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Contact: VCU Global Education Office
Immigration Services

Announcement affecting international students taking online classes

Richmond, VA (July 8, 2020)—On July 6, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester.

This announcement affects universities differently, based on their fall 2020 instructional plans. For fall 2020, Virginia Commonwealth University will offer the following class formats: in-person, hybrid and online.

SEVP’s announcement informs universities that if they offer fall 2020 courses in a mixture of instructional modes (in-person, hybrid and online), then the normal F-1 visa regulation restricting the number of online credits a student in the U.S. may take per semester to three credits is relaxed as follows:

  • Students in the U.S. will be permitted to enroll in more than just three credit hours online but in no more online credits than are necessary to permit the student to make normal progress in their program. The online credit restriction is relaxed, but it is not eliminated.

Since VCU plans to offer a mixture of instructional modes for fall 2020, VCU international students who are attending fall semester in the U.S. may take advantage of the relaxed restriction on online study. International students in the U.S. cannot enroll in a course of study consisting entirely of online credits. International students in the U.S. who do enroll in all online credits will be in violation of the F-1 regulations, making them subject to deportation.

The SEVP announcement applies only to students pursuing studies in the U.S. Therefore, students who wish to pursue online courses for fall 2020 from locations abroad may do so, and should contact their academic adviser for information on their course options.

SEVP’s announcement also indicated that universities must provide a certification through the I-20 form. As a result, VCU will issue updated I-20s to students who will be in the U.S. for fall 2020 confirming that:

  1. the university is not offering only online courses
  2. the student is not taking an all-online course load
  3. the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their program

VCU recognizes international students as a critical part of the university community. During this unprecedented time, we stand firm in our commitment to all of our students, faculty and staff from around the world. Individuals with questions regarding this announcement should contact VCU Immigration Services at