ICE announces new regulations for nonimmigrant students taking online courses during fall semester

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program [SEVP] within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] announced modifications on July 6 to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic during the fall 2020 semester. 

“We want to reassure you that Kent State University is committed to international student success and is exploring all possible solutions to help students maintain their immigration status in the fall and continue their education.” Melody Tankersley, interim senior vice president and provost, said. 

Nonimmigrant students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. 

The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester, nor will the U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.

Active students currently in the U.S. enrolled in such programs must leave the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings — meaning that the person will be removed from the country. 

Nonimmigrant students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F-1 students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

Nonimmigrant students attending schools adopting a hybrid model, a mixture of online and in-person classes, will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. The exact number of classes or credit hours they will be permitted to take online is unknown.

These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” certifying that the program is not entirely online.

“We have dedicated teams working on this and we will provide students with guidance regarding their schedule soon,” Marcello Fantoni, associate provost for the Office of Global Education, said.

The Office of International Students and Scholar Services at Kent State sent emails to international students Monday night, stating that they are reviewing the order and will share updates soon. No final decisions have been yet as administrators are still reviewing the order and its effects. 

“I am so worried about my legal status and hope the university finds solutions ASAP,” Rena Bahwaini, an international student at Kent State from Saudi Arabia, said.

Some countries such as Saudi Arabia, China and Kuwait have flights banned due to COVID-19, and it is impossible for students from these countries to leave the states at this current time. 

“I am not sure how this is going to work since my country banned all flight operations,” Mohammed Alanazi, an international student at Kent State from Kuwait, said. 

 Contact Ray Bukhari at [email protected].