There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has made a significant impact on the world and has forced us to change how things worked in the pre-COVID era. The education industry, in particular, had to go through major obstacles as the well-being of millions of students, faculties and staff was at stake.
Now that things have started to get back to normal, governments around the globe have started to lift the restrictions put on on-campus education at education institutions. Several universities in the US are also planning to return to campus for the Fall 2021 semester with primarily in-person classes. But will international students be allowed in the US for education?
Well, the Office of International Services (OIS) has some information to share that would help international students determine their academic plan. So, if you are an international student, enrolled or willing to enrol in a course at a US institute, here is everything you need to know about the US’s 2021-2022 academic year.
Major Guidelines for the International Students for their 2021-2022 Academic Year
As mentioned, several factors will influence the academic plans for international students for their Fall semester.
- Guidance from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS):
In a statement released on April 26, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) clarified that for the 2021-2022 academic year, F-1 students need to comply with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance originally issued in March 2020. The guidance was also applied to the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters. Such guidance allows distance learning over regulatory limits due to the public health emergency caused by the recent pandemic.
- The mode of course instruction permitted by LA County Department of Public Health guidelines:
Several universities, especially the University of Southern California (USC), are currently in Phase 5 of its reopening plan. However, any plans the universities make are subject to change pending public health guidance.
- Travel restrictions and embassy closures due to COVID-19:
It is quite evident that securing a student visa or dealing with a few existing US entry restrictions due to the pandemic will make it difficult for international students to get to their campus for the Fall 2021 semester.
What Does This Mean for Continuing International Students Currently in the US?
Here are a few major details that continuing international students who are currently in the US need to take into consideration:
- Continuing students who are currently in the US in F-1 status and are supposed to remain in the US for the Fall 2021 semester may continue to take online classes if offered by their academic department. However, these individual students will maintain an active Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record if they enrol in a full course. Otherwise, they need to maintain their immigration status.
- Students with F-1 status currently in the US and outside of the US for the fall 2021 semester may continue to take classes online if their academic department offers it. However, similar to the previous lot, these students will also have to maintain an active Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record as long as they enrol in a full course. Otherwise, they need to maintain their immigration status.
- Continuing students who are currently in the US but do not intend to enrol in the Fall 2021 semester need to consult with their academic experts regarding the possibility of taking a Leave of Absence (LOA). Students would have to submit an LOA form to the Office of International Services (OIS) by the start of the Fall 2021 semester. Students on an LOA must leave the US for the duration of the leave period, except for the Leave of Absence based on documented medical reasons. The five-month temporary absence provision will start on the date of departure from the US.
What Does It Mean for Continuing International Students Who Are Currently Outside of the US?
For continuing international students who are currently living outside the US, the following guidelines are crucial.
- Continuing international students who live outside the US in F-1 status and will remain outside the US for Fall 2021 may continue taking the online classes for study help if their respective academic departments offer the option. These students will also need to maintain an active Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record as long as they enrol in a full course load. Otherwise, they should maintain their immigration status.
- Continuing students who are currently outside the US in F-1 status and are planning to return to the US during fall 2021 may continue to take online classes if their respective academic departments offer that option. To re-enter the US, these students must have a valid F-1 visa, an I-20 endorsed for travel and all the required documents listed on the travel section of the OIS website. These students will also need to maintain an active Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record as long as they enrol in a full course load. Otherwise, they should maintain their immigration status.
- Continuing students who are currently outside the US in non-F-1 status – including the students admitted for Summer 2020, Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 semesters who began their programs from outside the US – and wish to enter the US for fall 2021, may not take 100% online classes. These students may only end the US if they can obtain an F-1 visa and can confirm enrolment in at least one in-person or hybrid class on your schedule of classes on the first day of classes for the fall semester.
Wrapping it up,
There are plenty of other guidelines and specifics mentioned in the statement released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, if you want to get more clarity about the guidelines, it is better to get in touch with the academic institution you are enrolled in.
Author bio: Maurice Gough is a high school teacher and a student counsellor based in Ohio, US. He is currently working for Assignmenthelp.us as an expert assignment writer to help students with their assignment related needs.