On August 07, 2020, the SEVP announced and published FAQ for the fall 2020: https://www.ice.gov/doclib/coronavirus/covid19faq.pdf
These questions are the summary from the document.
New Admitted Students:
SEVP does not encourage any specific action regarding new students for the institutions. If a school has accepted F-1 students but will not maintain standard operations (hybrid/in person) because of COVID-19, deferment is available. Please contact the Admissions Department email@example.com.
According to the SEVP Announcement on July 24, 2020, new or initial nonimmigrant students who intend to pursue a full course of study that will be conducted completely online will likely not be able to obtain an F-1 or M-1 visa to study in the United States. The US consulate will likely deny the request.
An initial student would not be able to enroll in courses from their home country.
If the admitted prospective (outside of the US) wants to pursue a non-degree as an Open Campus student, please contact the Admissions and Registrar's Office.
SEVP allows F students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v), even if they have left the United States and are taking the online classes elsewhere.
According to the SEVP announcement, F-1 students pursuing studies in the United States for the fall 2020 school term may remain in the United States even if their educational institution switches to a hybrid program or to fully online instruction. The students will maintain their nonimmigrant status in this scenario and would not be subject to initiation of removal proceedings based on their online studies. If a student violates U.S. laws or regulations, they could potentially be subject to removal.
Current and active students who are in their home country may engage in online instruction from their home country. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. The SEVIS Record will remain active.
The students are still required to maintain F-1 status by enrolling in a full course load. DSOs would not make specific notations on these students’ SEVIS records during the COVID-19 emergency. The standard rule of "10 business days" would apply when the student changes an address.
Electronic I-20 and Signature
Yes, due to COVID-19, DSOs will send a soft copy of Forms I-20 to student email addresses. Schools do not need to request permission from SEVP or report their plans to electronically send Forms I-20 as part of their COVID-19 procedural changes.
Forms I-20 issued electronically or with electronic signatures, as permitted during the COVID-19 emergency, are authentic and valid. The hard copies are not required since the SEVP wanted the students to consider the electronic I-20 as an original form signed by the school officials. The student may use an I-20 for the consulate processing, DMV processing, and USCIS application processing.
SEVP has identified the following methods to sign and send the Form I-20:
- Email a scanned version of the physically signed Form I-20.
- Email a digitally signed Form I-20 using electronic signature software.
- Email a digitally signed Form I-20 that contains a digitally reproduced copy of a physical signature. Only approved DSO would be able to sign on Forms I-20.
An electronic or digital travel signature will be valid for the same duration as an ink signature (12 months for F students and six months for F students under OPT).
If you have any questions about your status or the SEVP announcement, feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org