Maintaining F-1 Status for Fall 2021
Please note that the update below refers to what immigration will allow for fall 2021.
CCA plans for the fall 2021 semester specific to hybrid classes versus online classes are outlined here.
Fall 2021 Updated Guidance
On April 26, 2021, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that there is no change to current F-1 student guidelines during COVID 19 for the fall 2021 semester. The policies set in March 2020 when the pandemic started remain in effect for fall. See below for more information.
Continuing students for fall 2021 that were in the US in spring 2020
For current CCA students with an active SEVIS record, meaning that they were a F-1 student in the US during spring 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that F-1 students should follow the March 2020 guidance from SEVP that does allow F-1 students to maintain their F-1 student status even if 100% in person classes are not being offered.
Continuing students who were enrolled full-time in F-1 status in the spring 2020 semester when the pandemic started and who never left the US will be allowed to stay in the US taking fully online courses or a mix of online and hybrid classes as long as they are enrolled full-time for fall 2021. These options are addressed in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for SEVP Stakeholders about COVID -19 guidance on page 4:
Regarding hybrid classes, SEVP states: "For the 2021-22 academic year, nonimmigrant students may remain in the United States in a hybrid program of study, which consists of both in-person and online components beyond the limitations at 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G). Students will not face enforcement action or loss of their nonimmigrant status based on engaging in hybrid programs. If a student violates U.S. laws or regulations, they could potentially be subject to removal."
Regarding 100% online classes, SEVP states: "Consistent with the March 2020 guidance, for the 2021-22 academic year nonimmigrant students may remain in the United States to engage in a fully online program of study if they have not otherwise violated the terms of their nonimmigrant status. Students will be able to maintain their nonimmigrant status and not be subject to initiation of removal proceedings based on their online studies."
Frequently asked questions for current CCA students that were enrolled full time in F-1 status in spring 2020:
Question : Can I travel back to the United States in F-1 status during the fall 2021 semester?
Answer : Continuing students who were enrolled full-time in spring 2020 but who left the US will be allowed to return to the US to take fully online classes or hybrid classes as long as they are enrolled full-time for fall 2021. The SEVP FAQ document states this on page 16 of the document as "Students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission into the United States. However, because of the changing array of travel restrictions, students should refer to their local embassy’s website through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance. Also, DHS and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) websites provide information about current travel restrictions to the United States."
Question : What is the impact of online classes on F-1 benefits like Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) for current students:
Answer : Continuing F-1 students at CCA that have remained enrolled in full time online classes since spring 2020 will have no negative impact on eligibility to apply for CPT or OPT. As stated in the SEVP FAQ document on page 12, "An F student accrues eligibility for practical training whether they are inside or outside of the United States during the COVID-19 emergency if the student is in Active status in SEVIS and meets the requirements of their school’s procedural change plans submitted to SEVP."
This information is specific to currently enrolled CCA students only. Please review information below if you are a new student admitted for fall 2021.
Continuing students for fall 2021 that have started their CCA degree online from outside the US
For continuing students that started their CCA degree program from outside the US after spring 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started:
Students who were outside the US when they started their degree program at CCA in summer 2020, fall 2020 or spring 2021 and have remained outside the US will be required to enroll in at least one hybrid course for fall 2021 in order to enter the US in F-1 student status. Students in this situation are considered new students for Immigration purposes, even though CCA considers you a continuing student. The SEVP FAQ addresses this on page 3, stating "A new student may be issued a visa to study inside the United States if their program of study is a hybrid program with some in-person learning requirement.
As a result, new or Initial nonimmigrant students who were not previously enrolled in a program of study on March 9, 2020 and intend to pursue a full course of study that will be conducted completely online should not be granted an F-1 or M-1 visa."
Since students that started their degree remotely are considered "new" students for immigration purposes, you will start your F-1 status when you enter the United States with your CCA I-20 and F-1 visa. You will need to be enrolled at CCA for two consecutive semesters in F-1 status before you will be eligible for the F-1 benefits of CPT and OPT.
Students that started their CCA degree online from outside the US that wish to stay outside the US for fall 2021 and enroll in 100% online classes only may do so, but please note that your F-1 student status does not start until you enter the US.
New Students for fall 2021
New students for fall 2021 fall into two categories, so please review the information below closely:
New students for fall 2021 that are currently outside the United States:
In order for CCA to issue fall 2021 new students the I-20 form needed to apply for the F-1 student visa, students must plan to be enrolled in at least one hybrid class, which will have an in person course requirement.
Admitted international students for fall 2021 that are currently outside of the United States can study fully online, but should remain outside the US for the duration of the fall semester.
Please note that new fall 2021 students that are studying online from outside the US are not in F-1 status until they enter the country for the first time using their F-1 visa and their CCA I-20, so therefore are not in ACTIVE status, and not accruing eligibility for CPT and OPT.
New students for fall 2021 that are "SEVIS transfers" and are currently inside the United States:
For new F-1 international students for fall 2021 that transferred their SEVIS record to CCA and are currently residing inside the United States with a CCA I-20 issued for "transfer pending", current Immigration guidance indicates that students in this situation can remain in the US and take online or hybrid classes as long as they are enrolled full time. This is addressed in the SEVP FAQ on page 15, stating that "Transfer students inside the United States must report to a DSO at their transfer-in school in person or using electronic means within 15 days of their program start date (8 CFR 214.2(f)(8)(ii)(C)). The DSO must complete the transfer process and register the student as Active in SEVIS. Students should follow the guidelines the school provides to all its F and M students related to COVID-19."
CCA students returning from a leave of absence for fall 2021
Students that have been on a leave of absence from CCA will need a new I-20 to re-enter the United States. In order for ISAP to issue you a new I-20, you will be required to enroll in at least one hybrid course for fall 2021 in order to enter the US in F-1 student status again. Students in this situation are considered new students for Immigration purposes.
Please note that students that are returning to CCA with online classes from outside the US are not in F-1 status until they enter the country for the first time using their F-1 visa and their CCA I-20, so therefore are not in ACTIVE status, and not accruing eligibility for CPT and OPT.
Immigration regulations require that a student be in F-1 status for at least two consecutive semesters before being eligible for CPT or OPT. Withdrawing or taking a leave of absence, or both, creates a break in your F-1 status. This means that your “time-clock” for being eligible for CPT or OPT resets. This means that after returning to CCA you must maintain F-1 status continuously for at least two semesters before becoming eligible for CPT or OPT again.
Questions about your F-1 status or plans for fall 2021? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule an appointment to meet with an ISAP staff member