F-1 And M-1 Students Attending Entirely Online Courses May Not Remain In The U.S.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced that F-1 and M-1 students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes for the Fall Semester. If a foreign student finds himself or herself in such a situation, he or she must take alternative steps to maintain his or her nonimmigrant status or must leave the country.

Foreign students had been permitted in the spring and summer semesters, due to COVID-19, to take more online courses than normally allowed to maintain their nonimmigrant status. The new announcement modifies the temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to COVID-19 for the Fall Semester. The following are some of the key features of the announcement:

  • F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. Foreign students currently in the U.S. and enrolled in such programs must take suitable steps (such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction) to remain in lawful status, or must depart the country. Failure to comply with the above would make them liable to face immigration consequences, which could include initiation of removal proceedings.
  • U.S. Consulates and Embassies will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester. Such students will also not be permitted to enter the U.S. by CBP.
  • Eligible 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 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. Such schools must certify through the Form I-20 that:
    • the program is not entirely online,
    • the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and
    • the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.
  • F-1 students in English language training programs and M-1 students pursing vocational degrees are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.

Following the announcement from ICE, educational institutions in the U.S. who are opposed to the administration’s sudden decision have already filed lawsuits or are planning to file lawsuits seeking temporary restraining orders as well preliminary and permanent injunctions. We will keep monitoring the developments in this regard and will keep our readers updated.

If you have any questions regarding maintaining your status in the U.S., Schedule A Consultation With Immigration Lawyer Today. Our experienced attorneys will be happy to assist you.

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