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Key Points

  • ICE is extending a COVID-19 policy implemented in March 2020 that allows some F and M students to study online
  • The guidance was initially issued on March 9, 2020
  • Current F and M students with valid status can stay in the US and study online
  • The guidance only applies to F and M students with valid status on March 9, 2020
  • Eligible students may enter the US for academic purposes in the 2022-2023 academic year
  • Students who obtained F or M status after March 9, 2020, are not eligible
  • New F or M students can only enter the US to study if they are enrolled in hybrid in-person and online programs
  • SEVP-certified schools must submit a new plan only if they are making substantive changes within ten days of deciding to make changes

Overview

Through the 2023 academic year, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will extend COVID-19 guidance that allows some F and M international students to study online.

What are the Changes?

ICE previously issued guidance for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) in March 2020. The direction allows existing F and M students to stay in the US and pursue their program of study entirely online, provided they have not violated the terms of their nonimmigrant status. There are no significant changes to the guidance’s provisions.

The original guidance applies to nonimmigrant F and M students who were actively enrolled in a US school and had valid status as of March 9, 2020. The ICE guidance stated that F and M students with valid F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status could count online courses towards their program of study more than regulatory limits for the 2021-2022 academic year because of COVID-19. The guidance includes F-1 and M-1 students who were previously located outside the US, enrolled entirely in an online learning program, and was seeking re-entry into the US for the 2022-2023 academic year. The guidance applies to students enrolled in a US school on March 9, 2020, and who took courses online outside of the country. Those students may re-enter the US even if their school is exclusively engaged in distance learning.

New F and M students who were not enrolled in a program of study on March 9, 2020, cannot enter the US as nonimmigrant students for the 2022-2023 academic year if their course of study is entirely online. However, new students may enter the US if enrolled in a hybrid program requiring some in-person learning. New F or M students who intend to take classes at a SEVP-certified educational institution operating fully online cannot enter the US for study.

Schools that are SEVP-certified do not need to submit a new procedural plan detailing their alternative procedures if they previously submitted a plan and are not making substantive changes for the 2022-2023 academic year. Schools making substantive changes should submit those changes to SEVP within ten days of deciding to implement the changes.

Looking Ahead

More information about ICE guidance on COVID-19 is available through the associated webpage.

Written by: Lucy Halse, Content Marketing Associate, Envoy Global
Source: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

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