US Government Extends Guidance That Allows Int’l Students Enrolled at US Unis & Colleges to Attend More Online Classes

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The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will extend guidance issued in March 2020 for the 2022/23 academic year, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced.

The guidance allows some international students enrolled at universities and colleges in the country to attend more online classes than before the COVID-19 pandemic, reports.

According to a notice by ICE published on April 18, the March 2020 guidance applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a US educational institution on March 9, 2020 and who are abiding by the terms of their nonimmigrant status.

The notice further said that new students might be issued a visa to study inside the United States if their study program is operating in the hybrid mode with some in-person classes.

“As a result, new or Initial nonimmigrant students who were not previously enrolled in a program of study on March 9, 2020 and intend to pursue a full course of study that will be conducted completely online should not be granted an F-1 or M-1 visa,” the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

Meanwhile, nonimmigrant students who were studying in the US on March 9, 2020, but left the country later, are eligible for a visa as the guidance issued in March 2020 allowed full online classes from inside the US or abroad.

In a letter sent to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program on April 4, 2022, NAFSA CEO and Executive Director Esther Brimmer asked SEVP to publish the COVID-19 guidance for the 2022/23 academic year, pointing out that educational institutions are returning to normality.

“An extension of SEVP’s COVID-19 accommodations policies for the upcoming academic year would allow the full spectrum of schools to focus on tailoring policies that make sense in the local context,” Brimmer said.

As SEVP has not made any changes to the guidance of 2020, for the 2022/23 academic year, international students may be able to stay in the US to participate in a fully online program if the latter have not violated their nonimmigrant status.

Furthermore, international students studying in the United States may remain in the country even if their educational institution moves to hybrid or fully online teaching.  

SEVP is part of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations within the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It manages schools, F and M nonimmigrant students and their dependents on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

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