COVID-19: Students Face Deportation As United States Releases New Directives On Visas




The State Department Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The United States government said it would not grant visas to international students enrolled in a school whose programme is fully online for the Fall semester.

It said students in the country on an F-1 or M nonimmigrant visa would be asked to leave the country if they are unable to switch to another school where they can take physical classes.

The Coronavirus pandemic had forced some US universities to convert in-person classes to online.

“Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” the Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP) said on Monday. 

The SEVP announced  this as part of its changes to the ‘temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester.

It predicted deportation as the most likely outcome for students on F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant visas.

 “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. 

“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.” 

The SEVP said eligible students might take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online. The exchange programme department temporarily amended the rules to allow students on non-immigrant visas to take more online classes than they are permitted to by law due to the Coronavirus.

The statement added, “Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in-person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, certifying that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.” 

The exchange programme team said persons who are studying English language training programmes and those undertaking vocational degrees, are not permitted to take any classes online.

It directed schools in the US to update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 10 days of the change if they begin the Fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to only online classes, or when  nonimmigrant students changes their course selections, and as a result, end up taking an entirely online course load.