On July 6, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that it will no longer provide exemptions to international students to take online classes during the fall 2020 semester due to the Coronavirus (COVID) pandemic. Here is all you need to know about the new rule and how it might affect you.
I am currently in the United States on a student visa and have plans to enroll for fall 2020. What do I do?
It all depends on whether your program or university will provide a mix of online and in-person classes or whether your degree program will be entirely online.
If your program is a mix of online and in-person, your student visa will not be affected by this new rule. However, if your program becomes online-only, you are not allowed to remain in the United States on a F-1 or M-1 student visa.
Students currently in the United States enrolled in programs that are ONLY online for the fall 2020 must depart the United States or find alternative options such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction. If you do not transfer, you can face immigration consequences such as deportation proceedings. If your school announces that they are doing online only for fall 2020, contact us. We can talk about options and strategies.
What about a "hybrid model" meaning some of your classes are online and some are in-person?
If your program is doing a hybrid model, you can be granted a student visa, and you will allowed to remain the United States on their student visa. You are allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. Your university will have to certify that the degree program is not entirely online and that you are taking the minimum number of online classes required for your degree program.
Previously for the spring and summer 2020 sessions, the government had relaxed online-learning requirements due to COVID concerns, but they are not extending that exception for fall 2020 semester.
Do you need a new I-20 to show that you are taking a mix of in-person and online classes?
Speak with your university regarding their protocol, but the government guidance does require the university to issue a new I-20.
What if you start the fall semester with in-person classes, but your university or program decides to move everything online?
As of the date of this article, we believe that this still falls under the allowed “hybrid model” because some classes will have been in-person at some point during the fall 2020 semester. This is a developing situation; therefore, if this situation arises, please contact us regarding options and strategies.
What should you do if all classes are online and you need to depart the United States, but there are travel restrictions for returning to your home country?
Contact us and we can help you with other options such as a B-2 visa.
What if your classes are online but you are afraid to return to your home country?
Contact us and we can help you with other options such as asylum.
I am waiting for an approval of a student visa abroad to start fall 2020 coursework. What happens if my university is doing online courses only for the fall semester?
No visas will be issued for student that will attend schools or programs that are fully online for the fall 2020 semester.
If you already have valid student visa and were planning to attend a university that has now announced online learning only due to COVID, immigration will not allow you to enter the United States on your student visa. If you fall into this group, contact us and we can help you with strategies such as transferring to another school that offers some in-person learning.
Please remember this is a changing situation and every immigration case is different. There is no single answer to every case. Because the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic travel and immigration restrictions change regularly, it is best to consult with an immigration attorney regarding the best strategy for your situation.
Here at ImmigraTrust Law, we are happy to help you with your case and with navigating these uncertain times. For additional questions, please contact us at www.ImmigraTrust.com or by calling (949) 424-2045. Please subscribe to our Facebook page for updates!
For more information on other immigration topics, please visit our articles page.
--Najmeh Mahmoudjafari, J.D.
Najmeh Mahmoudjafari is the Founder and Lead Immigration Attorney at ImmigraTrust Law (www.ImmigraTrust.com), an immigration law practice in Orange County, California. Najmeh and her firm represent individual and corporate clients in all 50 U.S. States and internationally. She can be reached at Najmeh@ImmigraTrust.com.
DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended and does not constitute legal advice. This article does not create an attorney/client relationship and does not provide an attorney/client privilege. For legal advice about your specific case, please contact an attorney.
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