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Message to Emerson International Student Community regarding ICE Restriction to Online-Only Study in U.S.

Dear International Student Community, 

As we work toward launching One Emerson Flex Learning this fall, we have continued to keep our international students at the forefront of our thinking and planning. Emerson’s international students are integral to our diverse community, and we remain steadfast in ensuring Emerson is a welcoming place where students of all backgrounds may engage fully and successfully in their pursuit of knowledge and learning.

We were deeply disturbed and angered by the recent guidance from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which places unfair and xenophobic restrictions on international students who study at US colleges and universities.  Rest assured that we will work with academic coalitions vigorously to oppose these actions. 

At Emerson, we believe that most of our Fall Term reopening Flex Learning programs will work well for international students as the new ruling allows for U.S. study in hybrid-programs as well as online study from abroad, and in-person study at our global partners. 

We continue to assess how this ruling will affect students at Emerson, and, in turn, how we can provide the best support for our students. 

The summary below provides clarification about how the new rule will impact our community. 

With our full support, 

Andrea Popa

Director | International Students Affairs

DHS will Not Allow Online-Only Study for International Students who Remain in the U.S. in Fall 2020

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), under U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced on Monday, July 6, 2020, that it will not allow online-only study for students who remain in the U.S.

Immigration regulations governing international students in F-1 status limit online study to “one class or three credits” per semester. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, SEVP issued guidance allowing international students to move temporarily to online-only study in response to the global health emergency. This flexibility was extended for study in summer 2020, and U.S. colleges and universities have been waiting for clarification on whether online-only study would continue to be allowed.

The recently released announcement indicates that DHS will monitor online study more strictly in Fall 2020.

  • For colleges that move to online-only study, international students will not be able to remain in the U.S., but will be able to participate in online-only study from abroad. 
  • For colleges (including Emerson) that have announced in-person, hybrid-model, or modified-schedule education, international students will be expected to participate in in-person study according to the college’s plan, and will not be able to remain in the U.S. if they opt for online-only study. 
  • Colleges will need to reissue the Form I-20 for all students remaining in the U.S. for in-person or hybrid-model study, to certify that the student is not enrolled in online-only study.

The FAQ for Fall 2020 released by SEVP on July 7, 2020, clarified a few additional points: 

  • Continuing students in F-1 status may remain in “active” SEVIS status if they study online from out of the U.S.
  • For schools that report hybrid-model study, certain programs within the school can offer a differing model of education. 

While SEVP summary and FAQ provide an overview of the new directive, the change is expected to be published as an Interim Final Rule that will be published in the Federal Register

While further clarification may still forthcoming, the chart below outlines how the new rule may impact Emerson students enrolled in different modalities for the fall:

Graduate Students: Graduate programs in Fall 2020 will be offered in hybrid-model and class offerings will depend on your program of study. Please contact our Graduate Program Director for help registering for fall courses, and contact Andrea Popa with any questions related to the limit to online study.

Undergraduate Students: Make certain to complete your Fall 2020 Intent Form on or before the deadline of Sunday, July 12, 2020, to clarify how you plan to enroll – either in-person on Boston campus or in Los Angeles, on-line through our One Emerson Flex Program (request form required), or in-person at one of our One World One Emerson global partner institutions. 

OISA will be communicating additional clarification as it becomes available.

Should you have specific questions, please feel free to contact our office as follows:

Main Contact: 617-824-7858 |

Andrea Popa | Director (Graduate students, ELA, GBFA)
617-824-3598 | 


Jason Yang | International Student Advisor (Undergraduate students)
617-824-3453 |


Please also see Information on ICE/SEVP COVID-19 Rule for International Students.

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