The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced modifications today to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) stating that “nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the U.S. 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.”
At schools offering in-person classes, nonimmigrant F-1 students can stay in the U.S. under existing federal regulations. Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.
Nonimmigrant F-1 students at schools adopting a hybrid model will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online, but these schools must certify to SEVP 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.
Nonimmigrant students within the U.S. are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. If students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.
Due to COVID-19, SEVP instituted a temporary exemption regarding online courses for the spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted nonimmigrant students to take more online courses than normally permitted by federal regulation to maintain their nonimmigrant status during the COVID-19 emergency.
F-1 nonimmigrant students pursue academic coursework and M-1 nonimmigrant students pursue vocational coursework while studying in the U.S.