U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced this week that next school year the agency would continue to follow guidance that allows international students to take more online classes than normal.

Key Points:

  • ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will continue to follow guidance originally issued in March 2020 for the 2021-2022 school year. The guidance was extended without modification.
  • The guidance confirms that students in new or initial status who are outside the U.S. may not enter the country if their program of study will be 100% online. To be eligible to enter the U.S. in initial status, the student’s program of study must be a hybrid program with some in-person learning requirement.
  • Students who are already in the U.S. in F-1 or M-1 status may remain even if their program is fully online.
  • Stakeholders should continue to refer to ICE’s resources at ICE.gov/Coronavirus for information about the original guidance.

Background: ICE put the guidance in place last March as universities and colleges moved classes online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. ICE briefly adopted a policy in July that would have barred F or M visa holders who were already in the U.S. from remaining in the country if they attended universities that only offered online courses. The agency rescinded the policy, however, after number of universities sued to block it from taking effect. ICE has now confirmed the March 2020 policy will be extended through the next school year.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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