On July 15, 2020 the Trump Administration rescinded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) July 6th announcement to require all F-1 and M-1 visa holders studying in the United States to return home or face deportation (“removal”) if they did not attend in-person instruction at their respective college or university.
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed suit on July 8th to enjoin last week’s change to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (“SEVP”) as being in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”). Joined by more than twenty Attorneys General of states including California and Massachusetts, together with scores of universities and tech giants Google, Facebook and Twitter, DHS representatives acknowledged in U.S. District Court that this policy change failed to adhere to proper notice requirements under the APA.
What We Know:
- Nonimmigrant F-1 students will be permitted remain in the United States in educational programs that are changing to fully online, or a hybrid of in-person and online instruction for the upcoming Fall semester.
- While specifics of this sudden policy reversal remain in flux—the rescission was acknowledged by DHS attorneys as the Harvard/M.I.T. suit was about to be heard—no written update has been published by DHS.
- The apparent posture of DHS will be to permit foreign students to attend classes while in the U.S., whether online, in-person, or via a hybrid model, as schools continue to address concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19.
- F-1 English language training and M-1 vocational programs must still be conducted via in-person instruction—no online instruction is currently permitted in any amount.
What We Advise:
- For F-1 students, maintaining status in the U.S. for the upcoming Fall term will require coordination with your school’s Designated School Official (“DSO”) to ensure your Form I-20 remains up-to-date.
- Please refer to the PL&A website for future updates as continuing volatility in immigration policy requires vigilance to ensure compliance with U.S. immigration law.