The United States on Monday said it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country for the autumn semester if all their university classes are moved online because of the coronavirus crisis. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in its notice added that students could stay back if they shift to a course with in-person tuition.

The rule will apply to F-1 and M-1 visa holders. While F-1 visa holders pursue academic courses, M-1 students pursue “vocational coursework”. However, it is not clear how many students will be affected by this new rule. The US State Department had issued 3,88,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in the 2019-’20 financial year, reported BBC, citing the agency’s data.

“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,” US Immigration and Custom Enforcement said in a statement. It added that foreign students who fail to switch to in-person courses could face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings”.

Universities in the US attract a large number of foreign students and many of those have shifted to online classes because of the pandemic. The US is the worst-hit country with 29.3 lakh cases, including 54,999 fresh infections recorded on Monday.

Foreign students are a key source of revenue for many US universities. According to the US Commerce Department, foreign students contributed $45 billion (approximately Rs 3.3 lakh crore) to the country’s economy in 2018.