Immigration Law

The Effects of COVID-19 On Student Visas


Current Status for Student Visas:

In early July of 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that students on F-1 and M-1 visas will not be allowed to remain within the United States if their fall semester courses are administered online. Thus, students who are currently enrolled in schools that plan to operate entirely online must either leave the country or transfer to schools offering in-person classes. Students who do not either leave or transfer shall be subject to removal proceedings.

According to the Institute of International Education, more than one million students travel to the United States to pursue higher education. According to current statistics, international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $41 billion and supported 48,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year. The loss of international students will come as a major blow to university budgets, affecting domestic students negatively as well. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, many universities are still struggling to find new ways to combat the disease and stop the virus from spreading if and when in-person classes resume. As such, this new Order will not only cause current students studying in the U.S. to leave, but it will not permit any new students with valid visas to enter the U.S. Amid the confusion and unprecedented circumstances, students will potentially have no choice but to leave their homes and families may be torn apart due to these new regulations.

What’s a Student Visa?

There are two (2) types of student visas offered for the purposes of immigration: 1) F-1 visa and 2) M-1 visa.

F-1 visas:

An F-1 visa allows for students to enter the United States while enrolled at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or language training program as a full-time student. The course or program that the student enrolls in must cumulate into a degree, diploma or certificate and the school must have authorization from the U.S. government to accept international students.  Students immigrating to the U.S. on this visa are not allowed to work off-campus for their first academic year. After their first academic year, F-1 students are only to engage in limited areas of work.

M-1 visas:

M-1 visas are offered for vocational students, or for those who enroll in nonacademic programs other than language training. M-1 visa holders may find employment in practical training only after finishing their studies.

 Transferring Schools or Colleges While on a Student Visa:

A student with a valid F-1 visa can transfer schools at any time for any reason. However, the student must make sure they are eligible in order to make the transfer. By contrast, a student with an M-1 visa can only transfer schools within the first six (6) months. After six months have passed, an M-1 visa student will need to show a number of different elements before a transfer will be permitted.

Next Steps:

Nonimmigrants, as well as nonimmigrant students, have the potential to change their nonimmigration status. Should a student choose to stay in the United States under a different status, they must adhere to the rules and prohibitions of the U.S. government. You can schedule a consultation with our office about your options today!

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