Student Visas and COVID
On July 6, 2020, ICE issued a news release with new guidelines that would have been applied to all international students in F-1 and M-1 status by Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Initially these guidelines would have required F-1 and M-1 students either take in-person classes at colleges and universities or depart from the U.S due to COVID.
Fortunately, on July 8, 2020, Harvard University and MIT filed a lawsuit against DHS and ICE to prevent the government from enforcing the new guidelines. As a result of this lawsuit, the government ultimately decided to rescind this new policy and cancelled guidelines that would have prohibiting students from taking fully online coursework. Currently, students can continue their online instruction without worrying about a negative affect on their status in the U.S.Current State of Visas
Currently, students can apply for their M-1 and F-1 visas at U.S. Consulates and Embassies provided appointments are available during the Coronavirus pandemic. On July 14, 2020, the Department of State announced the phased resumption of routine visa services. We are hopeful that more appointments will begin opening up which will allow students to apply and obtain their visas. To determine the operational status of a particular U.S. Consulate or Embassy, students must monitor their individual webpage to determine what services and appointments are available.New Guidance by ICE
On July 24, 2020, ICE released new guidelines for students applying for future F-1 and M-1 visas. Pursuant to these guidelines, new or initial students who intend to pursue a full course of study that will be completely online will likely not be able to obtain a student visa for Fall 2020. The final decision will ultimately be made by consular officers. This guidance also indicates that nonimmigrant students in “new” or “initial” status after March 9, 2020 will not be able to enter the U.S. to enroll in a course of study if it is 100 percent online, while a mix of hybrid instruction should be enough to obtain a visa. Students should keep these guidelines in mind when applying for their visas in the future.
We will continue to monitor any changes made by ICE and update our COVID Resource Center with additional information.