Fully Online Learning is Permitted for Existing F and M Students; Banned for New or Initial International Students

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By Malou Mararang, Kirti Kalra, and Deepika Singh

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has rescinded its recently announced policy that would have caused existing F and M student visa holders to lose their valid nonimmigrant status if they were enrolled in fully online courses for the Fall 2020 semester. New or initial F-1 students are not permitted to take fully online courses for the Fall 2020 semester.

Existing F and M Visa Holders Can Remain in the US if Courses are Fully Online

After legal challenges from Harvard, MIT, and the state of California, among others, the US government is reversing this policy. This means that F and M student visa holders who had active student status on March 9, 2020 may remain in the US for their studies on valid nonimmigrant status even if their classes are fully online. Many universities have moved to online learning to help contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The now rescinded policy guidance would have forced students to either transfer to universities with in-person classes or to leave the country if their university had switched to fully online courses.

New or Initial F and M International Students Not Permitted to Study at Universities with Fully Online Courses

The US government will not issue new visas to F-1 students whose courses are fully online for the Fall 2020 semester, and US Customs and Border Protection will not admit these students into the country.

Students with an approved change of status to F-1 may be in violation of their status if they study in fully online courses for Fall 2020.


For any questions related to how this policy impacts F and M visa holders, please contact your trusted Chugh, LLP attorney.


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