/ Center for Global Engagement

Temporary Exemptions for International Students in F-1 Status Taking Online Courses

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Announces Fall 2020 Temporary Exemptions for International Students in F-1 Status Taking Online Courses

Broadcast on July 6, 2020

Hope College Update July 10, 2020

On July 6, 2020 the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued additional guidelines for international students taking online courses during the fall semester 2020. You can read about this important information here.

The SEVP Frequently Asked Question, released on 7/7/20, provides further clarification for us, though admittedly, it also raises additional questions.

Hope College is deeply committed to the well-being of our international students, including helping them maintain their F-1 student visa status, and we realize that this SEVP issued directive is causing additional stress to our students who are navigating a myriad of decisions regarding the impact of COVID-19 on their academic plan and studying in the U.S.. The Center for Global Engagement is available for consultation and questions to alleviate student concern and we can be reached at intladvisor@hope.edu.

As an institution offering in-person, hybrid and online courses in the fall semester in 2020, Hope College must inform SEVP on August 1 that our students will have access to these types of courses in the fall semester, thereby requiring our students to study on-campus per the July 6, 2020 SEVP directive to maintain active international student status.

The directive clearly states that international students with F-1 visa status:

  • Must enroll on-campus in at least one credit of an in-person or hybrid course that includes in person instruction during the fall 2020 semester;
  • Must enroll in the required number of credits to be considered full-time (12-16 credits);
  • May take more than three credit hours of online courses; and
  • May not enroll in only online courses.

In mid-July, the Registrar’s Office will give each student access to their fall schedule which will also indicate the type of course (in-person, hybrid, or online). If a student realizes upon review that all of their on-campus classes are online courses, it is imperative that you contact the Registrar’s Office at registrar@hope.edu to make a schedule change and register for at least one in-person or hybrid course.

The following Frequently Asked Questions may be helpful as you review the SEVP guidance. Please note that FAQs are based on the currently available information in and related to this SEVP announcement. FAQs will be updated as additional information becomes available.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m currently in the U.S. and plan on taking on campus classes. Does this SEVP directive affect me?
The SEVP directive clearly states that you must be enrolled on-campus, full-time (12-16 credits) and at least registered for one face to face or hybrid course. Since Hope is offering nearly 50% of its classes in person and 30% as hybrid classes, we do not believe that this SEVP directive will impact you. In mid-July you will be able to see your fall course list indicating the type of class (in-person, hybrid or online). If you notice that you are enrolled in all online classes, please contact the Registrar’s Office immediately at registrar@hope.edu.
Can I maintain an active F-1 SEVIS record and take all my classes online while abroad during the fall semester?
As a Hope student you are able to take your courses online while you remain overseas for the fall semester. However, you will not be able to maintain an active F-1 SEVIS record. Upon notification of your intent to remain abroad and take online classes, we will terminate your SEVIS record for the fall semester as an “authorized early withdrawal.” A new I-20 will be issued to you prior to your return to campus, so you can begin the process of applying for a new F-1 student visa (this will require a new I-901 SEVIS fee). If your F-1 visa is still valid, you may continue to use the previous visa with the new I-20.
Can I maintain my F-1 status by taking all online or remote classes while present in the United States during the fall semester?
No. Since Hope plans on offering most of our classes in person or as hybrid courses, you must be enrolled on-campus with at least one credit hour of an in-person or hybrid course during the fall semester. As long as you are enrolled in at least one credit of in-person course you will be able to maintain your F-1 status even if the rest of your courses are online.`
Can I take a leave of absence (not enroll in any courses) or a reduced course load for the fall semester if I am currently outside of the United States and unable or unwilling to return?
Yes, you may take a leave of absence from Hope and defer enrollment to the spring semester or the following academic year. You may also ask for a reduced course load for the fall semester. Please complete the Non-Return/Withdraw form and submit it to the Registrar’s Office at registrar@hope.edu. Your F-1 student record will be made inactive and you will need to request a new I-20 for when you plan on returning to campus to complete your degree.
I heard that I will receive a new I-20 with updated language confirming that Hope is offering a combination of in-person, hybrid and online courses.  When can I expect this?
Each of you will receive an updated I-20 via email in the coming week reflecting that Hope will be offering a combination of in-person, hybrid, and online classes this fall. You will want to travel with both the new and your current I-20 if you are currently outside of the U.S.. For those of you traveling to the U.S., we will also provide an additional letter of confirmation stating that you will be enrolled at Hope for the academic year 2020-21 and that we will be offering the aforementioned course combination for the fall semester on campus.
I really want to come back to campus this fall but am unsure of my travel dates. What is the latest date I can arrive?
Per CDC guidelines if you are coming from overseas, including a U.S, territory, you will need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Ideally students will arrive by August 1, 2 or 3 so that you can start the 14-day quarantine to participate in first year student orientation (Aug 14) or start classes in person (Aug 17). If, however, you cannot arrive in early August, we will make arrangements to quarantine you as long as you arrive on campus by August 15. Any arrival after August 15 will not be accommodated, and you should plan for online courses in the fall semester or deferring to spring ’21.
I am a junior or senior and am wondering if this SEVP guideline will have an impact on me if I remain overseas and take my classes online?
Current regulations and information available provides that if you remain abroad for the fall semester and take your classes online you will not be allowed to maintain an active F-1 student status in SEVIS because Hope College is not offering solely on-line classes. While you can remain enrolled in Hope College online classes from abroad, your SEVIS status will be inactive and you will need to apply for a new F-1 student visa in order to attend in-person classes on campus. Why should juniors and seniors be concerned? CPT and OPT guidelines are clear that a student must spend two semesters on campus before being eligible to apply for a CPT or OPT. Therefore, if you plan on taking an internship in the spring semester or applying for an OPT, you will not have met the two consecutive semester requirement if you remain outside the US for either or both semesters of the coming year.
I’m really concerned about this SEVP directive. What if Hope were to suddenly move to a 100% online model?
Unless Hope is forced to move to a 100% online model, either last minute before classes start or during the fall semester, you should not be impacted by this directive. If we have to move to a 100% online model, we will work closely with you to consider your options and to determine next steps for our international students who will be in the US. While this is not our plan at this time, we also cannot guarantee that we will not move to 100% online classes depending on the continued impact of COVID-19 on our campus.
Who should I contact for further information?
Please feel free to email intladvisor@hope.edu with any questions and/or to arrange for a virtual appointment with our staff in the Center for Global Engagement.

Additional Note for Incoming International Students

I’m an incoming student to Hope College! What do I need to know?
First of all, we are so excited that you have decided to join the Hope community! We realize that you may be having difficulty securing a visa interview appointment to attend in-person classes. If, due to visa and travel restrictions, you are not able to join us in person this fall on campus, you have three options:

  1. Defer to the 2021 spring semester, which begins the first week of January; or the academic year 2021-22, which begins next August. A new I-20 will be sent to you with amended start and end dates prior to your visa interview appointment.

  2. Enroll in online classes this fall semester as a full-time student. If you enroll full-time, your international student scholarship will apply during the fall semester. If you choose to only take a course or two, you would need to pay the per credit tuition fee as outlined on the Business Services website: The Cost of Attendance. Your scholarship does not apply to part-time enrollment. A new I-20 for spring or fall 2021 entry will be sent to you with amended start and end dates prior to your visa interview appointment.

  3. Consider enrolling in one 2-credit course for the fall semester and joining Hope as a full-time student in the spring semester as outlined by Jim Crawley in a separate email to incoming students. A new I-20 for spring or fall 2021 entry will be sent to you with amended start and end dates prior to your visa interview appointment.
New students...please note that for someone who does not have experience studying in the US university system, studying on-line can be challenging. You will be dealing with the time difference and of course, viewing a combination of live and recorded lectures. Although assistance is available, like tutoring and the writing center, it will also be virtual. One other important thing to consider is that all grades received from this online learning will be permanently on your academic record. Our opinion is that you should think carefully before deciding to enroll online, giving special consideration to the timing of class instruction, and cost.

Jim Crawley will be reaching out to each of you to inquire about your plans for the fall. It is important that we maintain contact with you regardless of your plans as we DO want you here at Hope College!

Again, we realize that you are concerned about this latest SEVP directive and how it will impact your academic plan — as stated earlier, we are here to support you as you navigate these difficult decisions. As additional information and clarification is offered by SEVP and DHS, we will provide you with updates as well as update this FAQ on our website.

Please feel free to email intladvisor@hope.edu with any questions and/or to arrange for a virtual appointment with our staff in the Center for Global Engagement or with Jim Crawley in Admissions at crawley@hope.edu.