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Spring 2021 Updates for International Students

Immigration Updates for Spring 2021

As of right now, Immigration has not issued officially published updated guidance to schools for spring 2021. On December 9, 2020, the following statement was released in an Inside Higher Education "Quick Takes" article:

"Federal guidance for enrolling international students in programs operating in hybrid or online modes due to the pandemic remains the same for the spring term, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program said Tuesday... 'Nonimmigrant students should continue to abide by SEVP guidance originally issued in March 2020,' said the spokeswoman, Carissa Cutrell. 'The guidance enables schools and students to engage in distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19.'"

Once SEVP has updated their website with this confirmation, we will update this page with a link to that information.

Current Homeland Security guidance restricts the ability for new fall 2020 international students and for students returning from leave of absence to enter the United States if they are enrolled in 100% online classes (this means any CCA international student that is outside the United States that did not attend classes in person for the start of spring 2020.) Students can be issued I-20 paperwork to apply for the F-1 student visa to enter the US only if they are enrolled in a hybrid class.

If you are a new or returning CCA student who did not study in the United States in Spring 2020 or Fall 2020, you must have an in-person component in your academic schedule in order to receive an I-20 to come to the US for Spring 2021. You can choose to study 100% online for Spring 2021 from outside the United States without an I-20.

Continuing students with active I-20s and a valid F-1 visa may continue to study full online from outside of the United States at this time or enter the United States and study here.

The ISAP staff is available to answer any questions or concerns students may have about F-1 non-immigrant status during Spring 2021 and COVID-19. Please email us at or make an appointment with an ISAP advisor for assistance.

Fall 2020 SEVP information about F-1 status / current guidance

For current CCA students with an active SEVIS record, meaning that they were a F-1 student in the US during spring 2020 or summer 2020 :

As of July 15, 2020 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 enroll full time in 100% online classes if they have an active SEVIS record at CCA. On July 24, 2020, SEVP provided additional information through the Clarifying Questions for Fall 2020 Based on March 9 Spring Guidance Broadcast.

Continuing students who were enrolled full-time in spring 2020 or summer 2020 and who never left the US will be allowed to stay in the US taking fully online courses as long as they are enrolled full-time for fall 2020. Students in this situation will also be allowed to study online from outside the US, as long as they are enrolled full time. This is addressed in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for SEVP Stakeholders about COVID -19 guidance on page 2, stating "SEVP will allow F and M students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v), even if they have left the United States and are taking the online classes elsewhere."

This was reinforced further in the July 24, 2020 Clarifying Questions document on page 2 : "Per the March 2020 guidance, yes, nonimmigrant students may remain in the United States to engage in full course of study online if they have not otherwise violated the terms of their nonimmigrant status since March 9, 2020. This includes students who have remained in the U.S. in active status and are starting a new program of study that is 100 percent online. These individuals do not need a new visa to continue their programs of study. Students engaged in 100 percent online coursework 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 about fall 2020 and online learning:

Question : Can I travel back to the United States in F-1 status during the fall 2020 semester?

Answer : Continuing students who were enrolled full-time in spring 2020 or summer 2020 but who left the US will be allowed to return to the US to take fully online classes long as they are enrolled full-time for fall 2020. The SEVP FAQ document states this on page 13 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 : Can I apply to renew my F-1 visa during the fall 2020 semester if I am enrolled full time in online classes?

Answer : Yes. The Clarifying Questions document addresses this on page 1 of the document : "If a nonimmigrant student was enrolled in a course of study in the United States on March 9, 2020, but subsequently left the country, that student likely remains eligible for a visa since the March 2020 guidance permitted a full online course of study from inside the United States or from abroad."

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 students at CCA that enroll in full time online classes for fall 2020 will have no impact on a students eligibility to apply for CPT or OPT. As stated in the SEVP FAQ document on page 10, "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."

Please note that new fall 2020 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.