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Updated SEVP Guidance Clarifies Continued Flexibility for Fall 2020 Study

Dear International Students, 

We have some good news to share!

On July 24, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued their long-awaited guidance for Fall 2020 study for international students in F-1 status. To review the guidance see:

Summary of SEVP Guidance:

SEVP will continue the flexibility it allowed in Spring and Summer 2020 for international students to enroll in either hybrid and online study. This flexibility exceeds the limit normally permitted by F-1 regulations of one online class per semester. However, new students will not be able to enter the U.S. to begin a program that is 100 percent online. 

Continuing Students:

Continuing students with an “active” SEVIS record who were enrolled in a full-time program of study on March 9, will have the flexibility to enroll as follows: 

  • Hybrid (“flex”) study in the U.S. with required in-person instruction
  • In-person study at an Emerson global partner institution and keep an “active” SEVIS record (undergraduates only)
  • 100 percent online study and remain in the U.S. in “active” SEVIS status
  • 100 percent online study and keep an “active” SEVIS record from out of the U.S.

The guidance clarifies that continuing students enrolled in online study from abroad are “likely” eligible to apply for a visa and to enter the U.S. provided the student “was enrolled in a course of study in the United States on March 9, 2020, but subsequently left the country.” This will be important for students in their final semester of study who may wish to enter the U.S. at a later date to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). 

Note: Students must still meet the requirements for full-time study to retain an “active” SEVIS record. 

New Students:

Students beginning a new program of study can study as follows: 

  • Enter the U.S. to begin a new program that is hybrid (“flex”) with required in-person instruction. 
  • Remain out of the U.S. and enroll in 100 percent online study. 
  • Remain out of the U.S. and enroll in an Emerson global partner program (undergraduates only)

New students cannot apply for a visa or enter the U.S. to begin study that is 100% online. Students in this case should contact undergraduate or graduate admissions to defer their I-20 start date until the next semester. 

Additional Clarifications:

Additionally, the SEVP guidance offers the following clarifications: 

  • Students in the U.S. will be able to remain in the U.S. if the College moves to online only study in the middle of the semester due to an escalated health outbreak. 
  • Schools can continue to issue Forms I-20 that are digitally signed and distributed electronically. 

The new guidance does not address the issue of whether the five-month out-of-country rule will be suspended for students who take a leave of absence in Fall 2020. 

Since the five-month rule is not clearly addressed, students who take a leave of absence in Fall 2020 should be prepared that a new “initial” I-20 will likely be required to return to Emerson to resume studies in a future semester. This will require payment of a new I-901 SEVIS fee. IMPORTANT NOTE: Taking a leave of absence near the end of a student’s program might impact U.S. work permission as the student will need to be enrolled for two full semester after their return to the U.S. in order to qualify for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT).

New One Emerson FAQ:

In addition to this update to SEVP guidance, Emerson has also released an updated FAQ for international student questions under the One Emerson page.

Continued updates on international student considerations will be posted to this link over the coming weeks.

The One Emerson guidance includes updated answers to several questions including: 

  • Are there still bans on travel to the U.S.?
  • Are U.S. consulates open for routine visa services?
  • Which offices should I contact if I am enrolled in hybrid study, but am unable to enter the U.S. due to a travel ban, delays in visa issuance, or flight restrictions?

See: :

We will continue to keep you up-to-date as new information becomes available. 

With our continued support, 

Andrea Popa 
Director, International Student Affairs

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