Broadcast Message: COVID-19 and Fall 2020

As published on the US government website

The US Government has finally published its message on F-1 Visas. The policy sets forth guidelines for international students and gives foreign families a good reason to consider whether attendance at a US college this fall is worth the potential risks.

The key tenants of the policy are below. We have also put these guidelines in chart to facilitate your understanding.

  • F-1 students attending schools and colleges that will offer in-person courses on campus will be allowed to live in the United States. These students, however, must take in-person classes and will be permitted to take a maximum of just one class online.
  • F-1 students attending schools and colleges that will exclusively offer online courses can not remain in the U.S. Active students currently in the U.S. must depart the country or change schools (to attend an in-person program).
  • F-1 students attending schools that will offer a mixture of online and in-person classes (hybrid) will be allowed to attend school, may take more than one online class, but must also take in-person classes. Their institutions must certify with SEVP that they are offering a hybrid program and must ensure that their F-1 students are taking the minimum number of online classes necessary to make normal progress in their degree program.

Families need take note that the policy penalizes students for circumstances beyond their control. Should their in-person program or hybrid program move to online courses only, F-1 students would be required to leave the country or transfer to an institution offering in-person classes. It should be noted that the only programs that would be available under such a scenario are Community Colleges. Moreover, it is highly likely that the circumstances that would result in an individual college moving to on-line classes from in-person would extend to other institutions. Consequently, F-1 students would be likely “forced to leave”. Leaving, however assumes that flights are available, it is safe to fly, and home countries are receiving nationals who may carry COVID-19.

We urge families considering a return to the US for their students to:

  • Make informed decisions that you can live with regardless of viral or political circumstance.
  • Develop realistic contingency plans that include temporary shelter in the US with trusted caretakers and,
  • Consider multiple flight options that will maximize the likelihood of a smooth trip home for your students if they are required to leave the US.

Please note that under the new ruling, all schools are required to re-issue student I-20’s and clearly state how classes with be delivered in the fall. If your student has an I-20 in hand as of today (2020/07/07) it is no longer valid for entry into the US! This includes current active F-1 students. Please look out for communication from your schools and colleges. They will soon be contacting you!

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Tess Robinson