The US to Withdraw Visas for International Students Whose Classes Go Online for Fall 2020

The United States announced that it will not allow students to remain in the country if all the classes are moved online due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the key takeaways from this announcement -

  • International students will have to leave the USA if all the classes are moved online or transfer to a university offering in-person classes.

  • International students will have to take at least some classes in-person.

  • New visas will not be issued to students enrolled in universities that are offering all their classes online.

  • Students enrolled in colleges offering a mix of in-person and online classes will be barred from attending all their classes online.

  • Students won’t be exempt from the rules even if an outbreak forces the schools/universities to switch to online teaching during the fall term.

What will be the impact of this announcement?
This announcement is sure to create a lot of confusion among the international student body. There are several US universities that are yet to announce their Fall 2020 plans for the classes. This announcement will either force them or provide an incentive to reopen for in-person classes while also maintaining a safe and secure environment for the students.

Some universities like Havard and the University of Southern California had previously announced that classes will be hosted primarily or exclusively online.

However, there is a strong backlash to the announcement by the American Council on Education, who termed the new guidelines as “horrifying”. Even the international student group NAFSA criticized the move and said the guideline “is harmful to international students and puts their health and well-being and that of the entire higher education community at risk”.

The international student community will have to wait and watch how the situation unfolds.


An update was published on The Economic Times, 8th July 2020 stating the US visa relaxations for foreign students.

Key takeaways from the news -

  • Temporary modifications are made in F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant visa requirements, which will allow students to attend a mixture of online and in-person classes to meet requirements of the visa.

  • This temporary adjustment is made to allow students to continue their education in the USA, while also allowing for proper social distancing on open and operating campuses across America.

  • International students will still have to obtain an appropriate visa & may still be subject to other visa processing or travel restrictions.

We will keep updating this section as and when the announcements are made.

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Final Update

In compliance with the rules by the US Government, US universities have decided to conduct classes in a hybrid model to accommodate international students. According to the new ICE rules, announced on 6 July 2020, international students will have to attend a university offering in-person classes or transfer to a university offering both, remote and on-campus learning to maintain their student visa status. Many universities are formulating their Fall 2020 plans after the announcement. For example, Harvard Business School has decided against the fully online MBA program for Fall 2020 and will implement the hybrid model. Columbia University has also reached out to all its international students that it is analyzing the situation and working to implement the rules.

Consequently, international students will have to attend a university that offers a hybrid model of teaching to maintain their student visa status.


On 15 July 2020, the US government agreed to rescind the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new rules for international students. The ICE guidelines were updated just a week ago, which stated that international students will have to attend in-person classes to maintain their student visa status. Harvard University and MIT joined by many other higher education institutes had approached the US court to reverse the rule.

With the rule reversed, international students can now remain in the US even if the university adopts an online mode of teaching for Fall 2020.

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