July 8, 2020 Message to International Students: SEVP Temporary Guidance for Fall 2020

To Our International Students,

This week’s federal announcement of changes to guidance regarding Fall 2020 temporary exemptions added new complexity and concern to a year already full of both. We deeply regret the stress this news causes, and want to emphasize that we will do all that we can to provide information and assistance as this situation unfolds. 

Today Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued to block enforcement of the proposed guidance. In addition, members of Congress and other higher education leaders are urging the administration to rescind the order. The situation remains fluid, but please know that opposition to the measure continues to grow. We are consulting with colleagues across the country and experts in immigration law; as more information becomes available, International Student Services will communicate with you.

Below we are sharing our best answers regarding what we know as of this moment. We will provide updates on our website as we learn more.

Q: The guidance lists three models that schools may be following. Which model is CWRU following and how does that impact my studies?

Case Western Reserve has committed to providing instruction both in-person and online whenever possible, and expect that a majority of courses will fall into this hybrid model. We do not yet know how many online credit hours students can take and still maintain their visa status. We will share this information as soon as we have it.

Q: Will I need a new I-20 and a new visa?

The guidance mentions issuing new I-20s that verifies this hybrid model. We are currently in the process of getting clarification about issuing these new I-20s.  At the moment, you don’t have to do anything.  ISS will be in touch with you soon with more information.

If your current F-1 visa is valid, you do not need to get a new one.  Issuance of a new I-20 has no effect on your valid visa.

Q: I am a new CWRU student outside of the U. S. planning to start classes in the fall of 2020. How does this impact me?

First, welcome to CWRU. We are very excited that you will be joining our community. We hope you were or will be able to get your visa and join us in August. We understand, though, that you may have difficulty getting here by the start of the semester, and that is okay. We plan to offer a majority of our classes remotely, so you can take your first semester in your home country and plan to join us face-to-face when circumstances allow. ISS will assist you with pursuing F-1 student status before you come to the U.S. for the start of a future semester. 

Q: I am a returning CWRU student currently in the U.S. or a transfer student in the U.S. Does this impact my status?

Welcome back! We’re looking forward to seeing you in classes in the fall. As we currently interpret the proposed exemptions, you will maintain your current visa status by taking courses on campus in our hybrid model. While we still need more guidance, we will do everything we can to help you stay in status while taking both remote and in-person courses on campus.

Q: I am a returning CWRU Student or Transfer Student who is currently not in the U. S. How does this proposed exemption affect me?

Welcome back to you as well! We hope that many of you have valid visas and will be able to be back on campus this fall. Our current understanding is that you will maintain your current visa status as long as you are able to return to CWRU for the start of the semester.

We do know, however, that some of you will not be able to return in time for the start of the fall 2020 semester. As the proposed guidance currently reads, you may lose your status for the fall 2020 semester. If this happens, ISS will work with you to help you establish new F-1 student status when you are able to return to campus. As far as we can tell, there are two main potential implications of losing your status while abroad.

  1. Academics - Even if you are unable to maintain your F-1 status, please know that it is possible for you to continue your education at CWRU.  You can enroll in online/remote coursework while you are outside the U.S, and you will receive CWRU credit and advance towards your degree if you complete the coursework satisfactorily and pursuant to course guidelines.  If you want to pursue this option, ISS strongly recommends that you reach out to your academic advisor or Navigator to develop a plan for continued academic success. 
  2. Time Accrued in the U.S. - Losing your status causes you to lose all time accrued in the U.S. towards OPT/CPT. We understand that this outcome could have negative implications for many of you. We are working to learn more so that we can provide clarity here. We are still learning the government’s intent, and we hope the final guidance clarifies this issue.

Q: What happens if CWRU goes entirely remote like we did in the spring?

We don’t know the answer to this question. If CWRU moved to an exclusively remote learning option, the current guidance says that students in F-1 status would have to leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status (for example, transfer to a school with in-person instruction). However, in the spring, the federal government issued new guidance that provided an exemption when higher education institutions all went to remote learning. We don’t know what the government will do if higher education institutions around the country make the move to remote learning again. What we do know is that we will consider all implications, including visa status implications, before making any operational changes. Our goal is to protect all of our students, including our international students and their status.

Q: I feel that these proposed exemptions are unfair to international students, is CWRU doing anything to help?

YES! We are also frustrated with the proposed exemptions. We do not think that they take into account this unique situation and they do not support our international students. We are actively working with our colleagues around the country and our professional organizations to encourage our government to change these proposed exemptions. 

We will continue to add information and more FAQs to the website as information becomes available. As you know, things change quickly, and we are working to make sure that we clarify everything we can based on our best information today.

Please check our website frequently for updates, and as always, do not hesitate to contact our office at international@case.edu with any questions or concerns.

Marielena Maggio
Director of International Student Services