Remote Learning: ICE Allows Foreign Students To Opt For Online Classes in 2021-22 Academic Year

Posted on April 26, 2021
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The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that incoming international students on F1, M or J1 student visas may engage in distance learning for the new academic year 2021-22. This will be allowed until Covid-related concerns for public health continue in the U.S. 

This is in continuation of the guidance issued in March 2020 and is applicable to all non-immigrant foreign students admitted to U.S. educational institutions for the next academic year. This flexibility will remain in effect during the entire 2021-22 academic year. 

Related Read: USCIS Offers 180-Day Work Authorization Extensions For OPT Students

This comes as a welcome reprieve for scores of foreign students who did not hesitate to seek admission in U.S. colleges and universities despite the uncertainties caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Last year, these non-immigrant international students were asked to vacate their housing and return to their home countries when the lockdown was announced. This year, offering the option of studying remotely allows them to continue pursuing their dream of achieving an education in the U.S.  

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Unfortunately, for students coming in from two of the most popular countries – India and China –  continue to face pandemic related visa issues. Students from China still have a restriction to enter the U.S. while lockdowns and consular closures in India have caused massive processing delays in issuing F1 visas for eligible students.

What Does This Mean For New, Incoming Students, 2021-22

For newly enrolled students, coming in to the United States will purely dependent upon their choice of academic institution. If school or university is offering a hybrid program wherein the students have to attend classes in person, then these foreign students will be issued a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. 

A new or Initial F and M student who was not previously enrolled in a program of study by March 9, 2020, will not be able to enter the United States as a non-immigrant student for the 2021-22 academic year if their course work is completely online. DSOs will not be issuing Form I-20 to foreign students in these schools.

What Does This Mean For Current, Continuing Students For 2021-22

International, non-immigrant students who were previously enrolled in a U.S. program as of March 9, 2020 can continue their coursework and be able to count online classes toward towards their required credit.

They can re-enter the United States, even if their school is engaged solely in distance learning. 

What Should Students On F1 Visas Know

  • Once you have received an admit to the college in the U.S., and you are eligible to study at a hybrid program in school, apply for a F1 or M student visa at your earliest.
  • Contact you DSO at your college to find out what the school’s stand is regarding online or hybrid classes. 
  • DSOs will issue the mandatory I-20 only if they are offering some or all in-person classes.
  • Colleges who had previously submitted procedural changes for online and hybrid learning will not be reposting new plans for the upcoming academic year. Hence, it is the students’ responsibility to contact the school and find out their plans for the 2021-22 academic year.

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