On 6 July 2020, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced to end temporary exemptions for foreign students taking online classes for the Fall 2020 semester. These exemptions were previously permitted by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of ICE due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest modifications to the temporary exemptions include the following:
Foreign students with F-1 and M-1 Visa status attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.
Foreign students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status.
Foreign students with F-1 Visa status attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify to SEVP that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.
Foreign students with F-1 Visa status attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations.
The Embassy of Malaysia urges Malaysian students who may be affected by this ruling to reach out directly to their respective universities, particularly their academic advisors and the university’s international office, as the universities’ decision with regard to fall classes will be crucial in affecting the students’ immigration status.
The Embassy is seeking to obtain further clarification from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on its latest decision. The Embassy is also working closely with the Education Malaysia (EM) Office and the National Assembly of Malaysian Students in America (NAMSA) to monitor the well-being of Malaysian students in the U.S.
Embassy of Malaysia