In late July, the US Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced several changes regarding visa processes for international students studying at US universities. In response, we received many questions about how to best navigate the new guidelines and stay in compliance.
As a guide for you and your students, we have compiled our most frequently asked questions about recent SEVP announcements. If you do not see your question answered here, please feel free to send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. I have a new student studying in a hybrid program in the fall where at least one class is in person. Can they come to the US if they are able to secure a visa?
Yes. Most of Shorelight's partner universities are offering hybrid (online + in person) programs this fall, so your eligible students will be able to get an I-20 and apply for a visa, should appointments be available.
2. I'm worried that based on the announcement students who take online programs this fall (e.g., American Collegiate Live) will have a lower chance of getting a visa once consulates open. Is this true?
No, this is not true. Students can start online programs from their home country in the fall and once consulates and campuses re-open and are providing at least some form of in-person instruction (e.g., Spring 2021), they can get an I-20 and apply for a visa to come to the US at that time.
3. I have a student with a valid visa and I-20 (high school or university) who is looking to transfer their SEVIS ID/I-20 to a Shorelight university. Can they transfer to any Shorelight university and stay in status?
Yes. If the student is already in the US and has a valid I-20 for transfer, they can transfer to any Shorelight university pending admissibility, so the student may remain in the US and continue their education. The only exception is American Collegiate Live, which does not provide I-20s.
4. I have many students who are already studying on US campuses. Are they impacted by this announcement?
No. The announcement only impacts new F-1 visa applicants. All existing international students at US universities campuses are not impacted.
5. What advice is Shorelight offering new international students?
We recommend that international students start their studies through one of our virtual programs this fall. Students will be able to stay on track with their US university credits, while connecting with other students in their virtual classroom from all over the world. Beginning their studies in the fall will show that they are a committed student when applying for their visa, proving they have already been successfully enrolled in a US university.
We recommend you work closely with your Shorelight account management team to get access to visa slots as soon as they become available. Consulates are re-opening for the fall and the spring, and we are supporting students with visa preparation and appointments so they can get to their dream US university as soon as possible.
6. If a student has a valid visa or I-20 but is currently outside the US, can they arrive to the US and study fully online if there are no in-person classes available at their university?
If a student is a returning or continuing university student and was enrolled in a course of study in the United States on March 9, 2020, but subsequently left the country, they remain eligible to study fully online from inside the US, per the March 2020 guidance which permits a full online course of study from inside the United States or from abroad.
Any new students who are currently outside the United States, even if they have or are able to get a valid I-20 or I-20 transfer, are not advised to apply for a visa with their fall I-20 or come to the US (if they already secured a visa) for study this fall if their school will be 100% online; they should study online from their home country. Students are advised to apply for their visa for the spring term once their spring I-20 has been issued.
7. If students are eligible to travel and attend school for the fall, do they need to have their I-20 reissued prior to their visa appointment?
While the updated guidance does state that I-20s do not need to be reissued, Shorelight is working with partners to add comments or issue letters to support the student visa process. Please work with your Shorelight acccount management team, as we are working closely with our partners.