Office of the Provost and Office of the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs


Dear Faculty, Students and Staff,

Please see below for information about important guidance issued yesterday from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concerning the eligibility of international students with F-1 visas to enroll in online classes at UIC. UIC will be offering a hybrid program of online and on-campus classes in Fall 2020. The memo below outlines the new guidance and what steps we will be taking to continue to serve our international students.

We value our international students very highly as an essential part of the fabric of UIC and we will support them as best we can within the constraints of this new framework.

Sincerely,

Susan Poser
Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Robert Barish
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs



Office of International Services, Office of Global Engagement

The Office of International Services would like to provide the following update related to guidance posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on July 6 which took steps to clarify fall 2020 enrollment options and immigration status maintenance requirements for certain international students in the U.S. The guidance affects individuals currently studying at U.S. academic institutions on an F-1 student visa and those who had planned to obtain F-1 visa status by physically entering the U.S. for the purpose of beginning new academic programs this fall. Like most academic institutions in the U.S., the vast majority of UIC's international student population holds, or intends to hold, F-1 visa status. As always, thank you for your support of the UIC international community. We look forward to working with you.

Department of Homeland Security’s Guidance on Modification of Temporary Exception of Online-only Studies Currently Available to F-1 International Students

In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that a temporary exemption would apply to the requirement that F-1 international students may only count one online class or three credit hours toward the full-time enrollment requirement. In summary, the temporary exemption permitted F-1 international students in the U.S. to take all of their courses online for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester and during the current summer 2020 sessions. This guidance also allowed international students to maintain their F-1 immigration status even if they returned to their home countries to continue their academic programs online from abroad.

However, according to the July 6 guidance posted by DHS, beginning fall 2020, international students will no longer be allowed to enroll full-time in online courses and maintain their F-1 immigration status. UIC has adopted a hybrid model for the fall 2020 semester. This means that in order for an international student to maintain F-1 status, the University, through the Office of International Services, must certify to SEVP that (a) the program as listed on the F-1 student’s Form I-20 is not entirely online; (b) that the F-1 student is not taking an entirely online course load for fall 2020 semester; and (c) that the F-1 student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. It is important to note that this modified temporary exemption does not apply to F-1 international students enrolled in English language training or accelerator programs since students in these programs are never permitted to enroll in online courses.

What this means for continuing F-1 international students in the U.S.:
  • Continuing F-1 international students who are in the U.S. must enroll full-time for the fall 2020 semester. Fall courses can be a mix of traditional in-person, blended or online courses, however, the online courses must be the minimum number required to make normal progress toward their degree. This exception is allowable based upon this new guidance since UIC has adopted a hybrid model for the fall 2020 semester.
What this means for continuing F-1 international students currently abroad:
  • Continuing international students who are currently abroad and cannot arrive on campus by the start of the fall 2020 semester will not be able to maintain their F-1 status. These students may continue to take a full or part-time online course load from abroad, but their F-1 immigration records cannot remain active. OIS will work with students to help them request an “authorized early withdrawal” on their F-1 record, understand what the implications of that request will be and how to return to the U.S. in F-1 status when they are ready and able.
What this means for new F-1 international students abroad, who plan to take some or all in-person classes at UIC beginning fall 2020 semester:
  • New international students who are able to arrive on campus by the beginning of the fall 2020 semester will be subject to the same temporary exceptions as continuing F-1 international students. Meaning, they must enroll full-time and fall courses can be a mix of traditional in-person, blended or online courses. Online courses must be the minimum number required to make normal progress toward their degree. This exception is allowable based upon this new guidance since UIC has adopted a hybrid model for the fall 2020 semester.
What this means for new F-1 international students abroad who plan to take only online classes at UIC beginning fall 2020 semester:
  • New international students who have been admitted into an academic program at UIC but are not able to arrive on campus by the beginning of the fall 2020 semester can begin their programs online from abroad but will not have their F-1 SEVIS records activated. OIS will work with the international student and their academic department to issue the appropriate immigration document once it is determined that the student can arrive on campus and enroll in a full course of study that is not entirely online.
Lastly, if an F-1 international student begins the fall 2020 semester in the U.S. and later switches to an entirely online course load at any point in the semester, that student cannot remain in the U.S. The student must immediately make arrangements to depart the U.S.

The Office of International Services understands that while providing many answers, this guidance will undoubtedly raise many questions. We are committed to working with our community of international students and academic departments to answer questions, explore options and collaboratively create the best educational experience that our current circumstances and federal regulations will allow. Beginning today, OIS will reach out to academic advising units to discuss your department's plan and any informational needs you may have that our office can fulfill.

In the meantime, feel free to contact us at ois@uic.edu or (312) 996-3121 with any immediate questions or concerns.


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