granted student’s visas to return to the country. Now, this is tricky because even though such students are permitted by the U.S Customs and Border Protection to enter the country, they will not just be granted their student visas by American consulates anywhere in the world. The implication of this, therefore, is that no foreign student is allowed to be in the USA while undertaking online classes offered by an American university.
Foreign students who wish to return/remain in the USA during the autumn semester must ensure that their classes will not be taught online. If it so happens that a foreign student is enrolled in a school offering only online classes, such a student has the option of transferring to another school that is conducting face-to-face lecturing. Otherwise, the student should stay back in their home country and take the full course online.
Foreign students who are already in the country but enrolled in schools offering only online courses must also ensure that either switch to a different school with the face-to-face lecture option, or leave the country willing. Otherwise, such foreign students risk being deported.
“Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States 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,” part of the guideline said.
Guidelines on regular classes: The revised guideline specified that foreign students enrolled in American schools where classes are still taught face-to-face are required to be available on campus to attend classes during the autumn semester. Upon return to campus, such students are allowed to decide whether to combine both physical class attendance and online classes.
Other guidelines: Foreign students attending US schools that are combining online classes with physical lectures will not be allowed to only attend online lectures while on campus. Instead, they must attend both the online classes and face-to-face classes.
Some issues to consider
-It is obvious that ICE is trying to stop some foreign students from trooping to the USA when they can remotely receive lectures online. After all, this will help prevent further trans-border spread of COVID-19. However, online classes come special challenges, especially for students in foreign countries. The time difference is one of such challenges; what happens when an online class is holding by 12 noon at Harvard when a student somewhere in South East Asia supposed to be sleeping?
-For now, American consulates around the world have suspended visa issuance. This poses a serious challenge to foreign students who were just freshly admitted into American universities and will student visas before they can be on campus for the autumn semester. Now, the saddest part is that any student who does not resume along with the other students, will not be allowed to resume later.
-Meanwhile, Nigerian students hoping to return to the US for their studies would have to grapple with immigration uncertainties mentioned above, along with foreign exchange troubles. Recall that even though the Central Bank of Nigeria announced that it has resumed the sale of dollars to Nigerian students studying abroad, the exchange rate for naira against the dollar remains high. And this is a major challenge to any student who will need to pay the high tuition fees of American universities.
Reasons why a record number of people are giving up their US citizenship
These citizens complain of the current political climate while others attributed their decision to taxes.
A new report that was published on Sunday, August 10, 2020, has shown that a record number of people are giving up their United States citizenship. The report suggests that Americans are continuing to renounce their citizenship at the highest levels on record.
This information is contained in a research report that was conducted by Bambridge Accountants, a New York-based firm that specializes in US expatriate tax, UK expats, actors, and other creatives in the US and the UK.
According to the report, more than 5,800 American citizens gave up their citizenship in the first six months of 2020, compared to the 2,072 Americans who renounced their citizenship throughout 2019. The report also noted that the Coronavirus pandemic had motivated US expats to cut ties and avoid the current political climate and onerous tax reporting.
A partner at Bambridge Accountants, Alistair Bambridge, in his conversation with CNN, said, “These are mainly people who already left the US and just decided they’ve had enough of everything. What we’ve seen is people are over everything happening with President Donald Trump, how the coronavirus pandemic is being handled, and the political policies in the US at the moment.”
Bambridge, in its report, also stated that while many people who renounced their citizenship complain of being unhappy with today’s current political climate in the US, others attributed their decision to taxes.
He disclosed that US citizens living abroad are still required to file tax returns every year, report their foreign bank accounts, investments, and pensions. Although these citizens benefited from the $1,200 stimulus checks and $500 for each child, many of them felt that the annual US tax reporting is just too much.
The report also stated that Americans who want to relinquish their citizenship are required to pay $2,350 and appear in person at the US embassy in their resident country if they are not in America.
There are currently about 9 million US expats across the world, even as trends have shown a sharp decline over the last few years of US citizens expatriating.
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Despite the risks that come with giving up US citizenship, Bambridge predicts that the trend will only continue going up.
He said, “A lot of people are waiting for the November election to see what’s going to happen. If President Trump is reelected, we believe there will be another wave of people who will decide to renounce their citizenship.”
IMF assessing additional tools to provide aid to pandemic-hit countries
The IMF had earlier noted that the Nigerian economy would witness a deeper contraction of 5.4%.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) noted that it is reviewing additional tools to help provide financing to poorest countries of the world as well as others that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. This was noted by the Fund’s Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva.
The IMF had reduced its projections for the world economy, projecting a GDP growth of 5.4% in 2021 compared to 5.8% in its earlier forecasts as a result of the expected challenges to global value chains due to the coronavirus pandemic which has affected the global demand for goods and services. It had also reviewed its projection for Nigeria, noting that the Nigerian economy would witness a deeper contraction of 5.4% and not the 3.4% that it has projected in April 2020.
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Georgieva explained to finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 major economies in the world that they should consider extending a freeze in the official bilateral debt service payments that have been offered to the poorest countries beyond the end of 2020, and seek out better ways to promote private-sector participation.
She also noted that there is ardent need to think about “more comprehensive debt relief for many countries,” as a result of the severity of the crisis as well as the already high debt load that many of the respective countries already had to deal with.
UK and allies accuse Russia of hacking and stealing COVID-19 vaccine data
UK said that vaccine and therapeutic sectors in multiple countries have been targeted by Russian state intelligence.
The UK and its allies have accused Russian state intelligence of hacking international research centres that are in a race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The UK, US and Canada on Thursday, said that Russian intelligence is attempting to steal information on those vaccines through irresponsible cyberattacks.
It is, however, unclear if the research facilities have been damaged or if the vaccine programmes have been set back as a result of the hacks but the officials warned that the cyber-attacks are ongoing.
UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said that vaccine and therapeutic sectors in multiple countries have been targeted by a group known as APT29, which it said is almost certainly part of Russian state intelligence. Security agencies in the U.S. and Canada later issued their own statements backing up the findings. Russia denied involvement.
The British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said, ‘’It is completely unacceptable that the Russian intelligence services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic. While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behaviour, the U.K. and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health.”
The Russians have however denied the allegations by the UK and its allies.
In an explanation to Bloomberg, the Russian spokesman said, ‘’We don’t know who may have hacked pharmaceutical companies and research centers. We can only say Russia has nothing to do with these attempts. We don’t accept such accusations.’’
The NCSC said APT29, which is also known as Cozy Bear or The Dukes, has targeted U.K., U.S. and Canadian vaccine research and development organizations. They said the campaign of malicious activity is ongoing, predominantly against government, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare and energy targets to steal valuable intellectual property.
A cybersecurity firm, Carbon Black, in a published analysis in March, said researchers have long linked APT29 to Russian intelligence agencies as for more than a decade, the group has carried out hacking campaigns that have targeted dozens of governments, research institutes, and corporations around the world.
The British claims were supported by partners at the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the US Department for Homeland Security (DHS), Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Security Agency (NSA).
The NSA said organizations in the U.S. involved in vaccine development were also targeted by the hackers with the objective of the hacking and stealing information and intellectual property relating to the development and testing of Covid-19 vaccines.
The Canadian government said they are working with Westminster and Washington to stop these cyber-attacks.