On Monday, July 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a new temporary final rule related to online courses permitted by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) during for the Fall 2020 semester. This new ruling has generated considerable concern, primarily because of its implications for international students enrolled at institutions that have opted for fully online operations for the Fall 2020 semester, e.g., Harvard University. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to international students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the U.S. Active students currently in the U.S. enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status or potentially face immigration consequences, including removal proceedings.
Fortunately, in Fall 2020, the University of Nevada, Reno is fully intending to operate under a hybrid instructional model incorporating a mixture of in-person, HyFlex (simultaneous in-person and online) and fully online instruction.
The new Homeland Security rule makes an exception for international students enrolled at such hybrid model universities. Those students will be able to enter for the first time, remain in or return to the U.S. as long as:
- The program is not entirely online
- The student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and
- The student is only taking the number of online classes allowed (3 credit hours per semester) to make normal progress in their degree program.
As mentioned before, please remember that international students can only take 3 credit hours online per semester while attending an institution of higher education in the U.S. This immigration rule was suspended for the spring and summer semesters but it is fully in place for fall 2020. Homeland Security will offer more information regarding this issue as well as a list of frequently asked questions in a couple of days.
As an extra precaution, the Graduate School recommends that international graduate students enroll in at least one thesis, dissertation, independent study or other research/studio-based course for the Fall 2020 semester in case the University is required to operate under the more restrictive Phase 1 guidelines.
Please be advised that this is a dynamic situation subject to state, NSHE and federal guidelines and directives. We will provide more information as it becomes available.
David W. Zeh
Vice Provost, Graduate Education
Dean, Graduate School
Maritza Machado-Williams, Ph.D.
Office of International Students and Scholars