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Trump Rescinds Recent Online Coursework Rule for Foreign Students Trump Rescinds Recent Online Coursework Rule for Foreign Students

Trump Rescinds Recent Online Coursework Rule for Foreign Students

In an abrupt reversal, the Trump administration rescinded its recent policy change returning the online course policy to the status quo currently in place for F-1 foreign students. Several schools filed a lawsuit against the new policy, requesting the policy be set aside and that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) abide by its spring and summer 2020 semester guidance on which schools and students relied in planning for the fall semester during the ongoing pandemic. With this rescission, as of now, F-1 students may take more online courses than normally allowed for the purpose of maintaining a full course of study during the COVID-19 emergency.

International students studying in the U.S. must maintain a full course of study to remain in valid F-1 status. Only one (1) online or distance learning class may count toward a full course of study for F-1 students. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, DHS instituted a temporary exemption regarding the online study policy for the 2020 spring and summer semesters. This temporary exemption allowed F-1 students to take more online courses than normally allowed for the purpose of maintaining a full course of study during the COVID-19 emergency.

On July 6, 2020, DHS announced changes to the temporary exemption for the fall 2020 semester. Students attending schools operating entirely online were not permitted to take a full online course load and remain in the U.S. While these students were permitted to remain enrolled in their schools, these students would have to depart the U.S. and attend their online courses abroad. Students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes were bound by the original regulations regarding online courses: only one (1) online class may count toward a full course load for F-1 students. F-1 students attending schools operating a mixture of online and in-person classes were allowed to have more than one (1) online class count toward a full course load; however, to maintain compliance, these schools were additionally required to certify to DHS’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program that the program was not entirely online, the student was not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and the student was taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in his or her degree program.

DHS had previously maintained these changes were designed to encourage schools to re-open and as a public safety measure to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by not admitting or allowing foreign students to remain in the U.S. who did not need to be present to attend classes in person.

Please contact Jenifer Brown, Christl Glier, Kristin Kelley, or any other member of Ice Miller’s immigration team to discuss this new foreign student policy or any other immigration needs.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader must consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader's specific circumstances.
 
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