Allow F-1 and M-1 students to remain in the US with online-only classes
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On July 6th, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program announced modifications for non-immigrant students taking online classes in the United States. The modifications would not allow international students to remain in the United States if their college offers online-only classes. International students affected by this would be forced to transfer to another college for in-person classes or would be forced to leave the country.
Some international students come to the United States for the opportunities and resources that may not be accessible to them in their home countries. Being forced to transfer is not financially viable for many. Returning home would force many international students to pause their studies because they might not have access to the resources they need. Many more international students do pay the high tuition fees at US institutions.
COVID-19 is still a very real threat and travel bans are still in place around the world, barring students from being able to return to the US or going home. If students are not able to return for their classes in the US or able to keep up with these new immigration policies, it is uncertain what impacts this might have on their visas and immigration status.
The Student and Visitor Exchange Program should reconsider allowing nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students to remain in the United States while taking online-only classes if that is the case. Additionally, international students should also be able to continue their studies with a full online-only courseload in their home countries even if their classes are in-person or using a hybrid-model.
- Nonimmigrant F-1and 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.
- 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.
- 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."
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