The Trouble with International Students and Online Courses — What You Need to Know Now
Due to COVID-19, SEVP instituted a temporary exemption earlier this year.
It allowed international students to take more online classes for the spring and summer semesters than normally permitted for the purposes of maintaining a full course of study, which enables them to keep their legal F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant status.
Under the proposed modifications, international students will not be able to obtain a visa to come here or remain in the US if their course load for the fall 2020 semester is completely online.
What are the key points of the proposed temporary modification?
- F-1 and M-1 students currently attending schools operating entirely online will not be able to take a full online course load and remain in the United States. They must depart the U.S. or consider other options such as transferring schools to one that offers in-person instructions. If they are not currently in the U.S., these students will not be able to obtain student visas or allowed admission to the country.
- F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes may take a maximum of one class — or three credit hours — online.
- F-1 students attending schools operating under a hybrid model — a mix of online and in person classes — will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online.
Are these modifications in effect now?
No. These modifications are not currently in effect because they have not been published in the Federal Register as required. However, they are expected to become effective.
I am an employer who has students on F-1 OPT or F-1 STEM OPT. Do these modifications affect me or the F-1 student working for us?
No. These modifications should not affect F-1 students who have completed their degrees and are engaged in approved OPT or STEM training.
I am in the U.S. in F or M status with CPT (Curricular Practical Training). Do these modifications affect me?
They might if your school is only offering online studies for the fall 2020 semester. Please check with your school and plan accordingly.
I am an F or M student. What other changes would I see if these modifications are implemented?
You should receive an updated I-20 in the coming months. The Designated School Official (DSO) must issue a new Form I-20 to each student certifying that the school is not operating entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.
Remember, though, for now these proposed modifications are not in effect yet, and should not affect F or M international students who are legally authorized to work.
We will continue to follow this latest initiative and provide updates. For additional information, read the actual language of the proposed modification.
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