On July 06, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that foreign students with an F-1 visa (temporary visa issued to a foreign student for the purpose of attending a full-time academic program in the U.S.) or M-1 visa (temporary visa issued to a foreign student for the purpose of attending a full-time vocational or technical school in the U.S.), or applying for an F-1 or M-1 visa, will no longer be eligible for the visa if the academic or vocational program they will be enrolled in is “fully online for the fall semester.” Student and Exchange Visitor Program News Release.
What does this mean?
What this means is that students who are already in the U.S. with an F-1 or M-1 visa will be subject to removal from the United States (deportation) if the academic or vocational program they start in the fall semester is 100% online. This also means that foreign students who are presently outside the U.S. and are scheduled to arrive in the U.S. for the fall semester will be denied entry into the U.S. by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the airport if the program they will be attending is 100% online. Also, foreign students applying for an F-1 or M-1 visa while outside the U.S. will be denied the visa by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) if the program the student is applying is 100% online.
The SEVP news release states that foreign students should either return to their country if the program they are enrolled in will only be offering online courses, or transfer to a school or programs that offer classes in-person. Under current regulations, a foreign student is limited to taking a total of one class (3 credit hours) online per semester.
However, the SEVP news release further states that foreign students attending a school or program that is using a “hybrid model” (a combination of classes that are online and in-person), the student will be allowed to take more than one class (3 credit hours) online. In order for the hybrid model to be accepted by SEVP, the school will need to certify on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Form I-20 that:
- The program is not 100% online;
- The foreign student is not taking 100% online courses for the semester; and
- The foreign student is taking “the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.”
As noted in the news release, F-1 students who are taking an English language program, and M-1 students who are enrolled in a vocational program, are not allowed to take any online courses.
Once the fall semester starts, schools will be required to update the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) if the semester started with in-person classes but then changes to online classes, or the foreign student switches their course selection to 100% online classes. The school is required to update SEVIS within 10 days of the change.
The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only, as well as to give the reader general information and a general understanding of immigration law. It is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. The reader should not act upon this information without first seeking professional legal advice.