Jul 08, 2020 Immigration Law

New Restrictions on International Students Starting This Fall

On July 6, 2020, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that F-1 and M-1 international students must attend classes in person beginning this fall, or else depart from the United States. Specifically, ICE is establishing the following rules for the Fall 2020 semester:

  • F-1 and M-1 students attending schools that will be operating entirely online during the Fall 2020 semester will not be allowed to take a full online course load in the United States. Prospective F-1 and M-1 students will not be issued visas to attend schools or programs that are fully online for the fall semester, nor will they be permitted to enter the United States for purposes of studying in an online program. Students who are currently in the United States and enrolled in programs that have shifted to all-online coursework for the Fall 2020 semester must depart the US or transfer to a school with in-person instruction in order to remain in compliance with the terms of their visa.
  • F-1 and M-1 students attending schools with normal, in-person operations may take a maximum of one online class or 3 online credit hours per term, as stated in existing regulations.
  • F-1 and M-1 students attending schools offering a mixture of in-person and online classes will be allowed to take more than one class or 3 credit hours online. These schools must certify that the student’s program is not entirely online, the student is not taking an entirely online course load, and the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress toward their degree. However, F-1 students in English language training programs and M-1 students pursuing vocational degrees are not permitted to enroll in any online courses regardless of their school’s policy.

This cruel and inflexible policy from the Trump administration is yet another example of the government’s attempt to restrict all immigration to the United States. It will force international students into an extremely difficult position: having to choose between risking their own health and safety (and that of others) in the midst of a global pandemic, or return home and deal with all the logistical challenges of attending school from a different country, all while continuing to pay full tuition to “attend” college or graduate school “in the US.”

On July 8, Harvard and M.I.T. filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to block the changes from being implemented. The schools argue that the new policy was designed to pressure universities to re-open for in person instruction regardless of the health and safety concerns of students, faculty and others.

We will continue to update you as new information becomes available.