Within a span of eight days the US government announced a life-altering directive towards international students holding F1 visas and then withdrew that ruling. During this time, students who were forced to take online classes due to the Coronavirus pandemic had to self deport immediately.
Harvard, MIT, Google, and Twitter along with 17 states filed a suit against it and the July 6, 2020 F1 directive was rescinded.
So, schools can go online if their county’s Covid rules need them to. Students don’t have to deport. And F1 student visas stay, for now.
But this has left behind some confusion and international students on F1 visas have questions. Below we have addressed some of the most frequently asked questions-post-rescission.
Frequently Asked Questions for International Students on F1 Visas
Can I take online courses in the Fall 2020?
Answer: Yes, you may take 100% online classes if your school is offering only those for the next semester. However, this is applicable only if you are an existing student. This will not affect your F1 visa status. Newly enrolled, incoming students will not be permitted into the United States if their colleges are offering only online classes.
I am a new, incoming student for Fall 2020. My university is offering hybrid system with a some in-person and rest online classes. Can I apply for I-20?
Answer: Yes, if you have any in-person classes in the Fall, you are eligible for a new I-20.
Do I have to take the hybrid option offered by my school?
Answer: Please follow the academic structure as laid out by your school. You may contact your individual DSO to figure out an academic plan that is best suited to you and your school based on the county guidelines.
I left the country and want to be back in the Fall 2020 semester – will I need a new I-20?
Answer: If you are a returning student to the US for the Fall semester, you will not need a new I-20. You still have to maintain minimum credit requirements to maintain F1 status. This usually ranges from 9-12 credits each term. Please confirm your individual course requirements to remain in status from your DSO.
Can I still undertake my Option Practical Training (OPT)?
Answer: Yes, as an international student you can still do OPT that will allow you to work for 12 months in the field of your studies. However, as before, in order to be eligible for OPT you have to have completed at least one academic year (two full semesters on campus) of studies. This should have been done in the US and not remotely.
Given the uncertainty, do I have to wait until I complete my coursework to do OPT?
Answer: Traditionally, most students wait to complete their coursework to apply and do OPT. However, many companies that recruit international students are open to offering OPT before that. You will have to explore this with the individual company you are trying to apply to.
In order to be eligible, you still have to have completed two full semesters on campus.
Will I still be able to maintain my F1 status if I have to take all my coursework online?
Answer: Yes, as per the rescission on July 14, 2020 and earlier announcement made by SEVIS, every international student who is taking all his courses online due to the pandemic will be in Active status in SEVIS. You still have to meet the normal full course of credit requirements.
I am a new admit, can I still come into the United States to join my school for classes.
Answer: Yes, you may. If you and your country of origin do not have any travel restrictions and your county/ state is not under quarantine, you may join your school. Please confirm whether your school is offering all online or hybrid option of in-person classes. Your place of stay will be determined according to this.
I am international student with a valid F1 visa – Why does my passport say D/S?
Answer: D/S stands for ‘duration of Stay’. On entering the US, the CBP officer will stamp the date of how long you can stay in the US. This is for the duration of your coursework and as long as you comply with all the terms and conditions of your F1 visa status.
This date moves up based on your OPT or if you were selected for the H1-B lottery cap.
Disclaimer:The above is for informational purposes only and you should contact an immigration lawyer before taking action towards your F1 visa. If you have anymore unanswered questions regarding online classes, F1 visa validity or I-20, talk to an immigration lawyer for clarity.