How the Coronavirus is Impacting Students Studying Abroad

As world leaders react and respond to the coronavirus, many healthy people are now beginning to feel a disruption in their day-to-day lives. That includes students. Every year, thousands of young Americans leave the U.S. to take part in international programs. At the same time, others come to the U.S. in order to secure a specific education.

Here is a look at how the dangers posed by the coronavirus are impacting those individuals studying abroad:

Hopeful Foreign Students Face New Barrier

Those planning to come to the U.S. have to take into account travel restrictions. As of Feb. 27, 2020, people coming to the U.S. that have recently been in China may face quarantine restrictions from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In addition, most foreign nationals that have recently been in China will be denied entry into the country.

The U.S. could place similar restrictions on additional regions as the situation unfolds.

In addition, DHS is rerouting international flights from China to 11 specific airports so passengers can undergo health screening. And airlines themselves have increasingly been shutting down flights from the U.S. to and from troubling areas, including portions of China, South Korea and Italy.

This can be problematic for foreign students planning to study in the U.S. on an F1 or M1 visa. The impact could be particularly large in China. According to Market Watch, 369,000 students from China studied at U.S. colleges in the 2018-19 academic year, the highest figure of any country.

American Students Being Brought Home

Meanwhile, some universities that have students studying abroad are choosing to bring them home amid the outbreak. USC is requiring all of its students in South Korea and the hard-hit areas of Italy to return to the U.S. It previously suspended university-sponsored travel to China. UC Davis, which is now treating a U.S. patient for suspected coronavirus, has similar foreign travel and study restrictions in place.

Anyone returning to the U.S. from the regions mentioned above (and potentially others in the future) should prepare for a health screening and potential quarantine restrictions once they do get back to the country. U.S. students with plans to study abroad in the near future may find those programs abruptly cancelled for safety reasons.

Legal Considerations

Students impacted by coronavirus measures may also have to deal with legal fallout. The Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) offers some guidance here. For example, students and universities may need to take steps to secure a medically reduced course load. SEVP will also look at cases of students abroad who are nearing their five-month temporary absence limit.

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