Exceptions for F1/M1 Online Only Course of Study in Fall 2020

Alexander J. Segal's picture

On July 24, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) published new guidance [link] for active F and M students and SEVP-certified schools for the fall 2020 semester. After having announced that F, J, and M students would not be able to maintain nonimmigrant status with online-only classes in fall 2020, SEVIS has reversed that position. For the fall 2020 semester, SEVIS advises nonimmigrant students and SEVIS-certified colleges to abide by March 2020 guidance [link], which allowed certain students to maintain status while being engaged in distance learning only due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Below, we will summarize the guidance.

Guidance for Continuing F and M Students

Certain students who already have F or M nonimmigrant status will continue to be temporarily permitted to count classes conducted entirely online toward a full course of study in excess of the limits on online-only credit hours set forth in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v). This exception applies only to those F1 and M1 students who were in valid F1 or M1 status on March 9, 2020, “including those previously enrolled in entirely online classes who are outside of the United States and seeking to re-enter the country this fall.”

Guidance for New Initial F and M Students

F and M students in new or initial F or M status after March 9, 2020, will not be permitted to enter the United States to enroll in a U.S. school in F or M status to pursue a course of study that is entirely online.


After some confusion in policy, students who were already in F1 or M1 status as of March 9, 2020, will generally be permitted to maintain status in fall 2020 through an entirely online course of study. New F and M students, however, will not be subject to the same exception allowing for online-only classes. Current and prospective F and M students with questions about the current policy situation for online classes should stay abreast of government updates and consult regularly with their designated school officials and, if necessary, with an experienced immigration attorney.

We discuss student visas generally in our growing category on the subject [see category].

Exceptions for F1/M1 Online Only Course of Study in Fall 2020