On July 6, 2020 SEVP announced a modification to the F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant student programs as a result of many U.S. educational institutions temporarily changing from in-person to online instruction, or a hybrid of the two, in the Fall 2020 term as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What We Know:
- Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students will not be permitted to enter or remain in the United States in educational programs that are changing to “fully online” for the upcoming Fall semester.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not admit students enrolled in such programs, and those presently enrolled in the U.S. will be required to depart the United States unless they transfer to a school, college or university maintaining in-person instruction.
- U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in an institution that is switching to online instruction in the Fall. Such students will be required to continue their studies abroad.
- For those who fail to transfer to a qualifying institution or to timely depart the United States, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) is threatening “immigration consequences” to include the possibility of initiating removal proceedings for students who overstay.
- F-1 students enrolled in regular in-person programs of instruction (not entirely online), they may enroll in a maximum of one class (3 credit hours) of online instruction per term—all remaining coursework must be in-person in order for the student to be permitted entry, or to remain, in the U.S.
- For F-1 students enrolled in “hybrid model” instruction involving both in-person and online coursework, DHS will permit students to remain in the U.S. if the school properly certifies to SEVP via Form I-20 that (a) the program is not entirely online, (b) the F-1 student is not enrolled exclusively in online coursework in the Fall, and (c) the student is making normal progress in their degree program.
- F-1 English language training and M-1 vocational programs must all be conducted via in-person instruction—no online instruction is permitted in any amount.
What We Know:
- For F-1 and M-1 students, maintaining status in the U.S. for the upcoming Fall term will require enrollment in an in-person course of instruction ASAP—no grace period or exemption is provided, irrespective of the start of Fall term beginning in August/September 2020.
- Students who are unable to change institutions by the start of the Fall term should prepare to depart the U.S. and continue their studies abroad, until their U.S. school elects to return to in-person instruction.