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SEVP Updates Rules for Nonimmigrant Students Taking Online Courses

On July 6, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated its rules for nonimmigrant students taking online classes in the fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19, which include:

  • Schools adopting online model: Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the U.S. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) will not issue visas to students who are attending these schools and/or taking courses that are fully online during the fall 2020 semester, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not allow these students to enter the United States.

  • Schools adopting in-person model: Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible students may take a maximum of one (1) or three (3) credit hours online.

  • Schools adopting hybrid model: Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model (mixture of online and in-person classes) will be allowed to take more than one (1) class or three (3) credit hours online. Schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20 “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”, that the program is not entirely online, the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the semester, and the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.

F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursuing vocational degrees are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.


Most schools are currently on an authorized vacation period (summer vacation), so an immediate departure is not necessary. If you are attending a school that is operating entirely online, or if you end up taking all online courses in the fall 2020 semester, you must leave the country or take other measures to maintain your valid, nonimmigrant status.


Schools must reissue new I-20s to students before August 4, 2020. Schools that offer entirely online classes or are closed for the fall 2020 semester, and that offer solely in-person classes, hybrid classes or delayed sessions, should file an operational change plan to SEVP before July 15, 2020 and August 1, 2020, respectively.


SEVP’s alert can be found here.


If you have any immigration questions related to this alert, please do not hesitate to contact us!

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