ICE/SEVP Frequently Asked Questions
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
July 6, 2020 Exemption Modifications
On July 6, 2020, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that it would no longer provide exemptions for international students taking online classes due to the pandemic during the Fall 2020 semester. ICE also issued a Broadcast Message with slightly more detail, and indicated the rule will be published in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.
No. With regard to Fall 2020, the press release by SEVP states: “Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
It depends. One complication that goes beyond this policy is the fact that routine nonimmigrant (including students) interviews at consulates have been suspended because of the global pandemic. With that said, Adelphi plans to have students return to campus in Fall 2020, and our reading is that international students who return to campus to take their courses in person will be fine and not affected by the new policy.
On the other hand, if public health circumstances mandate, for any reason, that Adelphi move to a fully remote classroom for Fall 2020, the new policy will block the possibility for international students to obtain visas and enter the United States.
First-year students who are attending Adelphi for their first semester but are unable to obtain a visa in time for this semester may enroll in online courses from their home country. A variety of courses will be available to them, including a specially created first-year seminar. These students will need to continue their visa application process, however, in order to attend Adelphi in person in January 2021.
In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of State has temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates. However, as resources allow, embassies and consulates may provide emergency and mission-critical visa services. If you require an F-1 visa in order to enter the United States for the purpose of studying at Adelphi University, please refer to the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs website to see all notices, which contain detailed information about the current status of visa services worldwide and visa restrictions related to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Learn more about how to file for an F-1 visa.
The announcement from SEVP defines “hybrid model” as a mixture of online and in-person classes. We understand this to mean that a single course is taught with a mixture of online and in-person teaching. According to the new guidance, “Students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in-person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or 3 credits online. These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, ‘Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,’ that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the Fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.”
We believe the student still falls in the “hybrid model” because some classes were in person and other classes were online.
Yes. While this new guidance is a departure from the guidance issued in spring and summer to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus, the new rule indicates that students must have in-person classes or a combination of in-person classes and online classes, and all of these classes must make normal progress in your degree program.
Adelphi is offering a mix of in-person and online courses for Fall 2020. As such, in this case, your SEVIS record would be terminated. While all terminations are problematic, Adelphi would terminate students in this situation as ‘authorized early withdrawal,’ which means that the termination is made for procedural reasons and not due to a violation.
One important regulation is 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(G), which states in part: “For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or 3 credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken online or through distance education and does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class. …” Importantly, the new policy does not “count” hybrid classes toward the one-course/3-credit requirement and, therefore, we believe students taking a mix of in-person and online classes are in compliance with the new policy.
The government used its discretion to relax the regulation. Previously, the government allowed students to take online courses in excess of these regulatory requirements due to the pandemic. Discretion is a powerful tool in immigration law and one that has been used historically to protect people during emergencies.
If you take all of your courses in person in Fall 2020, you are not affected by the rule. On the other hand, if public health circumstances dictate that Adelphi must move to an entirely remote platform for Fall 2020, international students already on campus will have to leave the United States or take other measures that will aid in their maintenance of status. The policy suggests that students already here but do not take these measures may face deportation.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) or immigration statute provides a list of reasons a person may be deported after they have been admitted into the United States. International students who are identified by ICE as violating this new policy could be charged under 237(a)(1)(C), a provision in the INA that makes a person deportable if they failed to maintain nonimmigrant status in the United States. ICE could initiate removal proceedings by filing a charging document known as the Notice to Appear with the immigration court.
You should consult with an immigration attorney and consider alternate options, such as a B-2 visa.
You should consult with an immigration attorney and consider alternate options, such as asylum.
If you have an F-1 visa, your visa would not be canceled if you are studying from your home country, even if your SEVIS record is terminated. The SEVIS termination would not affect your F-1 visa.
Yes. Guidance from the United States Department of Homeland Security indicates we are required to issue you a new I-20 to verify that you are abiding by the ICE guidance. The I-20 must verify:
- Your program of study is not entirely online.
- You are not taking only online courses.
- You are taking the minimum number of online courses to make normal progress in the degree program.
Spouses and minor children are “derivatives” to a principal nonimmigrant applicant so once the principal is denied a visa or forced to leave the United States, this applies to their spouse and minor children.
- Adelphi University is writing to our local and national representatives to assert our unqualified support of our international students and request that they oppose the latest changes to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
- Adelphi University is signing on to an amicus brief in support of lawsuits brought by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which challenges the forthcoming ICE SEVP rules barring online study for international students. An amicus brief is a legal document filed in court cases by parties not directly involved in the lawsuit, but who have a strong interest in the subject matter and will advise the court of relevant, additional information or arguments.
We join our peers and peer associations in higher education in this formal objection. These include the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU), a statewide association representing the public policy interests of New York’s independent colleges and universities; the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU); and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, an alliance of American college and university leaders dedicated to increasing public understanding of how immigration policies and practices impact our students, campuses and communities.
The brief states that:
- Higher education institutions relied heavily on the government’s flexibility in planning for the 2020 school year in light of COVID-19.
- Higher education institutions devoted hours to planning their response to COVID-19 in reliance on the government’s flexibility.
- Higher education institutions relied on an ability to continue educating international students already present in the United States.
- Higher education institutions relied on the continuing contributions of international students to their campuses.
- International students relied heavily on their institutions’ plans for the 2020 school year.
- This section of the brief will include relevant stories from students and data from schools viewing the issue from the perspective of international students. We plan to explain that international students relied on directives from their schools in view of the government’s stated policy of deferring to school choices and demonstrate how the July 6 directive threatens the plans these students made for the 2020 school year.
- The guidance proposed by S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ignores the substantial reliance interests of higher education institutions and their international students.