Foreign students in US taking fully-online classes will have to leave

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on July 07, 2020 Published on July 07, 2020

American Immigration authorities issue fresh guidelines for F-1, M-1 visas; Indians form second-largest student population in US

The US will not allow international students to remain in the country, and will not issue fresh F-1 visas to students if their classes move completely online, according to the new guidelines issued on Monday by federal immigration authorities.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued fresh guidelines for international students with F-1 and M-1 visas in terms of online classes.

“Non-immigrant 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. The US Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programmes that are fully online for the fall semester, nor will the US,” read the guidelines.

“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programmes must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings,” it said.


Top destination

There were more than one million international students in the US for the 2018-19 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). That accounted for 5.5 per cent of the total US higher education population, the IIE said, and international students contributed $44.7 billion to the US economy in 2018.

The largest number of international students came from China, followed by India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.




Under the new rules, students with an F-1 visa who will be attending schools that are operating under normal rules can take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online. While students attending schools that will be functioning on a hybrid model can take more than one class or three credit hours online, they will be required to attend some in-person classes.

“These schools must certify to SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Programme), through the form I-20, ‘Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status’, certifying that the programme 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 programme,” the guidelines said.



These exemptions will not apply to F-1 students in English language training programmes and M-1 students as they are pursuing vocational degrees and cannot enrol in online training courses.

The guidelines will put more pressure on universities to reopen amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Amid a massive surge in cases, many universities including the Ivy League ones and Harvard have said that they will be offering classes remotely.

The American Council on Education (ACE), representing university presidents has criticised the guidelines rather vocally. “On its face, the guidance released today by Immigration and Customs Enforcement is horrifying. While we would welcome more clarity about international students studying in the United States, this guidance raises more questions than it answers and unfortunately does more harm than good,” ACE President Ted Mitchell said in an official statement.

The ICE has notified schools of the changes and will soon be implementing a formal rule.

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on July 07, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor