New Guidance for F-1 Students

News RoomFebruary 23, 2022

New Guidance for F-1 Students

New Guidance Requires F-1 Students to Leave the U.S. if Universities Only Offer Online Courses in the Fall

On Monday, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a program within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) that manages foreign students and exchange visitors in the U.S., issued new guidance prohibiting international students from remaining in the United States if they are attending a school that is entirely remote for the fall 2020 semester. Likewise, if students are currently outside of the U.S., the Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools that are fully online for the fall semester nor will Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the U.S.

The unexpected announcement reversed prior guidance issued in March which had temporarily authorized online courses to count towards a full course of study beyond the limit authorized by regulation due to the COIVID-19 pandemic. The new guidance does not impact F-1 students who have completed their programs and are working on their OPT/STEM OPT EADs. Furthermore, for schools that adopt a “hybrid model” (mixture of online and in person classes), students will be allowed to remain or enter the U.S. and take more than one course or three credit hours online. However, the exemption does not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursuing vocational degrees as they are not permitted to enroll in any online courses per regulation.

The new guidance requires all schools to take the following action:

  • By July 15, schools that will operate entirely remotely or will not reopen must complete an operational change plan and submit it to SEVP;
  • By August 1, schools that will operate with a hybrid model or an altered schedule must update their operational plan and submit it to SEVP; and
  • By August 4, 2020, schools must update and reissue new I-20s to all foreign students who will be attending the fall 2020 semester in the U.S. and certify the following:
    • That the school is not operating entirely online;
    • That the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester; and
    • That the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.

This morning, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit seeking a temporarily restraining order and injunctive relief to prevent the implementation and enforcement of the new guidance. The suit alleges that the new guidance violates the Administrative Procedure Act by being arbitrary and capricious and by failing to abide by the notice and comment rulemaking requirement. In addition, the Massachusetts Attorney General has indicated that her office will also file suit challenging the new guidance. Given the abrupt issuance of the new guidance, and its sweeping impact on F-1 students and their ability to study and remain in the U.S., we fully expect additional litigation to arise.

Since the ability of any legal challenge to secure temporary or permanent injunctive relief remains to be decided, impacted students must work closely work with their schools’ DSOs and legal counsel to explore all options, including possibly transferring to a school that offers a hybrid model. Similarly, employers who currently employ students on curricular practical training (CPT) may also be impacted if the students’ school is only offering online classes for the fall semester. Please immediately contact a member of our legal team if you are impacted, or think you may be impacted, by this new guidance.

We will continue to provide timely updates as they become available.

New Presidential Proclamation Webinar

Back by popular demand, David Brown, Managing Partner, will be hosting one final webinar on New Presidential Proclamation. In 30 minutes David will discuss the key elements to pay attention to related to new presidential proclamation which bars the entry of certain non-immigrant visas.

On Monday, June 23rd, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump signed an executive order (“proclamation”) suspending the entry of H-1B, H-2B, certain J-1 visas (intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program), and L-1 visa, or any individuals accompanying or following to join such visas, until December 31, 2020. The ban on entry became effective on June 24, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. EDT.

David will cover key points related to:

  1. Who are the individuals impacted by the proclamation?
  2. How is the proclamation going to impact employers and employees?
  3. What is our strategy for minimizing disruption to our foreign national employees?
  4. Other important information related to compliance related to Work from Home, Reductions in Force, or navigating the current immigration bureaucracy.

David will walk through specific examples and scenarios and draw on his experience handling these issues the last 22 years. After his presentation he will provide direct answers to questions and he is also available for direct consultation on these matters after the webinar. If your company or fellow HR colleague can benefit from such a session, please register, and invite your friends.


Once registered, you will receive an email with a link to use to join the video chat on the day of the event. Please note: This link should not be shared with others; it is unique to you. If you ever misplace the invitation link, simply visit the webinar schedule on our website to join the LIVE chat.

If you have contacts or colleagues who may benefit from our talks, you are welcome to invite them to join our VIP invitation list by sharing our webinar schedule where they can subscribe for further information.

Don’t miss these opportunities to increase your knowledge on important immigration issues!

Thank you and we look forward to having you at the event.

Best Regards,

The Team at Brown Immigration Law

** This newsletter/memo is provided for informational and discussion purposes only. It does not act as a substitute for direct legal contact on an individual basis **