As if the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t already created enough confusion, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) just added more to the mix. On Monday, ICE issued a news release that highlighted some of the modifications the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is making to the temporary exemptions that were in place for nonimmigrant students who were taking online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These modifications concern certain students who will be taking classes in the fall of 2020 and will be published in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.


What are some of the modifications that are being made?


According to the news release, nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students who plan to attend schools that “operate entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.” As you know, many schools are transitioning from offering in-person classes to providing courses online to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus as well as keep staff and students safe. The news release goes on to say that “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 U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.”

ICE says that any student who possesses an F-1 or M-1 student visa and is enrolled in a program that will be offering courses solely online for the fall 2020 semester in response to the COVID-19 virus “must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.” Those who do not abide by these new modifications may face certain consequences such as the initiation of removal proceedings. ICE also announced that any nonimmigrant F-1 students who are attending schools that are adopting a hybrid model, which consists of taking courses both online and in-person, will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online.


What happens to students who start the fall 2020 semester with in-person courses, but the school later decides to transition to only offering courses online?


ICE says that any student who is attending a school in the fall with in-person classes and is later required to switch to online-only classes “must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.”

If you are attending a school in Texas and believe these modifications to the exemptions affect you, don’t wait to contact the Law Office of J. Joseph Cohen to speak with a Texas immigration lawyer. The fall semester is quickly approaching which means there isn’t much time to act. If your school is transitioning to online-only classes, the Texas immigration attorneys at the Law Office of J. Joseph Cohen can explore the options that are available to you that would allow you to stay in the U.S.


You can reach the Law Office of J. Joseph Cohen at:


310 South St. Mary’s Street, Suite 2100

San Antonio, Texas 78205

Phone: 210-503-2800


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