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ICE Issues Follow-Up Guidance for Student's Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

Today, ICE SEVP issued follow-up guidance stating that active F and M students, as well as schools, should abide by SEVP guidance originally issued in March 2020, which enables schools and students to engage in distance learning over regulatory limits due to COVID-19.

Here is all you need to know about your student visa:

  • Can F or M students outside the United States obtain a visa to study in the United States if their program of study will be fully online for the fall 2020 session?

The U.S. Department of State should not issue a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” for a new or Initial status outside of the United States plans to take classes at an SEVP-certified educational institution fully online. As a result, new or initial nonimmigrant students who intend to pursue a full course of study that will be conducted completely online will likely not be able to obtain an F-1 or M-1 visa to study in the United States.

If a nonimmigrant student was enrolled in a course of study in the United States on March 9, 2020, but subsequently left the country, that student likely remains eligible for a visa since the March 2020 guidance permitted a fully online course of study from inside the United States or from abroad. The March 2020 guidance applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, and otherwise complying with the terms of their nonimmigrant status.

  • Can students apply for a visa to enter the United States for a hybrid program?

Nonimmigrant students seeking to enroll in a program of study that includes in-person and online components are able to maintain F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status if pursuing such programs during the fall 2020 school term. Nonimmigrant students in New or Initial status after March 9 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.

  • Can students continue to remain in the United States if they are engaged in a fully online program of study?

Yes, nonimmigrant students may remain in the United States to engage in a full course of study online if they have not otherwise violated the terms of their nonimmigrant status since March 9, 2020. This includes students who have remained in the U.S. in active status and are starting a new program of study that is 100 percent online. These individuals do not need a new visa to continue their programs of study in 100 percent online classes. If a student violates other U.S. laws or regulations, they could potentially be subject to removal.

  • Can students remain in the United States if their school switches from traditional in-person or hybrid instruction to fully online instruction?

Nonimmigrant students pursuing studies in the United States for the fall 2020 school term may remain in the United States even if their educational institution switches to a hybrid program or to fully online instruction. The students will maintain their nonimmigrant status in this scenario and would not be subject to the initiation of removal proceedings based on their online studies.

  • Can students remain in the United States in a hybrid program of study with online components?

Nonimmigrant students may remain in the United States in a hybrid program of study, consisting of both in-person and online. Students will not face enforcement action or loss of their nonimmigrant status based on engaging in hybrid programs.

  • What should my school report to SEVP about our fall 2020 plans?

If an SEVP-certified school has previously submitted a procedural change plan detailing its alternative procedures, it does not need to resubmit the plan for the fall 2020 session, unless the school is making substantive changes. Consistent with the provisions of the March 2020 guidance, substantive changes should be submitted within ten days of the decision to implement the change.

SEVP-certified schools that have not yet filed procedural change plans and have active nonimmigrant students enrolled in programs of study this fall should submit a procedural change plan, detailing any changes to existing procedures necessitated by COVID-19.

  • What about my Forms I-20 for the fall 2020 session?

Your schools should be responsible for filing the Form I-20 for each student. If your schools already issued Forms I-20 in accordance with the July 6 guidance or July 7 FAQs (rescinded on July 14) the school does not need to reissue those Forms I-20, unless other substantive changes would trigger a Form I-20 update. Schools issuing initial Forms I-20 should abide by all regular requirements regarding Form I-20 issuance.

  • Can a certified school issue Forms I-20 electronically?

Yes, DSOs may electronically send Forms I-20 to student email addresses listed in SEVIS. In the case of a minor student, the email address may belong to their parent or legal guardian. Schools do not need to request permission from SEVP or report their plans to electronically send Forms I-20 as part of their COVID-19 procedural changes.

It is important to remember that if a student violates U.S. laws or regulations, they could be subject to removal. If you need to apply for a visa extension or need assistance in your student visa, please contact us. We are happy to provide free initial consultations for any immigration legal assistance.

About Us

The Law Office of Nicholas J. Mireles is an experienced Los Angeles based U.S. Immigration law firm practicing immigration law since 2013. Our background makes us uniquely well suited to help you with any issue relating to your immigration status.

Law Office of Nicholas J. Mireles, APC

411 West 7th St. Ste 310 - Los Angeles, CA 90014

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