A Joyous U-Turn: Trump Rescinds SEVP Directive
On July 6th, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a press release mentioned that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) had made modifications to temporary exemptions for non-immigrant students taking online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While unsettling rumors regarding Visa rule changes are frequent, and we have in the past regularly debunked such fears stoked by the mainstream media, the July 6th announcement was a genuine cause for worry, prompting us to issue a set of explanations and suggestions.
However, those July 6th modifications would not apply anymore. In fact, the Trump Administration has rescinded on the directive before those modified rules could even be finalized and put into effect. The rescission came on the back of several lawsuits filed against the directive by Harvard University, MIT, seventeen states, and the District of Columbia among others.
While there is still a possibility that some narrower restrictions could still be passed, the US District Court Judge Allison Dale Burroughs who heard the lawsuits filed by Harvard and MIT has indicated her intentions to keep the case open. What this means is, any new rule or change in existing rules in this regard would have to be defended in her court by the Trump administration.
Thus, there is going to be absolutely no implication for students from the July 6th announcement, whether a particular student is:
- Currently studying in the US and attending online classes
- Has moved back home and is continuing his or her degree by attending online classes
The US administration’s backing down on the directive means that the Visa rules apply as they did before July 6th. The Visa rules would be supplemented by guidelines for COVID-19 by the US ICE. The guidelines mention three different scenarios and what a student needs to do in order to ensure an active status for himself/herself in SEVIS. In case you are worried whether the Optional Practical Training (OPT) provision could be under threat for you, be reassured, even the July 6th directive had no mention of the OPT. As long as your status in SEVIS is active, and you complete your degree by satisfying the criteria stipulated by your university and remain in adherence to your F-1 Visa rules, you will be eligible to exercise the OPT option.