New ICE Restrictions on International Students Due to COVID-19 & Online Schooling


ICE Releases New Information Regarding International Students and Online Students

In a press release from Monday, July 6th , 2020, ICE announced that international students may not remain in the country if their universities move to online-only schooling this coming school year. Students may be able to avoid this restriction if they transfer to a school with in-person instruction. Schools who adopt a hybrid model of in-person and online teaching.

What Does it Mean?

ICE removed some of the temporary exemptions regarding the online study policy that had been put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The modifications affect students taking online classes due to COVID-19 for the Fall 2020 semester. Effective in the fall, nonimmigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take an entirely online course load.

If a school is offering online-only courses this Fall, nonimmigrant students must either depart the United States or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as transfer to a school with in-person instruction.

Detailed Summary of Changes:

1) Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students enrolled in schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. These students will not be issued visas and will not be permitted to enter the United States. Students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take alternative measures, including transferring to a school with in-person instruction. Failure to do so may result in immigration consequences such as the initiation of removal proceedings.

2) Students attending schools offering ordinary in-person classes continue to be bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students at these schools may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

3) Students attending schools adopting a mixture of online and in person classes, will be permitted to take more than one class or three credit hours online. However, these schools must make a number of certifications as to their program and the student to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) form This exemption does not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.

How You Can Help:

1) CAIR-Chicago urges faculty members and university administrators to speak out against this change in the rules, which places many students’ courses of study and health at risk by joining this sign on letter which has thus far garnered over 15,000 signatures.

2) Concerned community members and allies should contact their members of Congress to demand that they work to protect foreign students by pressuring the Trump administration and ICE in particular to reverse these changes.

Thank you to CAIR-California for putting this info sheet together.

READ MORE: International students may need to leave US if their universities transition to online-only learning

TAP is urging colleges and universities to put in place lines of protection for students, including instilling a minimum amount of safe in-person schooling for international students to allow them to remain in the country.

If you or your loved ones need assistance on this matter, please fill out our COVID-19 Travel Aid Form and email Deputy Director Sufyan Sohel at, and our team will follow up shortly.

The Travelers Assistance Project (or TAP) works to protect the rights of travelers who are detained or denied entry at O’Hare airport.  If you or a loved one faces an issue upon re-entering the United States, please call our 24 hour hotline at 1-872-333-2737.