Trump Administration Changes Student Visa Eligibility for the Fall Semester

July 7, 2020 | Henry M. Mascia | Immigration

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced changes to the student visa program for the fall semester for international students in F-1 or M-1 status. The new policy has three key features:

  • Fully online programs: Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government will not issue visas or permit entry to F-1 and M-1 international students who are enrolled in a fully online academic program.
  • Fully in-person programs: International students enrolled in fully in-person program can continue to take 3 credit hours online.
  • Hybrid programs: International students enrolled in a hybrid program can take more than 3 credit hours online as long as the school certifies to ICE that the program is not entirely online and the international students are taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress toward their degree.


International students in F-1 or M-1 status should contact their school’s designated school official (DSO) for details about the school’s plans for the fall semester. If the school plans a fully online fall semester, international students must either (a) transfer to another school or (b) return to their home country to avoid negative immigration consequences. Given the closure of consulates around the world, option (b) is not realistic for most students.

Colleges and Universities

This policy forces colleges and universities to make a difficult choice. If colleges and universities allow in-person instruction, they risk a COVID-19 outbreak, but if they decide to offer fully online instruction, they will inevitably lose valuable international students.

If you are impacted by the changes to the student visa program, please contact us.

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