Today, July 14, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) settled with Harvard University (Harvard) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to reinstate its March 2020 policy, allowing F-1 students to temporarily take all courses online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
F-1 students must typically attend the majority of their courses in person and only take only 1 course online, but ICE provided an accommodation permitting all online courses in response to the pandemic for the Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 semesters. To everyone’s surprise, ICE announced that it would end this accommodation for the Fall 2020 semester on July 6, 2020, causing universities and F-1 students to panic because COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly in much of the United States, health experts continue to recommend social distancing, and most universities announced plans to be completely online in the fall.
In response, Harvard and MIT sued ICE on July 8, 2020 to block this change, and today ICE agreed to rescind the rule and revert back to the March 2020 policy. Meaning, for the Fall 2020 semester, F-1 students may attend only online courses and remain in the U.S. in valid status.