07 Jul Q&A on New F-1 Student Visa Guidance on Virtual Studies
Washington, D.C., July 7, 2020: I prepared a short question and answer on yesterday’s ICE Guidance on F-1 Students and virtual programs of studies:
1. If my university will offer 100% online classes in the Fall 2020 semester, will I be eligible for an F-1 visa?
No. The guidance makes clear that F-1 visas will not be issued to students whose university programs will be 100% online in the Fall 2020 semester.
2. If my university is a hybrid that offers both online and in-person classes, will I be issued an F-1 visa?
It depends. The guidance states that the that the university must issue a new Form I-20 by August 4, 2020, certifying that the university is pursuing a hybrid program with some in-person classes, and that the individual student has actually enrolled for in-person classes this Fall 2020 semester. The student’s course selections will matter.
3. If my university is a hybrid that offers online and in-person classes, how many online classes can I take?
More than one, and less than all.
4. If my university is holding 100% in-person classes, will I be issued an F-1 visa?
5. If my university is holding 100% in-person classes, how many online classes can I take?
6. If I have a valid F-1 visa, will I be allowed to re-enter the US to continue my studies?
An F-1 student that already has a valid F-1 visa stamp and is traveling back to the USA will need evidence to present to Customs Officers at the airport from the university’s International Student Office that the university is either or a 100% in-person program, or a hybrid program with in-person classes and that the individual student has actually enrolled for in-person classes this Fall 2020 semester. This is likely going to be a revised/updated Form I-20 that must be issued by August 4, 2020.
7. If my hybrid program or 100% in-person program shifts to 100% online, what will happen to my F-1 visa?
If a university changes its from hybrid or in-person to 100% online mid-semester, or an F-1 student changes their course selections and has a 100% online schedule, the government will require the F-1 student to depart the US. The government’s guidance from July 6, 2020 maintains the traditional rule that F-1 students are not allowed to take a full course of study through online classes.
8. If I am physically present in the USA on valid F-1 status, and my university will shift to 100% online classes in the Fall 2020 semester, how does that affect me?
You have to either depart the USA and take the online classes from abroad, or apply to a program that offers in-person classes and change universities.
9. If I am on post-graduation Optional Practical Training, does this new guidance affect me?
Probably not. Contact your international student officer for more guidance.
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