SEVP Issued Horrible Guideline for International Students Applicable for Fall 2020 Intake

SEVP released Guideline on last 06-July-2020 explaining modification in temporary exemptions for International Students taking Online Study during Fall 2020 Term. This change has been acknowledged as a historical and the most horrible by majority of the stakeholders. This may require international students to leave USA if they are planning for ONLINE-Only Study for Fall 2020 Term.

On last 06-July-2020, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced a rule change explaining modification to temporary exemptions for international students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the Fall 2020 term. As per this new rule, international students on F-1 and M-1 visas will no longer be permitted to enter or remain in the USA if their program of study is delivered online fully. This rule is completely opposite to the previous exception established by ICE that allowed international students to preserve their visa status while studying online for Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 Terms.

This Rule explains, “The US Department of State will not issue visas to international students enrolled in schools and/or programmes that are fully online for Fall 2020 Term. US Customs and Border Protection will not permit such students to enter in USA. International Students currently in USA enrolled in such programs [ Online-Only Study ] must depart USA or transfer to a school which offers in-person / campus based study to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, removal proceedings.

It has also been clarified in this Rule that F-1 visa holders may still take one class (up to three credit hours) online as part of their study program. They can always undertake fully in person / campus based study with their school. Similarly, students enrolled in hybrid programmes that combine online and in-person learning, may preserve their current visa status and entitle to remain in the US.

Schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, that the program is not entirely online and the student is not taking an entirely online course load for Fall 2020 Term, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. All Schools are advised to update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 10 days of this change about their plan for delivery method for various programs and they must re issue I20 to all current and future students with annotation about program delivery in remark section.

International students enrolled at universities offering hybrid or in person delivery and currently outside USA will not be allowed to maintain an active SEVIS record if they will not reach back to USA to resume their study for Fall 2020 term due to travel restrictions. Students can still continue to enroll in as many online classes as they want while being outside of USA. Such International Students need a new I-20 when they return to the USA in future to resume their study. In order to receive a New I20 from their school, they must meet applicable requirements need to pay I-901 SEVIS fee again.

This Change comes as a shock to the international education sector in the US and highly criticized by most of the stakeholders.