U statement on Student and Exchange Visitor Program

Update: July 24, 2020

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued updated policy guidance on July 24, 2020, that impacts new international students currently outside of the United States who are seeking an F-1 student visa and are planning to enter the U.S. for the Fall 2020 semester. We understand that the quickly changing immigration requirements for Fall 2020 are a source of confusion and concern for many of you. This is not the outcome that we anticipated after the DHS Guidance issued on July 6, 2020, was rescinded on July 14, 2020. We know that many of you are actively planning for your Fall 2020 Semester, and changes this close to the start of the semester are particularly frustrating. We will continue to provide any updated information to you as it becomes available.

The July 24, 2020 policy guidance impacts new students seeking an F-1 visa who are planning to come to campus for Fall 2020. This guidance states new students seeking an F-1 student visa will not be permitted to obtain an F-1 visa and enter the U.S. if they will be enrolled in a course of study that is 100% online. Therefore, in order to enter the U.S. for the Fall 2020 semester and come to the University of Utah campus, new students will need to be enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid class (3 semester credit hours). New international students who will be taking classes 100% online should remain in their home country and request a new initial I-20 for the Spring 2021 semester through ISSS. If you will begin your program of study entirely online this fall semester and intend to come to campus for Spring 2021, please request a new initial I-20 document with a spring 2021 start date by going to the UAtlas portal and submitting the Continuing Student Request Initial I-20 E-form.

ISSS is currently in the process of issuing updated I-20s to new students who are seeking a visa and plan to enter the United States and come to campus for the Fall 2020 semester. These new I-20s will have updated remarks stating that the University of Utah will be operating with a hybrid model for Fall 2020 and new students will be enrolling in at least one in-person or hybrid class with a required face to face component. If you are a continuing student, you do NOT need an updated I-20at this time. If you are a new student and have not submitted your First Step: Find your New Student Checklist E-form yet, please do so now to report your plans for Fall 2020 to ISSS. Once you submit this form, you will receive a follow-up email with further directions to start your pre-arrival checklist.

According to this July 24, 2020, policy guidance, continuing students should not be impacted. Students with active F-1 status and who were actively enrolled at the University of Utah on March 9, 2020, will be permitted to continue to take classes in an entirely online format and maintain status. There are no course type requirements for continuing students, and these students may take classes in any format. Please remember that all students on an F-1 student visa must continue to remain enrolled full-time in order to maintain status (12 semester credit hours for undergraduates; 9 semester credit hours or 3 thesis credit hours for graduates).

Please note: Even though new international students will need to be enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid class to be allowed to enter the United States, the guidance should not impact new students if the University of Utah will need to transition to all online/remote classes mid-semester due to the COVID-10 global pandemic. Therefore, if the University of Utah will need to change its operational mode during the Fall 2020 Semester, all international students may choose to remain in the U.S. and maintain active F-1 status. Students will NOT be required to depart the United States.

Update: July 14, 2020

The University of Utah applauds the decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to rescind a July 6 policy directive that would have required international students to leave the country if the university goes to all online classes for fall semester.  The U’s current plan is to hold a mixture of in-person and hybrid online classes beginning on Aug. 24.

“We are delighted the rule was rescinded. It relieves a great cause of concern for our international students, who are a vital part of the U community,” said Dan Reed, senior vice president for Academic Affairs.

According to reporting by Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education the government agreed to rescind the guidance to resolve a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The rescinding of the directive means the government reverts back to earlier guidance that allowed international students to remain in the U.S. while taking a fully online course load for spring and summer semesters.

The University of Utah has joined two lawsuits challenging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s recent modifications to exemptions for non-immigrant students enrolled at higher education institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U has added its name to an amicus brief (friend of court) filed by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration in support of a lawsuit by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A hearing on a request for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order to bar the federal government from enforcing the rule is scheduled in federal court for the afternoon of July 14, 2020, in Boston.

The U has also joined a separate lawsuit challenging the new rule with a coalition of 20 other major universities in the western United States and Pac-12 members, including the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Stanford, USC, University of Oregon and Oregon State University. The lawsuit seeks “a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction to stop the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s July 6 directive from being enforced and its policies from being implemented.”

The lawsuit argues that the “government’s thoughtless and arbitrary action not only harms these students but also robs institutions of higher education of the autonomy and flexibility to adapt models of instruction to meet the urgent needs posed by a global pandemic.”

The lawsuit is available online as is a statement from the coalition.

The announcement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on July 6, 2020, is a departure from the exceptions allowed for the spring and summer 2020 semesters, and we understand it has raised significant fear and anxiety among the thousands of international students who study and teach at the University of Utah.

“International students are a vital part of the University of Utah community, expanding the academic experience in our classrooms and laboratories for all students, faculty and staff. This misguided public policy shows disregard for these students and has caused significant fear and anxiety during an already difficult time for students who are committed to completing their degrees,” said University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins.

University leaders are seeking clarification on the implications of the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) announcement. However, we do not believe the new guidance will conflict with our plans for returning to campus for the fall 2020 semester with both in-person and online courses.

In general:

  • Incoming international students who have received an F-1 visa will still be able to travel to the United States and enroll in classes. Students are required to enroll in at least one (three-semester credit) in-person or hybrid course.
  • Incoming international students who have not yet received an F-1 student visa may choose to take online classes from their home country for the fall 2020 semester. This should not impact a student’s ability to gain an F-1 student visa in the future.
  • Continuing international students with an F-1 visa will be required to enroll in at least one (three-semester credit) in-person or hybrid course to maintain student status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Continuing students in active F-1 SEVIS status will remain in active status while studying online, even from outside of the U.S. Students will need to remain enrolled full time—12 semester credit hours for undergraduates; nine semester credit hours or three thesis hours for graduate students.

As the new federal guidelines make clear, each F-1 student must take at least one in-person or hybrid course this fall. The university is asking leaders in all of its colleges and departments to work closely with students impacted by this change. The university plans to do whatever it can under the law to make certain that our programs provide in-person courses for international students so that they can complete their educations here in the United States.

More information will be posted as it becomes available at the Office for Global Engagement’s International Student & Scholar Services website. An online town hall meeting for all international students is being planned for 10 a.m. (MT) on Friday, July 17, 2020, to provide updates. Information about the meeting will be emailed directly to international students.

COVID-19: FAQ FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS & SCHOLARS

  • Please click here for information and answers to frequently asked questions about the University of Utah's recent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these changes may affect your status as an international student or scholar.
    • This FAQ webpage is being updated regularly, and we encourage you to check it frequently for important updates. Please note that this information is constantly evolving and we do not have all the answers at this time.

NEW: ISSS HOURS & PHONE ADVISING APPOINTMENTS

  • To comply with current COVID-19 social distancing recommendations, the ISSS team has been working remotely as of March 23, 2020. Our office in the Union Building is currently closed. Staff will be available to respond to your emails Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
    • For general questions, contact ISSS at international@utah.edu. For appointment requests, see below.
    • Please note that we are currently receiving a large volume of emails, and may need some time to respond to your question. Please allow for up to two business days for a reply. We thank you for your patience and flexibility during this time.
  • If you would like to schedule a phone appointment to speak with an ISSS advisor, please send an email to appointment@utah.edu with the following information:
    • Your full legal name
    • Your uNID
    • Your U.S. phone number
    • Your specific availability (date and time, between 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Mountain Time, Monday-Friday).
    • A description of what you wish to discuss (the more detail you provide, the better we can assist you)

Media Contacts

Chris NelsonCommunications Director
Office: 801-581-5180 Mobile: 801-953-3843