The same day as Purdue's deadline for undergraduate students to opt into an entirely online fall semester, the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program announced several new policies for international students this fall, changing their allowed credit limits and tacking on new requirements for students should in-person instruction end mid-semester.
The new exemptions, which are temporary, are broken up into three categories between universities adopting online, in-person and hybrid models for the fall.
"Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States," SEVP's press release states. "The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.
"Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status."
Students who do not comply may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, removal proceedings, the release states.
Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending in-person instruction only are bound by existing federal regulations, including the three-credit limit for online courses.
"Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model — that is, a mixture of online and in person classes — will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online," the release reads. "These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, 'Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,' certifying that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.
"The above exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursing vocational degrees, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses."
"Schools should update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System within 10 days of the change if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to only online classes, or a nonimmigrant student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an entirely online course load."
The SEVP announcement clarifies that nonimmigrant students in the U.S. are not allowed to take a full course of study entirely online. If those students "find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave."
Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty explained how the new policies would affect Boilermakers late Monday night.
"According to the guidance released (today), Purdue’s F-1 internationals students who remain outside the United States during the fall 2020 semester will not be able to maintain their active SEVIS status," he said in an email. "However, this policy does not bar students outside of the U.S. from taking Purdue classes fully online from their home country.
"This new guidance is not substantially different than how Purdue has been operating and will not change the online opt in deadline at this time."
Doty noted that while minor updates will be made to reference the SEVP's new guidance on the Protect Purdue FAQ webpage, nothing substantial has changed.
The deadline to opt into online only classes this fall is 11:59 p.m. ET tonight for undergraduate students, and 11:59 p.m. ET on July 15 for graduate students.