Dear UWest International Student,
Over the past few days, you may have become aware of new guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regarding F-1 students attending the fall semester during COVID-19. As you know, in the spring and summer, SEVP permitted F-1 students inside and outside the US to maintain their active F-1 status while taking online courses only. Unfortunately, on July 6, SEVP announced that F-1 students will have to leave the US if all of their classes are being delivered online. These students are required to take at least one course that is delivered in person.
This is very alarming news, and we regret the stress it must be causing many of our students. Two influential US universities are now challenging this decision legally, and it is possible that the courts could issue a restraining order that would prevent the government from implementing this action.
In the meantime, please be assured that UWest is making plans to protect our international students if the new guidance must be followed:
We are reviewing our course offerings to determine which of our courses can be delivered with in-person components and in a safe manner. That way our F-1 students who are in the US and enrolled in degree programs will be able to remain in the US and continue their studies as F-1 students, taking at least one in-person class and the rest online. Please note, however, that for students with I-20s for “Language Training” no online classes are allowed at all according to federal regulations and the updated guidance.
For our continuing F-1 students who are intending to take fall classes from outside the US, we have received contradictory information over the last two days from SEVP. At this point, it is not entirely clear whether F-1 students outside the US will be able to maintain F-1 status or whether the DSO will be required to terminate their I-20 if they are not in the US in the fall. Together with many other universities, we are seeking additional information about this important question and will update you as soon as possible. However, if you are not able to return to the US for the fall semester, and if we are required to terminate your I-20, you are still able to take your online courses and progress towards your degree. As soon as you are able to return to the US–by spring 2021 semester, hopefully–we will issue you a new I-20 for return. However, we are hopeful that SEVP will allow us to keep your I-20s active also in the fall. We just don’t have all the information yet.
To summarize, if the new SEVP guidance remains in place:
Degree-program F-1 students who are in the US or are able to return to the US will be offered the appropriate classes at UWest this fall to be able to continue to remain here and retain their status.
Continuing students who are outside of the US can also continue with their studies by taking their classes online; however, we may be required to terminate these students’ I-20s and issue new ones when they are able to return. We will keep you updated about this.
Students with “Language Training” (= ESL) I-20s cannot remain in the US or retain F-1 status if any of their classes are online.
I apologize for how confusing all of this is. If you have any questions, please reach out to DSO Muge Meisenholder and/or me. We will be more than happy to help you and can schedule a conversation via Zoom or similar mode if you would like. We will also be sending general updates to all of you as soon as we receive more information regarding your fall courses and your F-1 status.
Finally, if you are a continuing student and have not registered for your fall classes yet, please register for fall as soon as possible so that we can make sure that you have the appropriate courses this fall to maintain your status. For information on how to register, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your attention to this email. You are valued members of the UWest family, and we are proud to serve you and support you in any way we can.