Dear Members of the Lehigh Community,
I am pleased to report that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has decided to rescind the July 6, 2020 broadcast message it issued that would have required universities, including Lehigh, to terminate the visas of international students if their institution turned to online instruction for the fall semester. This means that we return to prior DHS March 2020 directives, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which permitted international students the flexibility to take online courses without jeopardizing their visa or immigration status.
Yesterday’s announcement provides a huge relief for our international students. The July 6th DHS announcement had placed these students' enrollment at risk by linking their legal status to their institutions' pandemic decision-making. Yesterday’s reversal by DHS permits international students to continue to plan for their studies at Lehigh. It also allows the university the necessary flexibility to continue planning for a measured and rational return to our academic operations. Finally, this decision permits both students and the university to make their plans based on guidance from health experts without confounding considerations touching on regulatory caprice.
It is important to acknowledge that higher education spoke with a strong, clear voice in support of international students attending our institutions. The Lehigh community worked in concert with other institutions and associations, along with our Congressional delegation, to make sure our voices were heard. I want to thank those who attended yesterday’s faculty town hall to express their concerns and intent to support our international student community.
We will continue to be vigilant. Lehigh is strengthened by the diverse students, faculty and staff that we recruit from around the world. We are committed to providing the best possible education to our students and supporting them with their academic and personal goals.
Vice President/Vice Provost, International Affairs