Let initial status SEVIS students into the US for online, hybrid, or in-person instruction

Let initial status SEVIS students into the US for online, hybrid, or in-person instruction

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On July 6th, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a directive with modifications to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) which would not allow international students to pursue online-only classes in the USA. After an outburst of student activism and the opposition of hundreds of higher education institutions through letters and lawsuits, the policy was rescinded on July 14th during the hearing of a federal lawsuit issued by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The day after such victory, ICE released an updated version of the March SEVP FAQs, stating that initial students who have not yet arrived in the U.S. should remain in their home country. This means that international freshmen or transfer students will not be able to begin their studies in the US this upcoming fall. Institutions, such as Harvard, USC, and Johns Hopkins, have already emailed their initial students telling them they can’t come to campus because of ICE’s current policies and that the guidelines are unlikely to change in time for them to plan their arrival to campus.

However, international students around the world are not losing hope, believing that if a university invites their students to campus this fall, everyone should be given the choice to accept such that invitation. We echo the words of a letter written by the American Council of Education and signed by 40+ organizations of higher education, to DHS Acting Secretary, Chad Wolf.

Full letter: https://www.acenet.edu/Documents/Letter-DHS-ICE-Directive-072220.pdf

  • Incoming and continuing international students should be permitted to enter the United States if they plan to attend full-time an institution offering online, hybrid, or in-person instruction. DHS should clarify that international students with an “initial status” in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) are able to come to the United States to begin their studies. 
  • Hybrid status for institutions should include any mode of instruction that requires the physical presence of an international student for any portion of an academic course, or for any portion of an academic term. 
  • If an initial incoming student enters the U.S. to attend an institution employing a hybrid model that subsequently shifts to a full online mode as a result of COVID-19, that student should remain in status and be allowed to remain in the United States. 
  • SEVIS transfer-in students who are currently overseas and are considered to have established F-1 visa status in the U.S. should be allowed to enter the country for the upcoming fall semester. 
  • If a student with an F-1 or M-1 visa is outside the U.S. for the 2020-21 academic year due to the COVID-19 crisis, for the purposes of Optional Practical Training (OPT) eligibility those students will remain eligible to apply for OPT from outside the United States.