Indian Embassy asks US to address concerns of Indian students
NEW DELHI [Maha Media]: The Indian Embassy here has urged the US government to mitigate the difficulties the Indian students in America are facing in the wake of the closure of universities and educational institutions due to the fast-spreading of the deadly coronavirus.
More than 2,00,000 Indian students are enrolled in various academic institutions, mostly in science, medical and technology streams. Over 300 top American universities and colleges have shut down the campuses, moved classes online, and asked students to leave the hostel accommodation.
With severe travel restrictions in both India and the US, and visa conditions that permit them to stay in the US only for physical classes, the anxiousness is gripping Indian students, who account for the second largest number of international students only after China.
The Indian Embassy and all its five consulates in Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and San Francisco, which has been proactively running a round the clock helpline for the past several days, 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 Program (SEVP) will continue to provide guidance on distance-learning for international students. The SEVP 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, the advisory said.
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.
And if a school closes temporarily but offers online instruction or another alternative learning procedure, non-immigrant students should participate in online or other alternate learning procedures and remain in active status in SEVIS, the USCIS said.
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 18 March 2020, 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 8809 people and infected 218631 across 157 countries and territories, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.