F-1 Student Update, July 14th 2020
- DHS rescinds July 6, 2020 guidance.
- March 13, 2020 guidance for F-1 Students to remain in force.
- F-1 students are allowed to engage in fully online or distance-learning courses, either from within the U.S. or outside the country in light of COVID-19
Under existing regulations, F-1 students are only allowed to take one (1) online course per semester or term. On March 13, 2020, Department Homeland and Security, U.S. Immigration Custom Enforcement Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) made an exemption for F-1 students to switch to online classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 6, 2020, SEVP released a modification to the exemption issued on March 13, 2020 for the Fall 2020 Semester, binding F-1 students to existing regulation unless the schools adopt a hybrid course model. On July 14, 2020 a hearing was held involving litigation filed by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) challenging Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) July 6, 2020 guidance. In this hearing, DHS agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 guidance and all implementing guidance allowing the agency’s March 13, 2020 guidance to remain in force.
The Regulation under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(H) provides that F-1 students are not allowed to take more than one (1) online or distance learning class or three (3) credits that are per session, term, semester towards their full course of study requirement.
Under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(iii), the designated school official (DSO) may allow an F-1 student to engage in less than a full course of study, which must consist of at least six (6) semester hours. If the course reduction load is due to a medical condition, the DSO may authorize a reduced course load to lower than (6) six credits or even zero due to a student’s temporary illness or medical condition for a period of time not to exceed an aggregate of twelve (12) months during a particular program level. In order for a DSO to authorize a reduced course load based upon a medical condition, the student must provide medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist to substantiate the illness or medical condition. The student must provide current medical documentation and the DSO must authorize the drop below a full course of study each new term, session, or semester.
Guidance Provided by SEVP on March 13, 2020:
SEVP provided guidance to allow schools to make temporary procedural adaptation so non immigrant students can continue to make normal forward progress in their program of student. This allowed F-1 students to engage in fully online or distance-learning courses, either from within the U.S. or outside the country in light of COVID-19.
Guidance provided by SEVP on July 06, 2020:
The Temporary Exemptions for the Fall 2020 issued by SEVP defaults to the existing regulation and binds students if the school is operating normal in-person classes. However, if the school has a adopted a hybrid model, the students will be allowed to take more than one (1) class or three (3) credit hours online. However, even under the hybrid course model, the student will not be allowed to take all of their courses online. This guidance has now been rescinded.
 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(H)
 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(iii)(B)
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