What is the impact of ICE ban on international students in USA on F-1 and M-1 visa for 2020 Fall Semester?
All international students and especially new students should check with their schools about new guidance and compliance with visa requirements in the case of online courses.
International students who want to study in the USA and attend an academic program or English Language Program at a US college or university need to apply for an F-1 student visa at an US Embassy or Consulate abroad or change status to F-1 status in the United States prior to the start date of the academic program.
International students can also come to study on in the United States on an M-1 student visa for vocational programs or other nonacademic programs with the exception of language training.
F-1 or M-1 international students already enrolled in a program can count online classes towards a full course of study in excess of regular limits for the duration of the emergency through the 2020 Fall semester.
In general, outside of the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, F-1 visas allow international students to study full-time at a US school with only one online class or distance learning class per term or semester. For international students on M-1 visa or for ESL students online classes or distance learning classes cannot count towards the full course of study requirement.
However, due to the Coronavirus emergency, F-1 or M-1 students can count online classes towards a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. This temporary provision is only in effect for the duration of the emergency and in accordance with the procedural change documents filed by the school to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). This policy is in effect through the 2020 Fall semester and international students should check with school representatives about compliance with all requirements.
ICE directive bans new international students who plan to enroll in entirely online classes for 2020 Fall semester from entering the U.S.
Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, on July 6, 2020, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a new directive for the international students on student visas for the Fall semester of 2020. According to that directive, international students must take in-person classes at their US schools in order to maintain lawful student status and if they take all classes online they can face serious immigration consequences including the initiation of removal proceedings. In addition, the directive stated that new international students enrolling at schools that offer only online courses will not receive visas and students who are already enrolled at such US schools will be required to transfer or leave the United States. Finally, the international students who follow a hybrid model of course work – with classes in-person and online – can stay in the US as long as they are not taking a fully online course load and the schools must also certify to the SEVP that the students are taking the minimum number of online classes required to make progress in their degree program. Since then the ICE directive regarding international students was cancelled on July 14, 2020, but even with the policy gone international students should stay alert to other new policies that can affect their status in the U.S.
However, on July 24, 2020, ICE announced that nonimmigrant students and schools certified by SEVP should abide by SEVP guidance originally issued in March 2020, which allows some distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19 for international students actively enrolled at a US school as of March 9, 2020. Students who satisfy SEVP requirements as reflected on the DHS form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility) and in the SEVIS may qualify for student visas.
Malescu Law P.A. – Immigrant Lawyers