Immigration News

Temporary Exemptions for F-1 Students

Update April 26. 2021:  ICE Continues March 2020 Guidance for the 2021-22 Academic Year 

COVID-19 guidance from March 2020 is still currently in place until further notice.

The March 2020 guidance is available on

Immigration Questions and Answers

Note: The University of Illinois Springfield will offer a blend of in-person and remote instruction; this is called a hybrid model.

1: What is the current policy?

On July 15, 2020, ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued an FAQ document for universities to follow with respect to international students in Fall 2020. This FAQ replaces the now rescinded July 6 directive blocking online only students in the United States. On July 24, 2020, ICE issued clarifying questions to supplement this guidance.

2: Does the current policy apply to continuing F-1 international students with an active SEVIS record at UIS? What are my options for fall 2021? 

Yes. Continuing international students can take classes in various modes: in-person, hybrid, or fully remote from the United States Most universities are following a hybrid method like UIS. Our understanding is that there will be no effect on your SEVIS record as long as you remain enrolled full time and have no other violations of status such as unauthorized employment or unauthorized drop below full-time enrollment.

3: I am a new international student scheduled to start my studies at UIS in fall 2021. Will I be able to start my studies as planned?

Yes, but take note of the following:

  • New international students outside of the United States may take classes 100% online while they remain outside of the United States (with academic program approval)
  • International students with an INITIAL SEVIS I-20 may not enter the United States to take fully online classes.
  • International students with an INITIAL SEVIS I-20 may enter the United States if their schedule is not 100% online.

4: What if I start the fall 2021 semester under a hybrid model but the class then moves to online during the semester?

According to the July 24, 2020 guidance, students pursuing studies in the United States for the fall 2021 school term will be able to continue studying from within the United States if a university moves online.

5: Can an F-1 international student with an Active SEVIS record take a fully online course load in fall 2021 at UIS from inside the United States?

  • Continuing international students may take a fully online course load from the United States, because of the temporary exemptions in place under the July 15 ICE FAQ.
  • International students with INITIAL SEVIS 1-20s who are seeking to enter the United States may not take fully online classes in fall 2021 in the United States.

6: Can a new international student take a fully online course load from outside the United States?

Yes. An I-20 and active SEVIS record are not required to enroll in online courses from outside the United States. New international students will not be activated in SEVIS in fall 2021, but they will be activated after arrival in the United States and enrollment in in-person classes.

New students who remain outside the U.S. but enroll while overseas should request a deferral of their Admission to the Spring 2022 semester and obtain approval from their academic program.

7: Can a continuing F-1 international student take a fully online course load in fall 2021 at UIS from outside the United States? What happens to my SEVIS record?  

Yes. If you began in summer 2020 or earlier and have an active SEVIS record, you can take a fully online course load in fall 2020 from outside the United States. Your SEVIS record will remain active as long as you maintain full-time enrollment.

8. What if I am a continuing F-1 international student with an active SEVIS record who is out of the United States for more than 5 months?

Based on the outcome in the Harvard/MIT lawsuit and the July 15 FAQ, our reading is that international students with active SEVIS records may keep their active SEVIS status as long as they enroll full-time. When UIS returns to normal operations, students must return to campus to maintain active SEVIS status.

9. I heard that U.S. visas are being issued. Is this true?  

Yes. The Department of State announced a phased resumption of routine visa services on July 14, 2020. The resumption of visa services will occur on a post-by-post basis so long as it safe for Department of State personnel to return to work. Students should check with the specific consulate site to its operations by going to

10: For new students, does UIS need to re-issue the I-20 to indicate that the student will not have a schedule that is 100% online in order to obtain a visa and enter the United States?

No. Under the July 24 Clarifying Questions by ICE, this is no longer necessary unless there are other substantive changes that would trigger a Form I-20 update.

11: How does the current situation affect my ability to apply curricular practical training or optional practical training?

  • We do not have a guidance on how CPT and OPT are affected by students enrolled in remote classes.
  • If you take in-person classes in fall 2021, you should not be affected as long as you meet the requirement of full-time study for one academic year.

12: If I am enrolled full-time overseas with an Active SEVIS record, am I eligible for F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

If you meet all of the eligibility requirements, you are still eligible for OPT. However, the application for employment is on the form I-765 which requires you to submit the application while in the United States. OPT applications are processed by USCIS, and USCIS has been consulted by ICE but has not yet provided guidance. When you sign the I-765, you are certifying you are filing the form while you are in the United States.

Please note:  The information contained in this FAQ is provided for educational purposes only and not as part of an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for expert legal advice.

COVID-19 Global Concern

Read NAFSA’s COVID-19 Restrictions on U.S. Visas and Entry page for the most up to date US entry restrictions related to COVID-19.

The University of Illinois Springfield has established the UIS COVID-19 Response Team to monitor our university’s preparedness in response to the growing global concern about the novel coronavirus COVID-19. This interdisciplinary team is working in alignment with the UI System Planning and Response Team to ensure coordination with system responses as well as to ensure our university is properly prepared to meet the unique needs of our students, faculty and staff.

The Office of Web Services has created a new website, United in Safety, to keep all UIS stakeholders informed of our preparedness efforts and to address any frequently asked questions we’re hearing from our university community. Additionally, UIS Health Services continues to lead the way in providing advice to aid in the prevention of illness and share recommendations from the CDC, IDPH and other health partners to stay healthy.

Executive Order on Immigration: Travel Bans

The new travel ban becomes effective on February 21, 2020. Travel Ban 4.0 contains restrictions on immigrants but not on nonimmigrants, so it will not impact visas like F-1 student, J-1 exchange visitor, H-1B worker, etc., or of admission to the United States in those categories. Meanwhile, Travel Ban 3.0 continues in effect on certain citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. The Travel Ban 3.0 and 4.0 restrictions are country-specific, and tailored to the situation of each individual country.

For more information regarding the specific conditions of each country:  Travel Ban: NAFSA Resources

Operation OPTical Illusion

SEVP and DHS have continued to battle OPT fraud through an ongoing law enforcement operation called OPTical Illusion, aimed at targeting individuals attempting to exploit the student visa system. By supporting this operation, SEVP helped ensure the continued integrity of the OPT program.

USCIS Issues Policy Guidance Clarifying How Federal Controlled Substances Law Applies to Naturalization Determinations

USCIS is issuing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify that violations of federal controlled substance law, including violations involving marijuana, are generally a bar to establishing good moral character for naturalization, even where that conduct would not be an offense under state law.  The policy guidance also clarifies that an applicant who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws.

Since 1996, some states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to decriminalize the manufacture, possession, distribution, and use of both medical and non-medical (recreational) marijuana in their respective jurisdictions. However, federal law classifies marijuana as a “Schedule I” controlled substance whose manufacture (which includes production, such as planting, cultivation, growing, or harvesting), distribution, dispensing, or possession may lead to immigration consequences.

UIS Statement on Immigration

“The University of Illinois Springfield fosters and celebrates the diversity of its students, faculty, and staff as a foundational aspect of our mission and our service to the public good. We support the safety, well-being, and success of all members of our University community, including those whose families have immigrated to the United States and those who have traveled to UIS and the surrounding community to study, research, teach, or serve as staff and administrators. Creating a campus that is welcoming and inclusive to all is vital to our mission, vision, and values, and is also vital to our goal of creating and sustaining global leaders, scholars, and citizens, through engagement and innovation.”

Additional Resources: