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University Leaders Address International Students on New Federal Visa Directives

Allen Bldg and rose garden

President Vincent Price and other Duke University officials reached out to international students this week to reassure them that they would be supported in the wake of new policies that may put some international students’ visas at risk.

A new directive released late Monday by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) requires students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs who have an F-1 visa to take at least one in-person class. Duke is currently planning to offer a combination of in-person, online and hybrid courses in all schools.

The policy states that any F-1 visa holder who is taking only online classes must either transfer to another institution where in-person classes are offered or return to their home country to take their courses remotely. While Duke officials are currently reviewing the policy and consulting with experts and others in the higher education community, the university believes that the planned course offerings will allow international students to satisfy those requirements.

In a public statement Tuesday, President Price said that Duke will “continue to support our international students through these challenging times, and will advocate for policies that open doors, not close them.” 

“We are deeply concerned about the Administration’s new immigration directive that will limit the ability of qualified students and scholars to begin or continue their studies in the United States,” Price said.  “This is a misguided effort that will only harm talented young people and the colleges and universities that are vital to our society.”

Price added that that Duke will “continue to support our international students through these challenging times, and will advocate for policies that open doors, not close them.”

(The full statement can be found on Duke Today.)

On Wednesday, Provost Sally Kornbluth and Executive Vice Provost Jennifer Francis wrote all international students to assure them that they have options and “Duke is deeply committed to supporting our international students through what we know is a difficult, stressful and uncertain time for you and your families.”

The letter stated that Duke’s approach of offering a variety of course types will enable continuing and incoming international students with a valid visa to be in the U.S. to study. All courses will have an online component, so that international students without a valid visa will be able to take Duke classes online while at home.

Kornbluth and Francis told the international students that Duke is continuing to collect information from the government and will provide additional guidance as more information becomes available. Updates will be posted on the Duke United website at

UPDATE: Several lawsuits have already been filed to prevent the government from enforcing the ICE directives.  Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, confirmed that Duke is planning to join amicus (friend of the court) briefs in support of those lawsuits in addition to continuing the university's vigorous advocacy efforts on behalf of international students.