The United States Department of Homeland Security has decided to make some modifications to F-1 and M-1 non-immigrant visa requirements for the fall 2020 semester, the State Department said in a media release on Tuesday. “This will allow a mixture of both in-person and some online coursework to meet the requirements for nonimmigrant student status,” the department said.
While F-1 visa holders pursue academic courses, M-1 students pursue “vocational coursework”.
On Monday, the United States had said it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country for the autumn semester if all their university classes are moved online because of the coronavirus crisis. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in its notice added that students could stay back if they shift to a course with in-person tuition. It added that foreign students who fail to switch to in-person courses could face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings”.
On Tuesday, the State Department said the modifications made to the F-1 and M-1 visas will allow greater flexibility for non-immigrant students to continue their education in the United States, while also maintaining physical distancing requirements.
“International students will still have to obtain the appropriate visa and may still be subject to other visa processing or travel restrictions due to COVID-19,” the State Department said. “Students should check with the local US embassy or consulate for information specific to their country.”
Universities in the US attract a large number of foreign students and many of those have shifted to online classes because of the pandemic. The US is the worst-hit country with over 29.9 lakh cases, including more than 1.31 lakh deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Foreign students are a key source of revenue for many US universities. According to the US Commerce Department, foreign students contributed $45 billion (approximately Rs 3.3 lakh crore) to the country’s economy in 2018.