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Student visas: In-person classes or face deportation

Covid19 has given the administration the perfect vehicle for dismantling our immigration system one visa category at a time. The latest casualty, in quick succession to the previous one (see our blog post from last week), is student visas or F1.

Since covid19 hit,  some accommodations were made for online classes so that foreign students could remain in the US and maintain status.  That was short lived. The administration announced on Monday July 6th 2020, that foreign students cannot attend online classes only. They must take some in-person classes.  Yet, universities like Harvard and Princeton had already announced online classes only for the Fall semester. As of this morning, July 8th, Harvard and MIT have sued the administration. Keep an eye on the news, hopefully common sense will prevail after litigation.

There is so much wrong with this announcement and yes, cruelty and chaos is the point.  While the administration might be wanting to punish immigrants, the real victims will be Americans and American schools.  Some quick thoughts:

  • The rule is likely illegal for not going through the rule making process.
  • American schools will suffer financially because foreign students pay full tuition.
  • The above tuition is why domestic students can receive subsidies in tuition fees.
  • The economy will suffer at  a time when 44 million Americans are unemployed. The economy needs to economic boost that foreign students bring.
  • This is a downright negligent and irresponsible policy that puts all people- students (foreign and domestic), school staff and anyone they are in contact with- in danger of catching covid19.  And as we saw from a small virus in Woohan, China, we are all connected.  Anyone exposed to Covid19 means we are all exposed.

More soon.

Here is a link to the announcement with a copy of the text below:


SEVP modifies temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online courses during fall 2020 semester

WASHINGTON – The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications Monday to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to publish the procedures and responsibilities in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.

Temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester include:

  1. Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-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 or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.
  2. Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.
  3. Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will 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,” certifying that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. The above exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursing vocational degrees, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.

Schools should update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 10 days of the change if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to only online classes, or a nonimmigrant student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an entirely online course load. Nonimmigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. If students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.

Due to COVID-19, SEVP instituted a temporary exemption regarding online courses for the spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted nonimmigrant students to take more online courses than normally permitted by federal regulation to maintain their nonimmigrant status during the COVID-19 emergency.

F-1 nonimmigrant students pursue academic coursework and M-1 nonimmigrant students pursue vocational coursework while studying in the United States.