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SEVP Guidance for F-1 Students - Fall 2020

This page was developed to provide updates on SEVP guidance for F-1 students related to online courses. OISS is monitoring this situation closely and working with UD leadership and professional associations to assess new information and guidance as it continues to develop. We will continue to communicate accurate guidance for the Fall Semester to the UD international community through email, social media and live webinars. Please visit the OISS Events Calendar for details about upcoming immigration webinars and OISS programs.

Read all of our updates about travel, mainintaing immigration status, financial support, health and wellness and more on the OISS Coronavirus Updates webpage.

We are also here to remind you that, as always, UD values your talents, contributions and perspectives. OISS is here to support you any way we can. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact OISS for assistance.

July 27, 2020

On July 24, 2020, SEVP issued Clarifying Questions for Fall 2020 based on the March 2020 Guidance. In general:

  • Continuing students with an active SEVIS record: are permitted to take a full schedule of online courses within the US during the COVID-19 emergency and maintain their visa status. They may also choose to continue their classes from abroad as long as they are enrolled full-time.
  • New students with an initial SEVIS record: who wish to enter the US (barring any travel restrictions and have a valid F-1 visa) must have an in-person course in order for OISS to be able to activate their F-1 visa status. We encourage students to work with their academic advisor at UD to confirm their class schedule and ensure that it includes an in-person class before entering the U.S.
  • New students may also begin their program online from abroad. However, OISS will defer the program start date on the I-20 for the next semester when the student is ready to enter the US and have a physical presence requirement to be in the U.S.

For more information on how this guidance impacts your status, please see the Fall 2020 Online Course Update.

July 14, 2020

Government Rescinds SEVP Fall 2020 Guidance for F-1 Students

On July 14, in a hearing before the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, the United States has agreed to rescind the Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s (SEVP) July 6, 2020 temporary guidance. This agreement cancels any implementation of the July 6 guidance, and returns all parties to the previous SEVP guidance from March. Under the March guidance, institutions of higher education have the flexibility to teach entirely online and F-1 international students may continue to remain in the U.S. with an active visa status. For more information, please see the announcement from Goldblum & Pollins Immigration Law.

What does this mean for current F-1 students at UD?
The policy withdrawal means that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will reapply its March 2020 COVID-19 guidance, which permits F-1 undergraduate, graduate, and ELI students to take a full schedule of online classes within the U.S. during the COVID-19 emergency and maintain their visa status.

New F-1 international students should consult OISS for guidance on their travel to the U.S. and enrollment requirements in their first semester at UD.

OISS will continue to monitor these developments and provide updates. Please join us for the next OISS Forum this Friday, July 17 at 3:00 pm EST.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office at oiss@udel.edu or (302) 831-2115.

July 10, 2020

OISS hosted an online forum today to provide live update on the current status of the temporary SEVP guidance for F-1 students. OISS advisors explained what is known about the guidance and answered questions about the potential impact on UD students. View the forum presentation.

The forum was the first in a series of updates that will continue with OISS and immigration attorneys from our partners at Goldblum and Pollins Immigration Law. Upcoming events will be listed on our Events Calendar. We have developed an OISS SEVP Guidance FAQ webpage featuring answers to frequently asked questions regarding the SEVP guidance.

July 7, 2020: Special Message from the Associate Deputy Provost

Dear students,

As you have most likely heard, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has issued temporary guidance for F-1 students related to online courses for the Fall 2020 semester. Under this temporary guidance, international students attending U.S. colleges and universities that will operate entirely online this fall semester cannot remain in the country to do so. At this time, students who are currently on post-completion OPT or STEM OPT are not affected by this guidance.

We understand that you are concerned right now, and you probably have questions about what this means for your status in the U.S. The guidance from SEVP is unwelcome news that is unfair, inflexible, and challenging.

Based on the current guidance, the University of Delaware’s academic plan for Fall 2020 fits into the category of a hybrid course model for SEVP purposes. The guidance for schools with a hybrid model allows F-1 students to take some online courses as long as they maintain enrollment in at least one in-person class. We encourage you to work closely with your academic advisor to enroll in at least one class that will meet in person during the fall semester.

OISS is here to support you in any way we can. We are your advocates and we are working on collecting the answers to your questions. We will continue to update you and the UD community in the coming days. The impact of this guidance is far-reaching, and we are working with university leadership, national associations, and advocacy groups in the field to establish the necessary steps to help you maintain your status in the U.S.

Please note that the Temporary Final Rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register. OISS will provide more details and inform you of your responsibilities if this Temporary Final Rule is published and made official. Please continue to monitor the OISS SEVP Guidance webpage and read OISS emails for more details.

In order to keep the international community informed, OISS is hosting a virtual forum to check-in and discuss updates regarding this guidance. Please join OISS this Friday, July 10 at 3:00 pm.

Additional support is available through University of Delaware support offices:

  • The UD Center for Counseling and Student Development staff is available to meet with you virtually individually or as a group to provide emotional support. Students can call the UD Helpline 24/7 to speak with a counselor at (302) 831-1001.
  • Students who are concerned about how this will affect their academics should speak with their academic advisor or academic Assistant Dean’s Office for their college. If you need additional support or advocacy, please connect with the Office of the Dean of Students at deanofstudents@udel.edu.


Ravi Ammigan, Ph.D.

Associate Deputy Provost, International Programs

Executive Director, OISS


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July 6, 2020

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has issued temporary guidance related to online courses for the fall 2020 semester. Below are some of the main points of the temporary guidance. Please note that the Temporary Final Rule is not official and has not yet been published. OISS will keep you informed as soon as new details become available.

  • Online-Only Model:

    ○ Students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

    ○ Active students currently in the United States enrolled in fully online programs must depart the country or transfer to another school with in-person instruction.

    ○ Students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for fall will not be issued a visa and will not be permitted to enter the United States.

    ○ F-1 students outside of the United States, whose schools of enrollment are only offering online classes, may remain in Active status in SEVIS if they are taking online courses and are able to meet the normal full course of study requirements or the requirements for a reduced course of study.

  • Normal In-Person Class Model: Students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online that count towards their full-time enrollment.
  • Hybrid Model: Students attending schools adopting a hybrid model will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. However:

    ○ Schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, "certifying 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."

    ○ F-1 students in English language training programs are expected to maintain attendance in in-person classes in the fall semester.
  • If a school changes its operational stance mid-semester, and as a result nonimmigrant students switch to only online classes, these nonimmigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes and must leave the country or transfer to another school with in-person instruction to maintain their nonimmigrant status.

OISS continues to monitor this developing situation very closely and will send updates as we obtain new information. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our office at any time. We can be reached by phone at (302) 831-2115 or by email at oiss@udel.edu.

Additional Resources


Goldblum & Pollins