NAICU Washington Update

ICE Releases Another Round of Guidance on International Student Visas

July 30, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division has issued updated FAQs on international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities in differing academic platforms for the fall 2020 semester. The FAQs follow a series of directives levied by the Trump Administration since the onset of the pandemic and seek to clarify confusion arising from the rescission of ICE guidance that would have prevented international students from remaining in the U.S. if their classes were held exclusively online.

As the agency previously hinted, the ICE guidance indicates that new international students who are not currently in the country will likely not be able to enter the U.S. to take online classes at a college or university, although they may be able to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. to take part in a hybrid model. However, clarifying those decisions will be up to the Department of State and will not be made by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

The guidance does indicate that international students returning to U.S. institutions in which they were previously enrolled, prior to the pandemic, will be allowed to return to the U.S. and continue their education, either online or as part of a hybrid program. In addition, international students who are currently in the country will be allowed to participate in both online and hybrid classes at U.S. institutions and will not have to obtain a new visa to do so. 

Last week, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would, if enacted, allow international students to remain in the country if studying exclusively in an online platform.

In addition, the guidance outlines what U.S. colleges should do to track and report on their international students to SEVP and indicates that schools can issue I-20’s electronically.

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