Today, we here at Study Abroad have good and bad news for you.
The good news is that if you are an F or M visa student wanting to come to study in the US this fall, you may still be able to enter the country, even if your classes are 100% online. The condition for this is that you had to have been accepted and enrolled by 9 March 2020.
More good news is that students can take 100% online classes at a US university and count the earned credits towards their degrees, regardless of being allowed to enter or not.
The bad news is that although ICE repealed their rule that international students would not be allowed to do online classes from abroad, new international students requiring I-20 sponsorship will not be able to enter the US until the restrictions are lifted.
Both the good and the bad news follow the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance published on 9 March 2020.
An announcement from ICE and SEVP explains the good news for us:
“As stated in the March 2020 guidance, Active F and M students will be permitted to temporarily count online classes towards a full course of study in excess of the regulatory limits stated in 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(m)(9)(v). The March 2020 guidance applies to continuing F and M nonimmigrant students who were in valid F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status on March 9, 2020, including those previously enrolled in entirely online classes who are outside of the United States and seeking to re-enter the country this fall. Students actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, who subsequently took courses online while outside of the country can re-enter the United States, even if their school is engaged solely in distance learning,” the announcement reads.
The same announcement subsequently explains our bad news:
“In accordance with March 2020 guidance, F and M students in new or initial status after March 9, 2020, will not be able to enter the United States to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online. Also consistent with the SEVP Broadcast Message dated March 9, 2020, designated school officials should not issue a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” for a student in new or initial status who is outside of the United States and plans to take classes at an SEVP-certified educational institution that is operating 100 percent online,” the announcement reads.
So, what does this mean for you?
In a nutshell, it means that if you are a returning nonimmigrant student to the US, you can come back to the US in the Fall 2020 semester, even if your classes are online. If you are not a returning student, you may not be able to enter but will still be able to take online classes. It also means that all online classes will be counted towards your degree.
We still don’t know when all nonimmigrant students will be able to enter the US, or when things will be normal again. But we here at Study Abroad are hopeful that it will be sooner rather than later, and we do wish you luck in getting your degree!