July 28 Message to International Students: SEVP Guidance for Fall 2020

Dear International Students:

I write today to update you regarding developments since the federal government agreed to rescind its July 6 guidance jeopardizing international students’ ability to maintain their student status if they took only online courses this fall.  

The day after announcing its agreement, the federal government issued a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document regarding the fall semester and then posted a second document with additional clarifications.

We are continuing to review this information and conferring with colleagues regarding the information released and its implications for different groups of F-1 students.

Meanwhile, we wanted to provide the information below to help provide context as you evaluate options for Case Western Reserve’s fall semester. Please keep in mind that new developments may arise that require changes to this information; we will provide follow-up information as events warrant. Finally, the following information pertains to Fall 2020 only.

Continuing (Undergraduate, Graduate, and Professional) Students with Active SEVIS Records

Continuing international students who have an Active SEVIS record can maintain their visa status by enrolling fulltime at CWRU.  

Their coursework can be a combination of in-person, hybrid, or online learning or it can be exclusively through online learning.  Continuing students will also be able to maintain their visa status through full-time enrollment from on-campus or abroad.

Continuing students who have properly maintained status through full-time enrollment are not affected by the 5-month rule.  When CWRU resumes normal operation and standard procedure, all students must return to campus and comply with all relevant guidance to remain Active in SEVIS and maintain their visa status.

New (Undergraduate, Graduate, and Professional) International Students

New students who are not able to obtain a visa because visa offices are closed, or who wish to enroll in all online coursework, should remain abroad and take classes remotely.  If ISS has issued an I-20 already, we will issue a new one to reflect plans for pursuing F-1 student status and arriving at CWRU for the start of a future semester.  ISS is still developing the process through which these new I-20s will be issued, and we will contact students after we have completed all of our mandatory reporting on behalf of students who arrive in Fall 2020.

New students who receive a visa and enter the United States must enroll full-time. New students may not enroll in all online coursework.   

If CWRU’s operational plans shift to an entirely online model after new students are activated in the system (a process that occurs in the first month of classes), they should be eligible to maintain their visa status. 

Transfer, Undergraduate Readmitted, and Change of Education Level (CEL) Students

Transfer, undergraduate readmitted, and CEL students, who will begin a program at Case Western Reserve this Fall, will have SEVIS records’ that indicate Initial status. Their records transition from Active to Initial status due to systematic processes within SEVIS.  These students must enroll fulltime and may not enroll in all online courses.

If CWRU’s operational plan shift to an entirely online model after transfer and CEL students are activated in the system (a process that occurs in the first month of classes), they should be eligible to maintain their visa status.

General Information

Visa Issuance

On July 14, 2020, the Department of State announced that through phased resumption routine visa services would begin.  Each site will determine how to resume services and students can get information about specific sites’ plans by visiting https://www.usembassy.gov/.

If new, transfer, readmitted undergraduate, and CEL students do not have a visa by August 1, CWRU advises that they should strongly consider remote education.  Arriving on campus by August 24 will be very challenging under these circumstances and arriving after August 24 is not an option.

I-20 Issuance

The rescinded guidance called for the re-issuance of all students’ I-20s and for those I-20s to include remarks about the university’s operational plan and course delivery modes.  ISS is hearing from many students that consular officials continue to ask students to either present a reissued I-20 or have their university include remarks in SEVIS about operational plans and course delivery modes.

If you are asked to present an I-20 that includes such remarks, you can submit a request using this electronic form.  Choose “Updated” from the drop-down menu and include “I need remarks in SEVIS based on the rescinded guidance,” in the comment box.  ISS is prioritizing the issuance of these I-20s and we will email you when yours is ready.

Travel Restrictions

The Department of State announced on July 16, 2020 that F-1 international students from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland would be exempt from the proclamations banning certain travelers’ entry to the United States.

Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) ultimately has discretion about who is permitted to enter the United States; the Department of State’s announcement does not guarantee that CBP will allow students to enter the United States.

ISS recommends that all students monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website for the most current guidance related to international travel and entering the United States.


CWRU’s quarantine guidelines are based on the CDC’s. As long as the CDC directs travelers coming from abroad to quarantine for 14 days, so will CWRU.  Detailed information about CWRU’s implementation and the process through which students report their quarantine plans was emailed to students on July 9 and available on our website.

Remote Courses

There has been some confusion about the number of courses that will be available for students to take remotely. Our faculty is willing to work with students to make sure that their academic plans continue without interruption. Students who are not able to come to Case Western Reserve in the Fall can register for both hybrid and fully remote courses. The majority of our courses will list one of these methods of delivery. If a student needs a specific course that is only listed as in-person, we encourage students to reach out to either their navigator (undergraduate students) or academic advisor (graduate and professional students) for support in finding alternate courses or working with the course faculty to accommodate remote learning. 

I know this is a lot of information. Please take your time to read through it carefully. We welcome any questions you may have. Please email international@case.edu and we will do our best to answer your questions for you.

Marielena Maggio
Director, International Student Services