UPDATE: SEVP clarifies guidance for fall 2020

July 7, 2020

Updated July 27, 2020, 2 p.m.

On Friday, July 24, the Student Exchange Visitor Program provided clarification for the fall 2020 semester. This clarification highlights several issues that are favorable to international students planning to study at MU, which plans for a full in-person return to campus for fall 2020. The Show Me Renewal Plan outlines how campus will provide a combination of in-person, blended and fully online courses, as well as a campuswide strategy to reduce community spread of COVID-19. International students planning to begin or continue their studies with MU this fall should review the following information about maintaining their nonimmigrant F-1 student status.

Initial or newly-admitted F-1 students currently outside the U.S.

If you have been admitted to MU for the fall 2020 term and are currently outside the U.S., you are eligible to apply for an F-1 student visa at the U.S. embassy/consulate in your home country. Many U.S. consulates have begun phased resumption of nonimmigrant visa services, giving priority to student applications for F-1 visas.

  • New F-1 students may take a combination of in-person, blended and online courses, but cannot take all of their coursework online. New students are also not permitted to participate in online degree programs inside the United States.
  • You should plan to arrive at MU by Monday, Aug. 10, to allow for the CDC’s recommended 14-day stay-at-home period.
  • You should arrive and check-in with International Student and Scholar Services within the first 30 days of the first day of the semester, Aug. 24. If you are unable to arrive within this timeframe, contact your ISSS adviser.
  • If you prefer to begin your studies online from your home country it is permissible; however, it will be necessary to defer your F-1 status to the spring 2021 semester.

Continuing international students currently inside the U.S.

  • If you were enrolled at MU as an F-1 student during the spring 2020 semester (since March 9, 2020) and have otherwise maintained the terms of your F-1 status, you may continue to remain in the U.S. to pursue your current studies or begin a new program of study.
  • You may take any combination of courses that are traditional, blended or fully online. There are currently no limits on online coursework credits.
  • You must maintain a full course load and be making normal progress toward degree completion. Refer to the standard enrollment guidelines.
  • In the event that MU is required to switch or modify its mode of instruction to fully online during the fall semester for health and safety reasons, you will continue to maintain your status and be able to remain in the United States.

Continuing international students currently outside the U.S.

F-1 students continuing their studies at MU but utilizing online options and residing outside the U.S. may continue to do so for the fall 2020 semester as long as their Form I-20 is updated by an ISSS adviser with the notation “Outside the United States due to COVID-19.” If you have not obtained an updated Form I-20 with this notation, you are required to submit a request for a new I-20 in myStatus.

Other clarifications

  • MU can continue to issue electronic I-20s to F-1 students.
  • MU is not required to reissue I-20s with updated annotations in the remarks field stating that the school is planning in-person/hybrid classes, as was required under the rescinded guidance.

For the most current updates, please refer to MU Alert and the ISSS COVID-19 updates. Additional information about this SEVP clarification guidance is available through NAFSA. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.

Updated July 14, 2020, 5:45 p.m.

On July 14, the U.S. government agreed to rescind the SEVP guidance for the fall 2020 semester issued on July 6. That guidance, which imposed restrictions against F-1 students taking only online courses for the fall semester, will not be implemented or enforced. Guidelines for F-1 international students will return to the status quo established in March 2020, which allows students to maintain active nonimmigrant status as long as they continue to pursue a full course of study, regardless of the method of instruction. MU’s fall 2020 Show Me Renewal Plan implements a hybrid academic model, which allows for face-to-face, blended and fully online courses.

“The news today regarding international students is truly a win for the United States,” said Mun Choi, University of Missouri System president and interim MU chancellor. “International students are an important part of our campus community. The culture, ideas and knowledge they add to our universities enrich and enhance each and every one of us. Many have gone on to become productive citizens contributing to our economy and democracy. The UM System is committed to supporting our international students, and we look forward to having them back when the semester begins in August.”

International Student and Scholars Services will continue to monitor this issue closely. We are still awaiting official guidance from the government and will provide updates as more information becomes available.

Original message: July 7, 2020

The Student Exchange Visitor Program issued updated guidance for the fall 2020 semester on Monday, July 6. We know that many international students are concerned about some of the conditions outlined in this guidance. Until we can obtain clarification from SEVP, MU will abide by the conditions and ensure the necessary steps are taken to protect your visa status so that you may continue your studies unimpeded.

MU’s fall 2020 Show Me Renewal Plan implements a hybrid academic model, which allows for face-to-face, blended and fully online courses. SEVP has stipulated the following conditions for F-1 students attending schools using a hybrid model.

Online course restrictions

  • Students attending schools with a hybrid model will be allowed to take more than one course or three credit hours online. However, students are not allowed to take only online credits.
  • This exemption does not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.

Form I-20 updates

  • Schools adopting a hybrid model must update the Form I-20 for each F-1 student certifying:
    • That the school is not operating entirely online.
    • That the student is not taking an entirely online course load.
    • That the student is taking only the minimum number of online courses required to make normal progress in their degree program.
  • ISSS advisers, who serve as designated school officials, will update and reissue all Forms I-20 to reflect these changes in program enrollment and student information. Priority will be given to students who require new visas or are outside of the United States. You will be contacted by Aug. 4, 2020, when your new I-20 is available.

Mid-semester changes in operational stance

  • If a school changes its operational stance mid-semester, resulting in students switching to only online courses, students must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction.
  • MU is aware of the serious problems this would pose for international students and leadership is discussing ways to address this.

Students outside the U.S.

We are currently developing a process that addresses the I-20 certification requirements of the SEVP guidance. We will provide detailed instructions to students via email once the process is in place.