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DHS Rescinds Rule Barring International Students from Online Learning

On July 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rescinded its July 6 Policy Directive. As DFVPA reported last week, that Directive restricted international students on F and M visas from attending schools offering only online learning for fall semester 2020.

In the wake of the Directive, DHS and the Trump Administration faced a deluge of backlash. Harvard University, MIT, Johns Hopkins University, seventeen states, the District of Columbia, and a coalition of 20 other universities all sued in various federal courts seeking to have the rule change reversed and declared unlawful. Multiple states, universities, politicians, labor unions, tech companies, and interest groups similarly condemned the rule.

Before any court hearing was held, the government agreed outside of court to withdraw the Policy Directive.

The Current Policy

DHS will return to the March 9, 2020 and March 13, 2020 policy. As such the current policy is as follows:

  1. Students attending schools that completely close and do not have online courses or other alternate learning procedures: Students remain in active status in SEVIS so long as the students intend to resume their course of study when classes resume.
  2. Students attending schools that temporarily stop in-person classes but implement online or other alternate learning procedures: Students should participate in online or other alternate learning procedures and remain in active status in SEVIS. SEVP permits F-1 and M-1 students to count online classes towards a full course of study, in excess of any prior limits on online learning, even if the student has left the United States and is taking the online classes elsewhere.
  1. Students attending schools that remain open and do not offer special online courses or other alternate learning procedures: as this scenario is not covered in the SEVP Covid policy, one assumes that normal pre-Covid regulations apply. That is to say, eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online, and M students may not enroll in a single online course.
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