ISFS is writing to update you on immigration requirements for classes for the Spring semester. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), the U.S. government agency which manages the F-1 student immigration program, provided guidance to schools this summer about the F-1 visa rules pertaining to online classes, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government recognized that most schools would be unable to offer enough in-person classes for students to adhere to the normal requirements built into the F-1 regulations and modified them for Fall semester.
Universities across the U.S. have been eagerly awaiting new guidance to be issued for the Spring semester 2021. To date, no such guidance has been officially released, and we have been informed that it is possible that it will not be released at all. Our SEVP liaison has informed us that in the absence of Spring guidance, we can continue to follow the guidance provided for Fall. We’re writing today to explain how that guidance would impact you. If Spring 2021 guidance does get issued, we will update you as quickly as possible.
Please read the following headings to determine which advice applies to you.
If you were present in the US as a student in F-1 status on March 9, 2020
You must enroll full-time (a minimum of 9 credits for graduate students and 12 credits for undergraduate and OPIE students). There are no limits on the number of credits that can be online. An entirely online schedule is acceptable.
If you choose to study from outside of the U.S. for Spring semester, we can keep your SEVIS record active. At the start of the spring semester, we will ask students to submit an eform indicating that they are studying from overseas for the spring.
If you were not an F-1 student in the US on March 9, 2020
This category would include any student who entered the U.S. to begin a new program in summer or fall of 2020. You must enroll full-time (a minimum of 9 credits for graduate students and 12 credits for undergraduate and OPIE students). You are required to have an in-person class in the spring. This could be a single class that meets in-person, or a hybrid class. Your remaining classes can be online if that is what is available.
If you entered the U.S. after March 9 and have decided to leave and study while outside of the U.S., we will not be able to keep your SEVIS record active. You will need to request a new I-20 when you are ready to return to the U.S., and you will need to pay the SEVIS fee again. If you are considering this option, please feel free to contact us to discuss.
If circumstances force Ohio University to move more students from in-person to online classes after the semester has started in Spring 2021, students in the U.S. will be able to maintain legal status regardless of the date they entered the U.S.
Please let us know if you have questions about this information. We are in an unusual situation of being instructed to apply outdated guidance to current circumstances, but we will do our best to answer. And please watch your OHIO email over the winter break, in case spring guidance is officially released.