Due to the growing Covid-19 pandemic situation, foreign students enrolled in US universities are permitted to continue their study programs online during the spring semester of 2021, even though usually the international students are supposed to be residing in the United States to keep their student visa status.
Even though the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not updated any new official guidance for foreign students on their website regarding the 2021 spring semester, one of its spokespersons has said that the current online studying will continue and most of the international educational institutions and organizations have announced the same.
According to the March 2020 federal guidance issued by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), foreign students with M or F student visas can continue virtual course studies without changes to their immigration status. Any international student who possessed a valid non-immigrant student visa on March 9, 2020, and is enrolled in a full course are permitted to continue their course online.
The students who were admitted after March 9, 2020, being abroad will have to take at least one in-person course. They will not be allowed to take whole courses online if they need to enter the US with an initial Form I-20 or Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Permission for them to enter the US will only be granted if they have a student visa and take at least one face-to-face course as an educational institution functioning fully online is not allowed to issue Form I-20 for the new students living outside the country.
New international students enrolled at US universities for spring semester 2021 and with valid student visas can also take their courses fully online if they do not leave the US before their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records are activated.
According to the 2020 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange, the US hosted more than one million international students during the 2019-2020 academic year even with the pandemic spreading across the country.