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US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Policy Requiring Student to Attend In-Person Courses or Face Negative Consequences

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Policy Requiring International Students to Attend School in Person

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international students (both on F-1 and M-1 students) must take in-person classes at their schools beginning in the fall 2020 semester, in order to remain in the U.S. legally.  According to ICE, students who are in the U.S. but take entirely online courses may face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

ICE announcement states that “there will still be accommodations to provide flexibility to schools and non-immigrant students, but as many institutions across the country reopen, there is a concordant need to resume the carefully balanced protections implemented by federal regulations.”

According to ICE, new students attending school that offer fully online programs will not receive visas, and students who are already attending school that are offering fully online courses, should transfer to school that offer in-person courses, or would have to leave the U.S.

F-1 visas generally only allow students to count one online class per term. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges around the country to move all instruction online, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) granted temporary exemption from that policy and allowed students to take classes online. However, ICE announcement would end that exemption in starting in Fall 2020.

Students attending schools that offer a hybrid of online and in-person courses, will be allowed to stay in the student visa, if the students are not taking fully online course load for the semester.   Schools will be required to certify (through the (SEVP)) that the international students are taking “the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.”

About one-fourth of the U.S. colleges are planning to offer a hybrid online and in-person courses.  Some of the colleges are contemplating going fully online after a period of hybrid courses. If this happens, and ICE implements its in-person coursework requirement, the international students in these colleges will be left to scramble to transfer to other schools.  Students should be in contact with their DSO to find out what their school plans to do.

The new regulation is one of multiple recent actions that the Trump administration has taken to restrict immigration in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 22, 2020, President Trump ordered immigration officials to deny entry stamps to a range of guest worker visas, including H-1Bs, J-1s, L-1, and H-2Bs.  Trump administration is probably not done with passing more restrictive immigration policies.

Stay informed on the newest changes in immigration law.  If you have any questions about this or other immigration needs, contact us. We are available for free consultation, please call us at 801-269-9541 or call or text us 801-577-1988 (cell) or 801-637-5556 (cell) or contact us online.


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