The Indian Embassy in the US on Wednesday said the Donald Trump administration’s new order on student visa would cause difficulties to Indian students. The Embassy said its officials had taken up the matter with their counterparts in America, ANI reported.

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. 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”.

“These new modifications [come] at a time when many of the US universities and colleges are yet to announce their plans for the new academic year are likely to cause uncertainties and difficulties for some Indian students wishing to pursue their studies in the US,” the Indian Embassy said in a statement. “We have taken up this matter with concerned US officials.”

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla conveyed New Delhi’s concerns on this matter to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale at the India-US Foreign Office Consultations held on July 7, the statement added.

“In the last two decades, Indian students in US universities and colleges have been the harbingers of a strong partnership between technology and innovation sectors between our two countries,” the Embassy said, adding that it hoped the US authorities would provide adequate flexibility keeping the pandemic situation in mind.

On Tuesday, the State Department said it had decided to make some modifications to F-1 and M-1 non-immigrant visa requirements to allow greater flexibility for non-immigrant students to continue their education in the United States, while also maintaining physical distancing requirements.

While F-1 visa holders pursue academic courses, M-1 students pursue “vocational coursework”.

“We continue to engage all the stakeholders in the matters, including the US Administration officials, Congressional leaders, universities and colleges as well as the Indian student community in the US as we move forward towards the 2020-21 academic year to further strengthen our bilateral partnership in higher education,” the Embassy added on Wednesday.

“We have seen the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement announcement of July 6 regarding their Student and Exchange Visitor Program providing temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students on F-1 and M-1 visas taking online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the fall semester of the 2020 academic year,” said the Embassy. “While these modifications do provide some flexibility for US universities and colleges to adopt a hybrid model - that is, a mixture of online and in person classes - they also restrict international students on F-1 and M-1 visas from taking courses entirely online.”

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 over 30.5 lakh cases, including more than 1.32 lakh deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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.

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, two of the most elite American universities, on Wednesday asked a federal court to block the order and described it as cruel, reckless, bad public policy and illegal.