New international students with F-1 visas cannot enter US for fully-online coursework

New international students holding F-1 visas and currently outside the U.S. will not be able to enter the U.S. for fully-online school programs in the fall, according to an update on the International Students Office (ISO) website

Following MIT and Harvard’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over a July 6 directive barring students with F-1 visas from being in the U.S. for fully online courses, DHS and ICE rescinded the directive and returned to their March guidance. The guidance permits continuing international students with F-1 visas to remain in the U.S. while completing online coursework.

A DHS July 24 broadcast message writes that the March guidance “applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020.” ISO interpreted the message and accompanying FAQ in its update for new international students.

The broadcast message “lacks clarity” on issues for which ISO is “seeking additional information” such as the minimum number of hybrid subjects new international students with F-1 visas must take to study in the U.S., the ISO website writes.

The ISO website adds that if a new international student’s courses meet the normal requirements for F-1 status, “they should be able to enter and study in the U.S.” Normal F-1 full-time status requirements allow international students to take only one subject (or 12 credits) of online learning.

The deadline for both new and continuing students to arrive on campus for visa purposes is Nov. 9. ISO will work with students who are unable to enter the U.S. by that date to prepare updated visa documents for a Spring 2021 arrival at MIT.

ISO will continue to “monitor developments” and provide updates on its website.