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Immigration Law

DHS (SEVP) Permits Foreign Students to Study Online from Abroad

NAFSA, Mar. 13, 2020

"On the night of March 12, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) provided NAFSA with the following statement:

“SEVP is committed to remaining flexible in allowing schools to make temporary procedural adaptations so nonimmigrant students can continue to make normal forward progress in their program of study. They can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19. SEVP will provide updated guidance as the scope and length of this situation becomes more clear.”

This confirmation comes as welcome news. Earlier that day, NAFSA had contacted SEVP to advocate that SEVP allow schools to maintain SEVIS records in Active status for students who choose to or must take the online portion of classes abroad under the school's COVID-19 policy pursuant to SEVP's March 9, 2020 Broadcast Message 2003-01Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Potential Procedural Adaptations for F and M nonimmigrant students. A number of NAFSA members had reported receiving guidance originating from SEVP headquarters that schools had to Terminate such records. This created confusion and concern, especially since many schools are now beginning or have already begun their semester Spring breaks, or are in transition between quarters. SEVP later confirmed that their initial guidance was incorrect, and they subsequently issued the above statement.