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Government Adapts F, M, and J Visa Restrictions in Response to Coronavirus

March 11, 2020
Amidst the spread of COVID-19, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stated that it will make “temporary adaptations” to visa rules that restrict international students’ ability to take online classes. Generally, students on F visas may take no more than one class online per semester to maintain their legal status, while students on M visas cannot take any online classes at all. Many American universities have closed their campuses and moved all instruction online as part of their response to the coronavirus epidemic, leaving international students with no choice but to violate these restrictions.

Under these circumstances, ICE has said that it will offer temporary forgiveness to these students as long as universities provide written notice within 10 business days of deciding to change their practices. It is still unclear how visas might be affected if universities close altogether, rather than simply move online.

ICE also encouraged foreign nationals working on Optional Practical Training (OPT) to find ways to maintain their employment remotely if needed. Similarly, the Department of State has issued guidance permitting J-1 nonimmigrants to delay the start date of their training program in response to travel concerns during the epidemic.
If you have any questions about how work or school closures may affect your status, please contact us.

We will continue to update you on new developments.