Immigration and Customs Enforcement Announces Severe Restrictions on F-1 and M-1 Student Status for Fall Semester

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) has announced new policies requiring classroom attendance in order to continue eligibility for F-1 student or M-1 status as of the fall 2020 Semester. The change impacts not only those seeking to obtain visas to enter the US for the purposes of beginning or continuing an educational program, but also those already here in F-1 or M-1 status seeking to continue school.

While earlier ICE guidance permitting a temporary shift to online-only courses, the new guidance will permit only one course (three credit hours) per semester to be conducted online without found not to violate the current regulations. Those enrolling in programs still being conducted entirely online as of the fall semester will be required to leave the US and those seeking entry from abroad for this purpose will be refused initial F-1 or M-1 visas for entry, if possible to apply at all given the current shutdown of consular posts.

Disrupting both schools and the academic programs of countless students, the new guidance will likely cause enormous upheaval if – as expected – the COVID-19 pandemic continues to mandate distance learning in much of the US.