FAQ: How to Maintain F-1 Status with Online Courses

Don't miss out on important immigration updates! On July 6th, The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced some modifications to the temporary exemptions for certain nonimmigrant students taking online classes.

*UPDATED July 14th! Click to Learn More: ICE Rescind Barring International Students From Online Courses In The U.S.
How to Maintain F-1 visa with online courses

Certain F-1 Students Are Not Permitted to Remain in the US with Schools Entirely Online

A quick summary of the temporary final rule exemptions for the fall 2020 semester :
  • F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may NOT take a full online course load and remain in the US. This means if you take full online course, you won't be able to maintain your student visa status, and you can't be permitted to enter the US. 
  • F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes may take a maximum of one class (3 credit hours) online.
  • Exemption: F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model (mix of online and in-person classes) are allowed to take more than one class (3 credit hours) online. Your school has to certify to SEVP through Form I-20
    • This exemption rule DOES NOT apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursing vocational degrees, who are not allowed to enroll in any online courses.

How to Maintain F-1 Status with Online Courses

What should I do if my school only offers online courses?

If you are in the US with schools that offer entire online courses, you have a couple of options to remain in lawful status:
  • Depart the US and take the online courses outside the US
  • Transfer to a school that offers in-person classes 
  • If you have a pending visa application and you drop off school, you have the right to remain in the US but you will then lose your current visa status.
For applicants who already submitted their green card application, you should still be able to remain in the US with a pending I-485 application even if you lose your student visa for the reasons mentioned above.

COVID-19 sure causes a lot of inconvenience, so be sure you stay on top of the new regulations and updates to make sure you maintain your lawful status! 

Read about my Green Card Application experience here: DIY How I Applied for My Green Card with No RFE!

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