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US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Policy on International Students, July 6 and 14, 2020

Below is the ICE policy announcement prohibiting visas for international students who might be studying in schools which moved all classes online as a measure to cope with the covid-19 threat. That policy was rescinded on July 14, returning to the March 13, 2020 policy included before.

July 14, 2020
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Initial directive:

Broadcast Message: COVID-19 and Fall 2020

To:All SEVIS Users

Date: July 6, 2020

Number:2007-01

General Information

Temporary procedural adaptations related to online courses permitted by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) during the height of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) crisis will be modified for the fall 2020 semester. There will still be accommodations to provide flexibility to schools and nonimmigrant students, but as many institutions across the country reopen, there is a concordant need to resume the carefully balanced protections implemented by federal regulations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to publish the procedures and responsibilities described in the below in the near future as a Temporary Final Rule in the Federal Register. This message is intended to provide additional time to facilitate the implementation of these procedures.

Due to COVID-19, SEVP instituted a temporary exemption regarding the online study policy for the spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted F and M students to take more online courses than normally allowed for purposes of maintaining a full course of study to maintain their F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant statusduring the COVID-19 emergency.

Temporary Exemptions for the Fall 2020 Semester

For the fall 2020semester, SEVP is modifying these temporary exemptions. In summary, temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester provide that:

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 ortake other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status or potentially face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.

2) Studentsattending schools operating under normalin-person classesare bound by existing federal regulations.Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online (see 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G)).

3) Students attending schools adopting a hybrid modelthat is, a mixture of online and in person classeswill 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,”that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, andthat the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.Thea bove exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses (see 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v))).

 

Forms I-20 Requirements and Maintaining Student Records for the Fall 2020 Semester

For all students attending schools in the United States this fal l2020, designated school officials (DSOs) must issue new Forms I-20 to each student certifying that the school is not operating entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimumnumber ofonline classes required to make normal progress in theirdegree program. DSOs must indicate this information in the Form I-20 Remarks field in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

Schools must update and reissue all Forms I-20 to reflect these changes in program enrollment and student information within 21 business days of publication of this Broadcast Message (byAug. 4, 2020.) When issuing new Forms I-20, please prioritize students who require new visas and are outside of the country.

For the fall 2020 semester, continuing F and M students who are already in the United States may remain in Active status in SEVIS if they make normal progress in a program of study, or are engaged in approved practical training, either as part of a program of study or following completion of a program of study. If a school changes its operational stance mid-semester, and as a result a nonimmigrant student switches to only online classes, or a nonimmigrant student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an entirely online course load, schools are reminded that nonimmigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. If nonimmigrant students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as transfer to a school with in-person instruction.

For the fall 2020 semester, continuing Fand M students outside of the United States, whose schools of enrollment are only offering online classes, may remain in Active status in SEVIS if theyare taking online courses and are able to meet the normal full course of study requirementsorthe requirements for a reduced course of study. Only students enrolled at a school that is only offering online coursework can engage in remote learning from their home country.In this case, DSOs should annotate the students record to make it clear that the student is outside the US but taking full time online courses as that is the only choice offered by the school.

School Reporting and Procedural Requirements

1) Schools thatoffer entirely online classes or programs or will not reopen for the fall 2020 semester must complete an operational change plan and submit it to SEVP@ice.dhs.gov no later than Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The subject line must read: “Fall 2020 (Fully Online/Will not Reopen)SchoolName and SchoolCode.

2) Certified schools that will not be entirely online but will reopen in the fall and that will use any of the following educational formats must update their operational plans by August 1, 2020 and include whether they will be:

- Solely in-person classes, or

- Delayed or shortened sessions, or

- A hybrid plan of in-person and remote classes.

These plans shall also be submitted to SEVP@ice.dhs.govand the subject line must read: “Fall 2020 (in person/hybrid/modified session)School Name and School Code

3)Schools should update their operational plansif circumstances regarding their operational posture change within 10 calendar days. SEVP will continue to develop and provide resources to stakeholderson ICE.gov, including answers to frequently asked questions, to clarify and expand upon information in this Broadcast Message.

Disclaimer

This Broadcast Message is not a substitute for applicable legal requirements, nor is it itself a rule or a final action by SEVP. It is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by any party in any administrative, civil or criminal matter.

 


On July 14, 2020 ICE rescinded the guidance issued on July 6, 2020. It reinstated the policies outlined on March 13, 2020.

Covid-19: Guidance for SEVP Stakeholders
March 13, 2020

As follow up to the guidance issued by SEVP on Monday, March 9, 2020, concerning the COVID-19 situation, there have been inquiries concerning the proper status for students in SEVIS who may have face slightly different scenarios related to emergency procedures implemented by SEVP-certified learning institutions:

Scenario 1: A school completely closes and does not have online courses or other alternate learning procedures.

Response: If a school closes temporarily without online instruction or other alternative learning procedures, the students should remain in active status in SEVIS so long as the students intend to resume their course of study when classes resume. This is similar to short-term breaks in the school calendar when classes are not in session. Schools must notify SEVP of COVID-19 procedural changes within 10 business days.

Scenario 2: A school temporarily stops in-person classes but implements online or other alternate learning procedures and the nonimmigrant student remains in the United States

Response: If a school closes temporarily but offers online instruction or another alternative learning procedure, nonimmigrant students should participate in online or other alternate learning procedures and remain in active status in SEVIS. Schools must notify SEVP of COVID-19 procedural changes within 10 business days. Given the extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP will allow F-1 and/or M-1 students to temporarily count online classes towards a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v). This temporary provision is only in effect for the duration of the emergency and in accordance with the procedural change documents filed in a timely manner to SEVP.
 

Scenario 3: A school temporarily stops in-person classes but implements online or other alternate learning procedures and the nonimmigrant student departs the United States.

Response: If a school closes temporarily but offers online instruction or another alternative learning procedure, nonimmigrant students should participate in online or other alternate learning procedures and remain in active status in SEVIS. Schools must notify SEVP of COVID-19 procedural changes within 10 business days. Given the extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP will allow F-1 and/or M-1 students to temporarily count online classes towards a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v), even if they have left the United States and are taking the online classes from elsewhere. This temporary provision is only in effect for the duration of the emergency and in accordance with the procedural change documents filed in a timely manner to SEVP.

 

NOTE: Due to the fluid nature of this difficult situation, this guidance may be subject to change. SEVP will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will adjust its guidance as needed.
 

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