SEVP Provides Flexibility to Schools in Light of COVID-19 Epidemic30 Mar 2020
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which is part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), recently issued a broadcast message to advise SEVP-certified schools that they may need to adapt procedures and policies to alleviate health concerns associated with the COVID-19 epidemic. SEVP indicated that it would be flexible in allowing program changes, but that schools should document any decisions made and be able to provide the information to SEVP upon request.
Temporary Accommodations Offered
In particular, SEVP is allowing universities and colleges to temporarily have F-1 students enrolled exclusively in distance-learning (e.g., online classes). This is a stark change from the standard rule, which generally prohibits F-1 students from enrolling in more than one distance-learning course per term. Moreover, even if the university shuts down without offering online courses, an F-1 student, who plans on resuming the normal course of study upon reopening of the school, can maintain active status in SEVIS.
Similarly, SEVP-certified schools can implement temporary policies to accommodate changes in work arrangements for students engaged in CPT or OPT, including STEM OPT. As indicated in the broadcast, “SEVP encourages such students to consult with their employer to seek alternative ways to maintain employment, such as teleworking or other arrangements.”
With the understanding that the COVID-19 crisis is developing rapidly, SEVP is not requiring schools to provide prior notice of procedural adaptions. Rather, SEVP is allowing schools up to ten business days to update them with any procedural changes.
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