Monday, July 7, 2020, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) announced that international students who attend universities that are exclusively online this fall may not enter the U.S. ICE provided these updates for Fall Semester 2020:
- Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active 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. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.
- Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.
- Nonimmigrant 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. These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” certifying 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. 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.
This decision not only harms the students trying to earn a U.S. education, but it continues to erode the U.S. system of higher education. International students represent the fifth largest U.S. service export, and international students, staff, and faculty ensure the academic viability of our system of higher education in the U.S. International students bring significant money into our system of higher ed, which helps supply grants and scholarships to U.S. students.
If you have questions about how this impacts your immigration system, please contact SPS Immigration.