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Right after an announcement by colleges and universities recently, about whether they would offer remote online instruction or hold in person classes, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Monday that they would not allow entry to international students who are taking online classes in the 2020 Fall Semester and would enforce removal proceedings for students in the country, who will be partaking in online instruction.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is a program which has allowed international students to take classes online in spring and summer 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SEVP sets the rules for international students’ visas, and is run by ICE.

Students on nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 visas are not legally allowed to stay in the United States if their schooling switches to entirely online classes. This rule also includes course changes mid-semester; students who are changing to online-only classes must notify ICE within 10 days.

ICE has stated that international students continuing to take online only courses may face “immigration consequences” including “the initiation of removal proceedings.”

International students in schools with hybrid in-school/online courses are required to notify ICE that their classes are not completely online.

According to the Institute of International Education and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, there are 1,095,299 international students in the US during the 2018-2019 school year. Along with this, during the 2018 school year, international students contributed $45 billion to the United States Economy.

This ICE ruling is a part of the Trump Administrations push to reopen most schools in the fall, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Post script: Update!

In a response to this ruling by ICE, Harvard and MIT, two universities have sued US DHS and US ICE for declaratory and injunctive relief on the basis that the policy has jeopardized the international students plans to study and has set in disarray the universities careful planning of restarting education after the pandemic forced cancellation of classes. The exemption for online instruction given by US Department of Homeland Security in March based on the current pandemic has been taken away without notice and is set to impact students from July 15th, 2020. The policy tries to pressure schools to hold in person learning “without regards to concerns for health and safety of students, instructors and others” noted the President of Harvard.


This article aims to provide new information concerning USCIS COVID-19 Related Accommodations. This article, under no circumstances, acts as legal advice; therefore, for any immigration questions, please contact your Attorney or the Ahluwalia Law Offices, P.C. (Team ALO).

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