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FAQ for SEVP Stakeholders, SEVP-Certified Schools, and F and M Students

March 24, 2020

On March 23, USCIS released a FAQ to address the impact of the coronavirus and COVID-19 on SEVP-certified schools and F and M students. The full update is available here.

Non-Immigrant Students

  • While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, the following changes and requirements apply to online and in-person course-work:
    • SEVP will allow F and M students to count online classes for schools that notify SEVP of any procedural changes within ten business days, toward a full course of study, even if they are no longer in the US and taking the classes elsewhere. Additionally, the full course of study requirements can be waived for courses that are canceled due to the inability to deliver via online means.
    • F and M students who continue to make normal progress in their studies from their home country remain eligible for admission into the US. Any student outside of the US should check on any travel restrictions their country might have, as well as any countries they may travel through. Students should also check with their DSOs to confirm their school’s status and procedures. If an active F student leaves the US to return home and complete their studies remotely, their SEVIS record should remain Active and not be terminated. The five-month temporary absence provision will not apply for students who remain in Active Status.
    • Initial students in the US who have reported to their school should be made Active in SEVIS and follow the school’s guidelines for F and M students. If Initial students have not arrived in the US, they should remain in their home country.
    • If student housing/or campus has been shut down, students can continue to study online inside or outside of the US. If students are in the US, DSOs should update their address in SEVIS.
  • While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, the following changes and requirements apply to employment:
    • Students with proper authorization may engage in curricular practical training (CPT) while they are abroad, provided they are enrolled in a program of study in which CPT is integral to the program; their DSO authorized CPT in advance of the CPT start date; and either the employer has an office outside the US or the employer can assess student engagement electronically.
    • For questions about how traveling to a home country to complete studies could alter a student’s OPT/CPT and SSN status, SEVP recommends reaching out to the Social Security Administration.
  • While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, the following changes and requirements apply to graduation: 
    • If students returned to their home country, DSO should not extend students’ programs to accommodate graduate ceremonies. Students who wish to return to the US for graduation have the following options:
      • Return before the program end date on the Form I-20 and attend during the 60-day grace period;
      • Return with a pending change of educational level or transfer Form I-20, if applicable; or
      • Return to the US on another visa classification.

SEVP-Certified Schools | Schools need to notify SEVP of any procedural adaptation due to COVID-19 within ten business days of the change. SEVP will send an email acknowledging receipt of the notification to each school that submits procedural change documents and add the submitted information to the school’s file.

For students who were to start their program this spring as a transfer student, schools may defer attendance and keep the student’s status as “Transfer” in SEVIS.

Additional Information | Guidance for J exchange visitors is available on the Department of State website. All COVID-19 related guidance for SEVP stakeholders is available at ICE.gov/COVID19.