The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made yet another announcement regarding international students on F1 visas. In accordance with the SEVP guidance issued in March, ICE announced that newly enrolled students will not be allowed to enter the United States this Fall 2020 if their course is taken online.
SEVP Announcement for F1 Students: What Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Said
While a US district court had earlier thrown out a case about all international students meant to be deported if their universities were offering only online classes due to the pandemic, ICE issued a new guidance for nonimmigrant students taking online courses during the upcoming fall 2020 semester. In it, ICE specifies that new incoming students for Fall 2020 will not be allowed to study in the US if their entire coursework is going to be online.
What You Should Know About ICE’s Guidance For Newly Enrolled International Students
- No Form I-20 will be issued to new students applying for a F1 international student visa, if their school is only offering online classes.
- New students CAN come into the US if their schools certify that at least one in-person classes as per their coursework is being offered during the Fall 2020 semester. Form I-20 will be issued to newly enrolling students from these schools.
- This new guidance does not impact current students currently enrolled at US universities and colleges.
- This guidance doesn’t take into consideration the travel ban or US embassy closures due to the Covid pandemic. So, if students are unable to get their I-20 because of these circumstances, they still cannot come into the US without complete paperwork including a valid F1 student visa.
- Lastly, new students who succeed to come into the country on the condition that they will undertake a minimum of one in-person class, will not be forced to leave the US if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and colleges and universities need to move from a hybrid instructional model to a fully remote course of study.
What Can New International Students Impacted By ICE’s Guidance Do Next?
- Students impacted by this guidance should contact their university’s DSO to discuss the impact on their program.
- Some schools are offering to gather individual curriculums from students to evaluate which courses can be offered in-person so as to help interested students to begin their coursework on campus within the United States.
- For any additional assistance, they should contact an immigration lawyer who can give better guidance regarding next steps.
Who Is SEVP?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program is a DHS program that provides approval and oversight to schools authorized to enroll F and M nonimmigrant students. They decide on the requirements for maintaining their visa status. SEVP also supports the US government with data related to nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors through Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).