Can I study in the U.S. during Corona virus? Can I apply for an F-1 visa? Can I take online classes only if I am in the U.S. on F-1 visa?

By September 22, 2020Covid 19
Photo courtesy of Evonne on Flickr, labeled for reuse:

The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted all aspects of daily life. With both borders and Consulates closed, travel to and from the U.S. can be difficult. One category that is affected by the Covid-19 crisis are students.

When the Covid-19 crisis began back in the beginning of 2020, the ICE adopted a temporary policy stating that students may take more classes online than what is usually allowed (even take all classes online). On July 6, 2020, ICE modified this exemption and indicated that no students (even the ones that were present in the U.S. on March 9, 2020) will be able to take online classes only. ICE later updated this policy and please see some common questions and answers below.

I am in the U.S. on an F-1 status. Can I take all classes online?

If you were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020 and you are otherwise complying with your F-1 status, then you can take online classes only for the Fall 2020 semester.

I had a valid F-1 visa as of March 9, 2020 but then I left the U.S. Can I return and take classes online?

Yes. If you were in the U.S. and you were actively enrolled in a U.S. School as of March 9, 2020, you left the U.S. and you would now like to return and take online classes only, you can do so.

I am an initial student and would like to get an F-1 visa. Is it possible?

This will depend. If your classes in the U.S. will be exclusively online in the Fall 2020 semester, you will not be able to get an F-1 visa (and the school will not even issue you Form I-20).

However, if your school offers a combination of online and in person classes, they could then issue you an I20 form and you could then apply for an F-1 visa and come to the U.S.

I qualify for the F-1 visa but I live in a Schengen country/the UK and Ireland. Do I need to apply for a National Interest Exception before I enter the U.S.?

Please note that if you already have a valid F-1 visa and you are currently in one of the restricted countries, you will not need to apply for the National Interest Exception (“NIE”). Other non immigrant visa categories such as B-1 business visitors or E-2 investors have to obtain a NIE before coming to the U.S., but F-1 students are exempted from this rule.

Please note that the above applies to Fall 2020 semester only and ICE will most likely issue additional guidance for Spring 2021 semester.

Please see our blog post on whether you can apply for a NIE at a port of entry when you click here.

Please click here to read more about the NIE.

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