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In Complete Reversal, ICE Backs Away From Restrictions on International Students

14 Jul

After a week of outcry and a flurry of lawsuits, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has indicated it will rescind the guidance it previously issued on July 6, 2020 that would have required F-1 and M-1 international students to take in-person courses during the fall semester of 2020 despite the ongoing pandemic and new hot spots arising in the United States. 

In March of this year, ICE had introduced temporary exemptions to the standard in-person instruction requirements for international students following widespread class cancellations and school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, which was then in its infancy within the United States.  F-1 and M-1 international students are generally prohibited from taking more than one online class or three credits of online instruction in a given semester, trimester, etc.  The exemptions implemented in March have allowed F-1 and M-1 students to continue to maintain their immigration status even if their schools suspended in-person classes in favor of online learning. 

Last week, ICE had attempted to eliminate many of these exemptions depending on whether schools had returned to normal, in-person instruction or had adopted a mixture of online and in-person classes. Under the now-rescinded July 6, 2020 guidance, students in online-only accredited schools or programs would have become ineligible for visas, would have been denied entry into the United States and would have been required to depart the United States under threat of deportation unless they transferred to a school with in-person instruction.   

Foster previously reported on the proposed changes last week and strongly advocated against them

With the proposed change now rescinded, the March exemptions for online classes should remain in effect for the fall of 2020, regardless of whether an accredited school has returned to in-person instruction or continues to remain online-only. 

As always, Foster will continue to monitor developments and will make additional updates available via our firm’s website at