Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Guidance for Fall 2020 and CMU Impact(s)
UPDATE AS OF JULY 14, 2020:
The Trump administration has rescinded the recent July 6 guidance and is reverting back to the March 9 guidance. We are working to determine the impact on students and will update this page in the coming days.
July 7, 2020
On July 6, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued Fall 2020 guidance for F-1 schools and students. This guidance was issued via a Broadcast Message. SEVP announced that they will publish these procedural adapations in a Temporary Final Rule in the Federal Register. They will also be providing answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), which they have begun to post. Both the Rule and the FAQs may change or clarify some of the guidance in the document SEVP issued yesterday.
For Fall 2020, SEVP will temporarily allow for a hybrid model, defined by SEVP as a mixture of online and in person classes. For CMU students, this means that you may take more than one online class this fall but you must take some in person classes in order to maintain F-1 status.
Unlike this summer, F-1 students will not be allowed to take a fully remote load and remain in the US in F-1 status this fall. Students outside the US may not obtain student visas or come to the US to pursue a fully online course of study this fall.
SEVP’s guidance indicates that the student(s) must leave the US or take an alternate action, such as transfer to a school offering in-person instruction, if they are unable to take some in person classes this fall.
SEVP is requiring schools to issue a new I-20 form to each student who will be studying in the US this fall, attesting that:
- the student’s school/program is not entirely online,
- the student is not taking an entirely online course load and
- the student is taking the minimum number of online courses required to make normal progress in their degree
The new I-20s must be issued by August 4, 2020. This guidance, therefore, requires OIE to issue/reissue thousands of I-20s by August 4th and we will need more information about fall student enrollment before we can begin this process. It is very possible that OIE may not be able to distribute all of the I-20s by August 4th but we will provide more information/updates as we learn more about this requirement.
For continuing students who are currently outside the US, it is unclear if we will be able to keep your SEVIS record Active if you will not be able to arrive on campus and take some in person classes this fall. SEVP has provided conflicting guidance, for which we are seeking clarification. SEVP has confirmed that most students who will be outside the US this fall will be able to study remotely, though.
There remain a number of issues that are not clear in the guidance, as was the case with SEVP’s earlier guidance for Spring and Summer. OIE/CMU and other schools in the US will be requesting additional clarifications and will be advocating for the best possible guidance in the coming days. OIE will update our website as additional guidance becomes available. This guidance may change as SEVP updates their FAQs.
Examples of questions for which we do not yet have answers include:
- We do not believe that CMU’s decision to move to remote only instruction after Thanksgiving will cause a negative impact for CMU students and that we will be allowed to keep SEVIS records active and keep students in F-1 status—but we are seeking confirmation on this point.
- We do not know if this guidance will be extended to the spring 2021 semester.
- It is unclear what is meant by “taking the minimum number of online courses required to make normal progress” but it appears that SEVP intends for students to be taking in person classes as much as possible.
- SEVP was not clear on the guidance for continuing students who will be studying remotely overseas, we will be seeking further guidance.
- It appears that CMU students who are outside the US will not be able to apply for OPT while outside the US.
To the extent you are able to, we recommend that you select fall courses with in person offerings this fall, if you plan to be in the US and wish to retain your F-1 immigration status.
We know many people have questions, as we do, but we ask for your patience as we seek more information, advocate with SEVP and do our best to respond to the numerous inquiries we’re receiving.
- SEVP’s Broadcast Message: COVID-19 and Fall 2020-- https://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/bcm2007-01.pdf
- ICE News Release: https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/sevp-modifies-temporary-exemptions-nonimmigrant-students-taking-online-courses-during
- Advisory on Online and Distance Education Strategies in the Context of COVID-19-- https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/advisory-online-and-distance-education-strategies-context-covid-19