Massive Open Online Courses and F-1/M-1 Students

In light of the rising popularity of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently issued a press release to remind F-1 and M-1 students of some important rules pertaining to foreign students enrolling in online classes. Although F-1 and M-1 students can generally take online courses, there are severe limitations as to how such courses can be used to fulfill course load requirements mandated by immigration law.

DOS Creates MOOC Camp

MOOCs are typically sponsored by colleges and universities, available to a wide audience, and are often free of charge. Government entities are also finding MOOCs to be a useful way to reach people. For instance, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) now has an initiative, known as MOOC Camp, wherein MOOCs are hosted throughout the globe, covering a wide range of topics. The DOS hopes this program will help to familiarize foreign nationals with U.S. educational programs, further spurring their interest in the pursuit of an education in the United States.

Limitations on F-1/M-1 Students and MOOCs

F-1 and M-1 students are subject to set limitations on the distance education courses, including MOOCs, that can be counted toward full-time course load requirements. F-1 students, except for those enrolled in English language programs, are only allowed to utilize one online course (or three credit hours) each academic term toward the fulfillment of full-time enrollment requirements. F-1 students in English programs and M-1 students are not permitted to use any online courses to meet enrollment requirements. So, while F-1 and M-1 students may be able to take an unlimited number of MOOCs while in the United States, there are fairly rigid restrictions as to how such courses can be used to satisfy the minimum requirements for having a full course load.


Technology provides access to information and educational opportunities on an enormous scale. Individuals who are interested in studying in the United States should consider sampling some of the available MOOCs. Current foreign students in the U.S. can do this, as well, provided they continue to comply with the requirements of their respective nonimmigrant categories. Students who have questions about their options and applicable requirements should schedule a consultation with an experienced Murthy Law Firm attorney.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.