Due to COVID-19, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) instituted a temporary exemption regarding the online study policy for the 2020 Spring and Summer semesters. This policy permitted F-1 students to take more online courses than normally permitted to maintain their F-1 status during the COVID-19 emergency. This will no longer be the case for the Fall 2020 semester.
For the Fall 2020 semester:
- Students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States in F status. F students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the U.S. or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status or potentially face immigration consequences such as removal (deportation) proceedings.
- Students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.
- Students attending schools adopting a hybrid model - 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 Form I-20, that the program is not 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.
- Students who have completed their course of study and are working pursuant to Optional Practical Training (OPT) will not be impacted by these changes.
- Students who have not yet completed their course of study and are working under Curricular Practical Training (CPT) will be impacted if their school will only be offering online courses in Fall 2020.
For all students attending schools in the United States for Fall 2020, Designated School Officials (DSOs) must issue new Forms 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.
Schools must update and reissue all Forms I-20 to reflect these changes in program enrollment and student information within 21 business days of publication of the Broadcast Message, schedule for August 4, 2020.
If a school or F student changes its operational stance mid-semester to an entirely online course load, nonimmigrant students must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as transfer to a school with in-person instruction.
The information above also applies to M students.