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Fall 2020 F-1 Student Guidance

Last updated: July 24, 2020, 11:00 A.M. Please note that this is a dynamic situation and information is subject to change. We understand that you may have additional questions outside of what is listed. We will continue to monitor the situation and update our website with any new information. Once further clarification on the policy guidance for the Fall 2020 semester is given, we will update this webpage with any changes to the information that we have provided. We hope to have additional information and answers available to you as soon as possible.

UPDATE - JULY 24, 2020:  Updated FALL 2020 SEVP GUIDANCE ISSUED

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued new policy guidance on July 24, 2020 that impacts new international students currently outside of the United States who are seeking an F-1 student visa and planning to enter the U.S. for the Fall 2020 semester. This policy guidance does not impact continuing, transfer, or returning students.

UPDATE - JULY 14, 2020:  FALL 2020 SEVP GUIDANCE RESCINDED

BREAKING NEWS: The recently released Fall 2020 SEVP guidance for F-1 international students has been rescinded as a result of the lawsuit brought by Harvard and MIT. More than 200 institutions signed court briefs supporting this legal challenge in Massachusetts, including the University of Utah.  We extend our utmost appreciation to University of Utah administration, faculty, and staff for supporting and advocating for our international students - they are a critical part of our community and we are always incredibly proud to welcome them to our campus!⁠

We are awaiting further official guidance from SEVP for more details on this court decision, and will update students and academic departments as soon as we have further information. Please keep an eye on your UMail for further details!

We understand that this has created much additional stress as we enter the Fall semester, and we encourage you to please review our FAQ website for further guidance [NOTE: updates regarding July 14 court decision coming soon]. In addition, please reach out and schedule an appointment with one of our international student advisors if you have further questions or concerns that you would like to discuss. Please know that we are here for you, even if virtually. 


OVERVIEW OF GUIDANCE

Currently, there are three published guidance documents related to Fall 2020 from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Guidance issued on July 6, 2020 and July 7, 2020 have now been rescinded. However, the policy guidance issued on July 24, 2020 remains in effect.

BROADCAST MESSAGE 2007-02: ICE CONTINUES MARCH GUIDANCE FOR FALL SCHOOL TERMPUBLISHED BY SEVP ON FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2020 STATES THAT:
  • Students with active F-1 status and who were actively enrolled at the University of Utah on March 9, 2020 will be permitted to continue to take classes in any modality and maintain their active status.
  • In order to maintain active F-1 status, students who were actively enrolled at the University of Utah on March 9, 2020 will need to enrolled in a full-time course load (12 semester credit hours for undergraduate students; 9 semester credit hours or 3 thesis credit hours for graduate students). If it will be you last semester, please notify ISSS. If you have notified ISSS that it will be your last semester, you may be permitted to drop below full-time course enrollment.
  • New international students, currently outside of the United States, seeking an F-1 student visa and planning to enter the United States for the Fall 2020 semester are required to be enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid class (3 semester credit hours).
  • New international students, currently outside of the United States, who will be taking classes 100% online should plan to remain in their home country and request a new initial I-20 document with a Spring 2021 start date.
  • New international students, currently outside of the United States, seeking an F-1 student visa and planning to enter the United States for the Fall 2020 semester may need to prove enrollment in at least one in-person or hybrid class at their visa appointment.

Please note that the information below regarding the Broadcast Message 2007-01-COVID-19 and Fall 2020 published by SEVP on Monday, July 6, 2020, as well as the Frequently Asked Questions for SEVP Stakeholders about Guidance for the Fall 2020 Semester published on July 7, 2020 HAVE BEEN RESCINDED. You do not need to follow the policy guidance below. Since the guidance has been rescinded, we will revert back to previous policy. The information in the section below are listed for reference purposes only.

THE BROADCAST MESSAGE 2007-01 - COVID-19 AND FALL 2020 PUBLISHED BY SEVP ON MONDAY, JULY 6, 2020 STATES THAT:
  • There will be some flexibility to allow students to remain in the U.S. for schools that adopt an in-person or hybrid model for Fall 2020.
  • However, students who choose to study entirely online for Fall 2020 will not be able to remain in the U.S. for the semester.
  • By August 4, 2020, schools must reissue all international students their Forms I-20 with a statement in the Form I-20 Remarks field that “the school is not operating entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.”
  • All schools must update their operational plans with SEVP: Schools that will be entirely online or will not reopen for Fall 2020 must notify SEVP no later than Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Schools that will offer an in-person or hybrid program for Fall 2020 must notify SEVP of their plans by August 1, 2020.
ON TUESDAY, JULY 7, 2020 THERE WAS A FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR SEVP STAKEHOLDERS ABOUT GUIDANCE FOR THE FALL 2020 SEMESTER THAT WAS PUBLISHED. IN SUMMARY:
  • DHS is adopting a new approach to carefully balance public health concerns against the varied approaches that schools and universities are taking to combat the spread of COVID-19. Under DHS' fall 2020 guidance, all students scheduled to study at a U.S. institution in the fall will be able to do so, though some will be required to study from abroad if their presence is not required for any in-person classes in the United States. Through this guidance, DHS is seeking to maximize flexibility for students to continue their studies, while minimizing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by not admitting students into the country who do not need to be present to attend classes in-person.
  • SEVP’s guidance for fall 2020 will take effect on the first day of the fall semester.
  • Continuing F-1 students may remain in Active SEVIS status while studying online, outside the United States.
  • SEVP will still allow electronic Form I-20 issuance for the fall semester, and DSOs may electronically send Forms I-20 to student email addresses listed in SEVIS.
  • DSOs must issue new Forms I-20 to each student certifying that the school is not operating entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. DSOs must indicate this information in the Form I-20 Remarks field in SEVIS.
  • Students will not be issued a refund for their I-901 fee if they paid the fee, entered the U.S. and now must leave.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS?

Under updated policy guidance issued on July 24, 2020, this means the following:

  • Under the July 24, 2020guidance, new international students, currently outside of the United States, seeking an F-1 student visa and planning to enter the United States for the Fall 2020 semester are required to be enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid class (3 semester credit hours).
  • If you are a new international student, currently outside of the U.S., and seeking an F-1 student visa, you will need to prove that you will be enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid class (3 semester credit hours). ISSS will issue a new initial I-20 with updated remarks to you. In order to receive your updated I-20, please make sure that you have completed the “1st Step: Find your New Student Checklist” E-Form. If you indicate through this form that you are planning to come to campus for Fall 2020, then ISSS will issue the new I-20 with updated remarks to you.
  • If you are a new international student, currently outside of the U.S., and have not obtain your F-1 student visa, and you are planning to take classes 100% online for the Fall 2020 semester, please request a new initial I-20 document with a Spring 2021 start date by going to the UAtlas portal and submitting the “Continuing Student Request Initial I-20” E-Form.
  • Continuing international students on an F-1 student visa (F-1 students who were active on March 9, 2020 and have continued to maintain enrollment) do NOT need to be enrolled in at least one in-person class in order to maintain their status and remain in the United States. You may choose to enroll in all online or remote classes, or choose classes offered in a variety of formats.
  • If you are a continuing student with active F-1 status, currently located outside of the U.S. and unable to enter the U.S. for this Fall semester, you WILL be able to take all online or remote classes.
  • According to the current guidance, if you are continuing student with active F-1 status, you will also be able to maintain your F-1 status, even if you are taking all online or remote classes, and even if you are currently located outside of the U.S.
  • Additionally, if you are a continuing student with active F-1 status, you will NOT need to be issued an updated I-20 document with remarks stating that you will be enrolled in in-person classes. You will be able to use the I-20 document that you have already been issued.
  • However, although this flexibility is allowed for the Fall semester, it is important to remember that if you have been issued an F-1 student visa and would like to maintain your active F-1 status, you will still need to be enrolled in a full-time course load for the Fall 2020 semester.
    • This means that you will need to be enrolled in at least 12 semester credit hours if you are an undergraduate student and 9 semester creditsor3 thesis hours if you are a graduate student. This requirement applies whether you are currently located in the U.S. OR outside of the U.S. in order to maintain your active F-1 status.

 

ACADEMIC & IMMIGRATION QUESTIONS

IVC and on-line courses will meet the requirements for maintaining your F-1 immigration status. SEVP has made a similar exception for the Fall semester that was made for online course enrollment in the Spring and Summer semesters. In order to maintain an active F-1 SEVIS record status, even when outside the U.S., a student must remain enrolled in a full-time course load which is 9 semester credits, or 3 thesis credit hours for graduate students. It does not matter the course format you are enrolled into.

Classes that are listed as “IVC” (Interactive Video Conferencing) are classes which would normally be taught in person, but are being offered remotely in order to best compile with the CDC physical distancing requirements. These classes will be taught synchronously, so you will be responsible to attend classes at the time listed in the Utah time zone. If you will be outside of the U.S. and in a different time zone, you will need to be prepared to attend your class at an odd time in your current time zone. We encourage you to contact your professor or instructor for the course to ask what accommodations may be available to you since you will be attending the class outside of the U.S.  

Yes. We recommend you register for classes or stay registered for the Fall 2020 semester. The U of U is planning to offer a combination of in-person courses, hybrid courses with in person and remote learning, and fully online courses for Fall 2020, so you may be able to stay enrolled in online classes for this semester even if you remain inside the U.S.

In order to maintain an active F-1 SEVIS record status, a continuing student who is inside or outside the U.S., must remain enrolled in a full-time course load which is 9 semester credits, or 3 thesis credit hours for graduate students. It does not matter the course format you are enrolled into.

Yes. New students outside of the U.S. may choose to take all online classes. This will not impact their immigration status as they have not yet entered the U.S.

New students will not be issued immigration documents until Spring semester or after, depending on when they enter the U.S. Students remain abroad during the Fall semester will need to work with ISSS to receive new immigration documents to return to the U.S. to continue their studies in a future semester. Further information will be available from ISSS on how to receive these new immigration documents shortly.

Please continue to check the COVID-19 FAQ page on the ISSS website for updates as they become available. You can also monitor the U.S. Government’s Study in the States: COVID-19 Resources for updates.

We do not know how long COVID-19 travel restrictions will last and what additional countries may be added or removed from the restrictions already in place. Both current travel restrictions and visa processing delays at U.S. consulates, for students who need a new F-1 visa, might make it impossible for some students to enter the U.S. and return to campus for Fall semester.   

We recommend you register for classes or stay registered for the Fall 2020 semester. The U of U is planning to offer a combination of in-person courses, hybrid courses with in person and remote learning, and fully online courses for Fall 2020, so you may still be able to stay enrolled for this semester even if you remain outside of the U.S. Choose a schedule for Fall semester classes that may give you the most flexibility in case you are unable to return for the Fall semester.  

In order to maintain an active F-1 SEVIS record status, a continuing student who is inside or outside the U.S., must remain enrolled in a full-time course load which is 9 semester credits, or 3 thesis credit hours for graduate students. It does not matter the course format you are enrolled into.

We do not recommend for new first semester students to enter the U.S. in the middle of the Fall 2020 semester. For new students, your I-20 document has a start date listed on it, which is the first day of Fall 2020 classes. It is at the discretion of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to determine if they will allow for a student to enter the U.S. after the start date listed on the I-20 document. Chances of denial upon entry become increasingly likely the longer that you wait to enter the U.S. for the Fall 2020 semester.

If you plan to arrive in the United States after the start date listed on your I-20 document, but before the last day to add or drop classes (September 4), please contact us to let us know that you will be arriving late. We will need to issue additional documentation to you to help facilitate your arrival.  ISSS does not recommend attempting to the enter the United States after September 4, 2020 for the Fall 2020 semester. If you are issued your visa mid-semester, please plan to wait until the Spring 2021 semester to arrive on campus. Students who may be graduating Fall 2020 may direct further questions on this to ISSS.

For the Fall 2020 semester only, ISSS will be creating an e-form that you may submit to request documentation for a late arrival. This e-form will be available on our website soon. Please continue to check the COVID-19 FAQ page on the ISSS website for updates as they become available.

For the Fall 2020 semester only, ISSS will be creating an e-form that you may submit to request documentation for a late arrival. This e-form will be available on our website soon.

Thesis courses will meet the requirements for maintaining your F-1 immigration status. SEVP has made a similar exception for the Fall semester that was made for online course enrollment in the Spring and Summer semesters.

In order to maintain an active F-1 SEVIS record status, even when outside the U.S., a student must remain enrolled in a full-time course load which is 9 semester credits, or 3 thesis credit hours for graduate students. It does not matter the course format you are enrolled into.

Please note, this is an exception that the U.S. government has made during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future semesters are yet to be determined in regards to online or IVC courses counting towards full-time enrollment.

In order to receive the benefits of your participation in the Tuition Benefit Program, including GA/TA/RA positions, it is our understanding that you must have a valid U.S. Social Security Number and be located in the United States. If you are unable to come to the U.S. for the Fall 2020 semester and do not have a U.S. Social Security Number, you will need to wait until you can enter the U.S. until you can participate in this program.


For graduate students participating in the Tuition Benefit Program, we encourage you to contact your academic department directly to address questions about deferring your position. It will be the academic department’s decision on whether your position can be deferred to an upcoming semester.

We are still waiting for further clarification from the U.S. government for the Fall 2020 semester. Although the guidance indicates that students can maintain in active status while abroad and taking online classes, we are reviewing and seeking further clarification on how this will relate to a student’s eligibility to apply for OPT.  

Please note that in order to maintain an active F-1 SEVIS record status, even when outside of the U.S., the student must remain enrolled in a full-time course load (12 semester credits for undergraduate students; 9 semester credits or 3 thesis credit hours for graduate students). 

We recommend you register for classes or stay registered for the Fall 2020 semester. The U of U is planning to offer a combination of in-person courses, hybrid courses with in person and remote learning, and fully online courses for Fall 2020, so you may be able to stay enrolled in online classes for this semester even if you remain inside the U.S.

In order to maintain an active F-1 SEVIS record status, inside the U.S., a student must remain enrolled in a full-time course load which is 9 semester credits, or 3 thesis credit hours for graduate students. It does not matter the course format you are enrolled into.

ISSS does not recommend traveling outside of the U.S. at this time, since we are unable to predict how current travel restrictions may change in the future. Please continue to check the COVID-19 FAQ page on the ISSS website for updates as they become available. 

 

Every student’s situation is different. However, in general, if you wish to take off the Fall semester, you should either consider deferring your admission (if you are new and will be starting your studies at the U of U this Fall), or take a Leave of Absence (if you are a continuing student). Please note that if you elect to take a Leave of Absence, you will need to submit a request to ISSS to close your SEVIS recordand depart the U.S. If your SEVIS record is closed, you will be responsible for requesting a new I-20 from ISSS at least one month prior to when you intend to return to campus. 

If you are interested in part time study: if you are a continuing student, currently outside of the U.S. and plan to remain outside of the U.S. for the Fall 2020 semester, please note that in order to maintain an active F-1 SEVIS record status, even when outside of the U.S., you must remain enrolled in a full-time course load (12 semester credits for undergraduate students; 9 semester credits or 3 thesis credit hours for graduate students). 

Please note: if you are remaining in the US, you must continue to follow F-1 visa requirements for full-time study (12 semester credits for undergraduate students; 9 semester credits or 3 thesis credit hours for graduate students). It does not matter the course format you are enrolled into.

No, technically you are not required to present a new initial I-20 with updated Remarks. However, the updated policy guidance issued on July 24, 2020, requires new international students, currently outside of the U.S., seeking an F-1 student visa, to be enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid course in order to obtain their F-1 student visa and enter the U.S. Therefore, out of an over-abundance of caution, ISSS will be issuing new I-20s with updated Remarks to all new international students who have indicated to ISSS that they intend to come to campus for the Fall 2020 semester.

The Remarks will state that the University of Utah will be operating with a hybrid class model for the Fall 2020 semester, and new international students will be enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid course. Once your new initial I-20 with updated Remarks is ready, you will receive an email with instructions on how to download the new I-20 from our document portal. Please download the document, print it out, sign it, and bring it to your visa appointment. 

 

Last Updated: 7/29/20