F-1 and M-1 student alert

7 July 2020 | Applicable law: US

Throughout the Spring and Summer, the U.S. government has been relatively flexible with respect to remote learning and student visas to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 6, new temporary rules were announced that aim to provide accommodations for F-1, M-1, J-1 non-immigrant students enrolled in the Fall 2020 semester. These new rules, however, will pose significant hardship to foreign students.

We provide the highlights of the new rule:

  • F-1 and M-1 students may not attend schools that will be operating entirely online while in the United States. If a student is actively enrolled in a program that is moving its courses online, they must depart the country or transfer to another school that will provide in-person courses.
  • F-1 students may still only take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.
  • F-1 students attending schools that implement a "hybrid model" (mix 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 the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (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.

It is important to note that the above exemptions do not apply to English language training programs or vocational degree programs. F-1 and M-1 students enrolled in these programs are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.

If you or a family member are enrolled in an F-1 or M-1 academic program, it is advisable that you meet with your school official to learn more about their plans for Fall semester instruction. The Withers immigration team is available to advise and assist foreign students to navigate these new rules.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.


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