SEVP modifies temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online courses during fall 2020 semester

https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/sevp-modifies-temporary-exemptions-nonimmigrant-students-taking-online-courses-during

WASHINGTON – The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications Monday to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to publish the procedures and responsibilities in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.

Temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester include:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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. Nonimmigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. If students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.

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.

F-1 nonimmigrant students pursue academic coursework and M-1 nonimmigrant students pursue vocational coursework while studying in the United States.

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  1. Federal government rescinds SEVP policy changes for international students

    The federal government rescinded a policy Tuesday that would have forced international students taking only online classes to leave the United States.

    Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology first filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement July 8 for ICE’s July 6 policy changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

    The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts was informed Tuesday that both parties came to a resolution and the government agreed to rescind the new policy, according to the U.S. District Court civil docket.

    ICE’s now-rescinded policy changes stated that international students on an F-1 or M-1 visa only taking online classes in the fall had to leave the U.S. or transfer to a school that offers in-person classes.

    Harvard and MIT filed the first suit against the federal government, and were later joined by colleges and universities around the nation, including the University of California.

    UC President Janet Napolitano and Board of Regents Chair John Pérez said in a statement that revoking international students’ visas would have put students’ futures and their communities’ health at risk.

    “College and university leaders must be allowed to make decisions about campus operations that are guided by public health experts – not by a hastily drafted, arbitrary and mean-spirited policy,” the statement read.

    The Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars said in a statement that the rescission was in part due to students and staff speaking out against the SEVP modifications.

    Bakur Madini, the International Student Representative for the Undergraduate Student Association Council, said the rescission was a big relief.

    Madini added he thinks the pressure universities put on the federal government with lawsuits was a big part of why the policy was rescinded.

    “There is no way that this policy would have been rescinded on its own.” Madini said.

    https://dailybruin.com/2020/07/14/federal-government-rescinds-sevp-policy-changes-for-international-students

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