U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) declared this week that it has extended the flexibility of online programs for international students for the upcoming year 2022-2023. Non-immigrant students can now enroll in more online and distant learning courses than they could before the COVID-19 pandemic when they could only enroll in one online program. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) originally issued this guidance in March 2020 and will continue to abide by them for the academic year 2022–2023. The ICE put the guidelines in place in March 2022, as institutions and colleges began to conduct classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the guidance, active F and M students enrolled at a SEVP-certified educational institution that operates fully online can continue to take online courses if they have not violated the terms of their non-immigrant status.
Also, a non-immigrant student already enrolled at a SEVP-certified educational institution may remain in the U.S. if their educational institution switches to a hybrid program or to fully online instruction from traditional in-person learning. These students will maintain their F-1 or M-1 visa status. But if the student violates the terms of their nonimmigrant status, they will be subjected to removal on the grounds of visa violation.
New or initial F or M students who were not enrolled in any programs as of March 2020 are not allowed to enter the U.S. with a non-immigrant visa if their course is 100 percent online. Hence, they are not eligible for the “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status” and will not receive an F-1 or M-1 visa. However, a new student will be issued a visa if the program they wish to enroll in has some hybrid online and in-person learning environments.
Students can review the SEVP’s updated “frequently asked questions.” Both EVP and ICE will continue to update their resources with the most recent information.