- How positive or negative are the recent ICE decisions concerning Kuwaiti students in the US?
The COVID-19 crisis has created a lot of challenges and uncertainties, and the U.S. government is trying to do what it can to protect public health while still welcoming international students. To accommodate international students during this difficult time, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is allowing international students to take a greater proportion of online courses than before. Now, international students may take a mixture of both in-person and online coursework to meet the requirements for their nonimmigrant student status for the fall 2020 semester.
The previous limit of one online course per semester has been lifted. International students can take more than one online course per semester, if their school certifies that the student is not exceeding the maximum number of online credits permitted for their degree program.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has determined that international students who are enrolled solely in online courses are not eligible for student status. Therefore, these students should complete their online courses from their home country until conditions permit resumption of in-person classes in the United States.
My staff at the U.S. Embassy is addressing the concerns of Kuwaiti students, and we are making every effort to convey accurate information about the new guidance. Our Consular Officers are responding to inquiries submitted to KuwaitNIV@state.gov, and our Education Adviser can be reached at KuwaitCity@EducationUSA.org with any questions about selecting a university or course of study. We are also in regular contact with the relevant Kuwaiti authorities to explain the new guidance.
Since every university has its own set of unique circumstances, I advise all Kuwaiti students to work with their international student advisor, or designated school official (DSO), to understand the rules of their specific program.
- What is the breakdown of numbers of Kuwaiti students enrolled in online/hybrid/in-person programs?
Universities in the U.S. are still developing their plans for the fall semester, and every university in the U.S. will make its decisions independently based upon the COVID conditions in their areas. The protection of students’ health and well-being is everyone’s top priority. Since every university has its own set of unique circumstances, we are advising all Kuwaiti students to work with their international student advisor, or designated school official (DSO), to understand the rules of their program.
- Some saw in these latest decisions an “unprecedented harshness and tenaciousness” against students who consider the US their primary destination for higher education. What’s your comment?
For decades, the United States has been the top destination worldwide for international students, and there are currently over one million students from around the world at U.S. colleges and universities. Many international students will continue their studies in the United States this fall.
We are also proud to host the largest number of Kuwaiti students outside of Kuwait, and my staff are ready to support any student who wishes to study at a U.S. university or college. Kuwaiti students are very important to us, and we are proud of the success Kuwaiti students have had at U.S. academic institutions.
Protecting the health of our students must be our top priority. If courses are being held entirely online, they can be completed from anywhere. Where they can just as well take their courses from home, it would seem to make sense for students to reduce the risk of traveling as a further mitigation for the spread of COVID-19.
- What is now the fate of over 15K Kuwaiti students who study at American universities and how are US universities handling this situation?
Before making any final decisions, I would strongly (?) advise Kuwaiti students who are currently enrolled in a U.S. study program to check with their international student advisor, or designated school official (DSO), about whether their program is considered a “hybrid” of online and in-person classes. New students who will be enrolling in the fall should find out whether the institutions that they are applying to will be holding all of their classes online or will have some in-person classes.
- What is the level of coordination between the Embassy and Kuwaiti authorities in view of the recent changes?
My staff and I are working with the Ministry of Higher Education and NUKS-USA to make sure that Kuwaiti students have the most accurate and up-to-date information. Through our social media, Embassy website, and interviews with local media, we hope to convey as much information as we can about current visa regulations. Our Consular Officers are responding to inquiries submitted to KuwaitNIV@state.gov, and our Education Adviser can be reached at KuwaitCity@EducationUSA.org with any questions about selecting a university or course of study. We look forward to our upcoming meeting with the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Higher Education.
- Will these decisions negatively impact the number of Kuwaiti students who would study in the US under the MOHE scholarship program?
I certainly hope not. The United States is still home to the best education institutions in the world. For generations, Kuwaiti graduates of U.S. universities have become leaders in nearly every sector of Kuwaiti society. We stand ready to assist any Kuwaiti student who is planning to study in the U.S., and we will continue to work with the Ministry of Higher Education to address any concerns.
- Is it possible to reach a swift solution to this situation that would protect the future of Kuwaiti students, or is the only solution here for them to study elsewhere outside the US?
This is an unprecedented time, and we ask for everyone’s patience as we see how conditions develop. Travel anywhere is difficult right now, and it is unclear what conditions will be like in the fall. We will do everything we can to assist any Kuwaiti student who wishes to study in the United States because we firmly believe that our universities offer the best opportunities to Kuwaiti students. Kuwait sends the third-largest number of students to the United States of any country in the Middle East. The future of Kuwaiti students at U.S. universities is secure.