Announcements from the Global Programs Office

Messages of Support to Our International Students

July 27, 2020

Today, ICE's Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP) broadcasted its official follow-up communication to P/DSOs regarding the international student enrollment guidance for Fall 2020. Please rest assured that this updated guidance does not impact our international students at SFAI. The international students who have already transitioned their SEVIS record to another institution for the Fall 2020 semester will also not be affected by this updated guidance. International students who transfer their SEVIS record to another school are "continuing students" per SEVP regulations. Therefore, these students can follow the SEVP guidance for continuing students enrolled for Fall 2020. The international students who will be enrolled at SFAI during the Fall 2020 semester will also not be impacted by this. The guidance does not apply to international students currently on Post-completion OPT status or pending Post-completion OPT status.

These stipulations are only for the Fall 2020 semester. As COVID-19 continues to be a fluid matter, we should expect a revision or a new communication for the Spring 2021 semester.

In summary, the guidance enables schools and continuing international students to engage in online learning with no limitations due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19, as stated in the March 2020 guidance. The guidance applies to international students complying with the terms of their F-1 status, and who were enrolled full-time at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020. Continuing international students can reenter or remain in the United States, even if their school is engaged solely in online learning. If you are an international student and already transferred your SEVIS record to another school, your new I-20 will show "Transfer Pending." Thus, this implies that you are a continuing international student waiting for the next academic semester to start and complete the SEVIS transfer process.

However, new international students will not be able to enter the United States for the Fall 2020 term to pursue a full course of study that is solely online. This action affects F and M students in "new or initial status" after March 9, 2020. Furthermore, international students in "new or initial status" outside of the United States will not be able to receive the Form I-20 if the educational institution operates 100 percent online. SFAI does not have any international students in new or initial status for the Fall 2020 semester. Nevertheless, many institutions across the U.S. and thousands of new incoming international students from around the world are affected by these directions.

We will continue to advocate on behalf of international students strongly. We abide by our position emphatically disagreeing the intents from the Department of Homeland Security. These actions incessantly affect the United States and disrupt the educational journey of thousand of new incoming international students.

Herewith is the extract of the SEVPS's Broadcast Message that I received explaining their updated guidance for Fall 2020: 

Summary of March 2020 Guidance for Continuing Students
As stated in the March 2020 guidance, Active F and M students will be permitted to temporarily count online classes towards a full course of study in excess of the regulatory limits stated in 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(m)(9)(v). The March 2020 guidance applies to continue F and M nonimmigrant students who were in valid F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status on March 9, 2020, including those previously enrolled in entirely online classes who are outside of the United States and seeking to re-enter the country this fall. Students actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, who subsequently took courses online while outside of the country can re-enter the United States, even if their school is engaged solely in distance learning.

Summary of March 2020 Guidance for Initial Students
In accordance with March 2020 guidance, F and M students in new or initial status after March 9, 2020, will not be able to enter the United States to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online. Also consistent with the SEVP Broadcast Message dated March 9, 2020, designated school officials should not issue a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” for a student in new or initial status who is outside of the United States and plans to take classes at an SEVP-certified educational institution that is operating 100 percent online.

If you have any questions or need further clarification about the SEVP's updated guidance, please email Ana Suek, Associate Director of Global Programs at SFAI.

July 15, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security rescinded the SEVP Policy for Fall 2020 that would have threatened many International Students to Leave the U.S.

SFAI joins the higher education community in praising the result of the July 14’s hearing in court in a lawsuit brought by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, and joined by many other institutions across the country. In response to this lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT, the government agreed to rescind the guidance. At the hearing, the Department of Homeland Security revoked the July 6 policy directive (as well as an associated FAQ released July 7) requiring international students to have in-person coursework in order to remain in the U.S. The rescission means that the government reverts to guidance (issued in March 2020) allowing international students to remain in the U.S. while taking online full-course load only during the Fall 2020 semester.

We continue to strongly advocate on behalf of our international students to provide the necessary support they need to successfully engage in full-time study. Ana Suek, our Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) will continue to be available for individual inquiries as well:

July 9, 2020

“We are aware of your concerns and understand the frustrations resulting from the recent broadcast message from Students and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP) dated July 6, 2020 and the Frequently Asked Questions for SEVP Stakeholders about the Fall 2020 guidance subsequently released on July 7, 2020. Our SEVP’s Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) in the Global Programs Office, Ana Suek, is monitoring this situation closely while continuously providing individual guidance to our international students and the rest of the SFAI community.”

“In their communication, SEVP stated, ‘Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SEVP instituted a temporary exemption regarding the online study policy for the 2020 spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted F and M students to take more online courses than normally allowed for purposes of maintaining a full course of study to maintain their F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant status during the COVID-19 emergency.’ SEVP intends to eliminate this temporary exemption for the Fall 2020 semester and orders institutions to operate under the traditional in-person class system or adopt a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in-person classes. Institutions operating entirely online may not enroll F-1 and M-1 students in a full online course load. ‘Active 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 or hybrid instruction to remain in lawful status or potentially face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.’”

“This new guidance from SEVP, an umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, creates chaos and causes an obstruction of the educational path for the over one million international students enrolled at institutions across the U.S. The guidance may also have the effect of weakening American higher education as well as leaving an economic disruption in the U.S.”

“We continue to strongly advocate on behalf of our international students to provide the necessary support they need to successfully engage in full-time study, and forcefully oppose the intent of this announcement and its inevitable negative impact on the U.S. and our students.”

“Presently, SFAI is planning to extend the summer teach-out for currently enrolled students only through the fall 2020 semester. We will explore hybrid-flexible options to protect our international students from the harmful effects of the new rule, as we earnestly oppose this divisive approach. The Global Programs Office continues to seek clarifications from SEVP and to advocate for international education.”

For our international students who are not enrolled in the summer teach-out, we strongly encourage them to complete the transfer of their SEVIS record to another institution before August 31, 2020. Ana is currently working with this cohort. International students currently on OPT are not impacted by newly released SEVP guidance.”

“Ana will have a Zoom session on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, at noon, for international students and alumni to provide further information about the SEVP ruling and to answer students’ questions. Some of the topics that will be addressed include:

  • SEVP regulations on the type of employment during OPT;
  • SEVP potential changes to COVID-19 guidelines and what impact it may have to SFAI’s international students;
  • Any updates on a Fall teach-out program; and
  • Time for Q&A.”

“Ana will continue to be available for individual inquiries as well: As much as we vehemently disagree with the proposed plans by SEVP to eliminate the guidelines for international students to enroll in a full-course load solely online for fall 2020, SFAI will do everything possible to provide a safe classroom environment, virtually and/or in-person, following CDC and SF health guidelines and SEVP guidelines to enroll international students.”