Previously, due to COVID-19, SEVP instituted a temporary exemption regarding online courses for the spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted nonimmigrant students to take more online courses than normally permitted by federal regulation to maintain their nonimmigrant status during the COVID-19 emergency. This announcement ends this permission.
WHO DOES THIS NEW ANNOUNCEMENT APPLY TO: F-1 nonimmigrant students pursue academic coursework and M-1 nonimmigrant students pursue vocational coursework while studying in the United States. All individuals who now hold or had obtained admission to a U.S. institution under a F-1 or M-1 program and had proper documentation to receive an F-1 or M-1 visa abroad, or who have a visa but have not yet entered the U.S.
WHO DOES THIS NEW ANNOUNCEMENT NOT APPLY TO: Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations and none of the below applies to their ability to obtain a visa, enter the U.S. or remain in the U.S.
WHAT DOES THE ANNOUNCEMENT SAY: Temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester include a number of requirements for nonimmigrants in F-1 and M-1 status, including:
That [n]onimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in (or come to) the United States.
U.S. Department of State – the Embassies and Consulates abroad - will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester[.]
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not permit these students to enter the United States.
WHAT HAPPENS TO AN F-1 / M-1 NONIMMIGRANT IN AN ONLINE ONLY SCHOOL OR PROGRAM: Students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrants may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS: It was noted that F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. This exception will only apply to schools that certify that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.
WHAT ABOUT ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROGRAMS OR VOCATIONAL DEGREE SEEKERS: The above exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursing vocational degrees, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.
HOW WILL ICE KNOW WHAT PROGRAM THE SCHOOL IS RUNNING OR WHAT A STUDENT’S STATUS IS: Schools will update their SEVIS records to indicate the program model they are running and what program each student is enrolled in. Schools should update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 10 days of the change if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to only online classes, or a nonimmigrant student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an entirely online course load.
WHAT DO I DO NOW? Because the application of this announcement is determined by your institution and how they will conduct classes this fall, you should first seek information from your Designated School Officer (DSO) regarding how they will proceed with fall classes. If you find that you are affected by your institution’s plan for the fall you have the option to seek admission and transfer your status to the institution or change your status.
To find out what your options are, please contact our office and we’ll conduct a full review of your situation to help you make the best decision for you based on the options that you have available. Visit us online at www.ekwlawgroup.com or call at 720-312-1874!
For more information from ICE, please visit: https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/sevp-modifies-temporary-exemptions-nonimmigrant-students-taking-online-courses-during