Time to rejoice: Trump administration revokes the rule regarding online classes for fall semester

A huge relief for International students

Indian students can now heave a sigh of relief as the Trump administration has finally revoked the new visa rule that required International students taking fully online classes in the US for the fall semester, to return to their home countries.

In our last blog dated 08/07/2020, we wrote in detail about the new rule and its possible repercussions on existing and new students aspiring to go to the US.

Soon after the announcement of this rule on July 6, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and many other institutes as well top American IT companies had filed lawsuits against the administration, seeking reversal of the rule. In response to these lawsuits, the Boston Federal Court revoked this rule on Tuesday, and asked the immigration authorities to pull the directive and return to the “status quo.”

Another factor that contributed to the reversal of the rule is the fact that a whooping number of international students join US universities every year and provide the required tuition revenue. International students contribute billions of dollars to the US economy every year. Sustenance of the new rule would have plummeted the enrollment and subsequently led to a deep financial crisis for the universities as well the country.

Now that rule has been revoked, international students, including Indian students, will be able to stay in the US even if they are pursuing online classes for the fall 2020 semester. New students who are in the process of joining the US universities for spring 2021 sessions will also be able to smoothly continue their visa process and education in the US.

Most Frequently Asked Questions About Deferrals And Student Visas

FAQs about deferrals and Student Visa

With the current pandemic situation and uncertainties about deferrals and Visa regulations, most of you who are in the process of joining US universities for MS or who are planning to join next year, have a lot of queries and doubts. To guide you better and help you make a decision, here are the answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1) I am currently taking GRE classes, and I plan to apply next year. Is it safe to go next year?

Answer: Yes. You can safely apply for Fall 2021 since the situation will normalize by then. Things will begin to get under control right after the November presidential elections.

Q2) Should I defer my Fall 20 admission to Spring 21 or Fall 21?

Answer: At the moment, you can defer your admission to Spring 21 since it is likely that the situation will be under control by then and in-person classes will resume. Otherwise, you will have to extend the deferral to Fall 21.

Q3) I have received admits from eight universities. Will all of them accept deferral for Fall 21?

Answer: No. All the universities may not accept deferral for Fall 21. Some of them are asking students to reapply next year for the fall session.  In that case, your application will be evaluated along with the new applicants. Fortunately, the number of students applying next year will be comparatively less. Therefore, your chances of acceptance will not be hampered.

Q4) When should I book my visa dates if I want to go in Spring 21?

Answers: Visa booking dates for October are now available. Visit the official website of US Consulate for booking your date.

Q5) I am planning to defer to Spring 21, and hence I have booked my visa date for October 20. If I again extend my deferral to Fall 21, do I have to book the visa date and pay the visa fee again?

Answer: In case you book the date for October but instead of joining in Spring 21, you decide to defer to Fall 21, you have to cancel the booked date and reschedule another date, anytime within a year. You need not pay the Visa fee again.

Q6) Will the current situation in the US affect my internship?

Answer: According to the SEVP Advisory, all Indian students pursuing/looking to pursue practical training opportunities, including Curricular Practical Training (CPT), pre-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), post-completion OPT, and/or the STEM Extension OPT are advised to remain in contact with their Designated School Official (DSO) regarding their situation.

Q7) Will the pandemic affect research and other funding opportunities offered by universities?

Answer: Since majority students are not joining universities for Fall 20, it is affecting their financial condition. On this backdrop, it is most likely that the funding opportunities will be difficult for at least the first two semesters.

Q8) Will the current situation and new rules affect the STEM category?

Answer: As of now, there is no official declaration about it, so it should not be a matter of concern.

Q9) Many universities are exempting GRE, SAT, and English Language Test scores for admissions for spring 21 and in some cases, even for fall 21. Should we not give these exams?

Answer: Very few students are applying right now hence the universities are offering exemptions. We still recommend you to appear for these exams because when the number of applicants increases next year, GRE and SAT scores will give an upper hand to your application.

For any other query about GRE, US admissions and jobs, visit our FAQ Section.

Click HERE to enroll for our online GRE batches.

How will the new F1 Visa regulation affect existing and new students?

What will happen to my F1 visa_ When can I return to the US_

This blog is regarding the recent announcement by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about the continuation of F1 visas for students studying in the US and taking fully online classes for the fall 2020 semester due to the pandemic.

As per the regulation, students are not allowed to take fully online courses in the fall semester while in the US and they have to return to their home country before the semester begins. After returning, they can continue to pursue their semester online from their home country but they cannot return to the US until the university resumes in-person instruction. This does not mean that their F1 visa has been cancelled. It means that the embassy will not renew the F1 visa until the university resumes in-person instruction.

Students will not lose any credits earned in the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters. They will be required to take a break for only one semester, and again resume their studies in spring 2021. Also, this will not affect CPT or OPT in any manner.

The regulation also states that as an alternative, the student can either transfer to another school with in-person instruction or adopt a hybrid model with a maximum of one class or three credit hours online. This decision will not hamper the current visa process for students aspiring to join next year or those who have deferred their fall 2020 admissions to spring 2021.

New students, who have deferred their admission to spring 2021, can continue with their visa process since it is likely that in-person instruction will resume by January 2021. However, if the spring semester is also changed to online instruction, you will not be able to go to the US. In that case, you will have to defer your admission to fall 2021 and accordingly get your visas reissued for fall 2021.

OPT Period Extension and H1B Visa

Every year U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts H1B petitions starting from 1st April. As such, petitions for the fiscal year 2017 will be accepted from 1st April 2016. The current quota for H1B VISA is 65,000 under the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption – also known as the Masters quota. Thus, the total quota stands at 85,000. In the previous year, USCIS received a total of nearly 233,000 H1B petitions under both the categories put together from 1st April to 7th April and then they stopped accepting new applications. For the first time, USCIS received more than the limit of 20,000 H1B petitions under the Masters quota (the exact number of applications is not declared by USCIS). Computer generated random selection process (lottery) is conducted for Masters quota petitions which selects 20,000 applicants for the Master’s degree cap completion. The H1B petitions filed under Masters quota cap, but not selected in the first round of lottery are then added to the general quota of petitions. The lottery is then conducted for this pool to select 65,000 petitions towards the general quota cap completion. USCIS rejects and returns the remaining H1B petitions.

Advantages of OPT Extension:

Since H1B VISA petitions are accepted only once a year i.e. 1st April, if the petition is rejected, the applicant has to wait for a further period of one year, i.e., till next April to be able to apply again. In case, a student has an OPT period of only one year, his OPT period lapses before the next April. Hence, he doesn’t get a second chance to apply for H1B visa and has no option but to return to his home country. But students under STEM category will now get an OPT period of 36 Months (Regular 12 months + 24 months extension). In other words, such students will get two more chances for applying for H1B visa if their first petition is rejected. For example, if a student applies for H1B visa on 1st April 2016 but does not get selected in the lottery of 2016, he would still be able to apply for H1B visa again on 1st April 2017 and once again on 1st April 2018.

24-Month STEM OPT Extension

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending it F1 non immigrant visa regulations on Optional Practical Training (OPT) for certain students with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) from US institutions of higher education.

OPT is a period during which undergraduates (BS/BA) and graduate students (MS/MBA) with F1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than 9 months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work for 12 months on a student visa towards getting practical training to complement their education. On April 2nd 2008 DHS announced a 17-month extension to the OPT for students in qualifying STEM fields to be eligible for the 12-month permit. Any degree in any field of studies is valid. For the 17-month OPT extension a student must have received a STEM degree as listed on the USCIS website.

DHS is now amending its rule regarding OPT under STEM category to extend the OPT period to 24 months. This 24-month extension effectively replaces the 17-month OPT extension previously available to certain STEM students. In short, a student can now work in America for up to 36 months after completing degree even if he doesn’t qualify for H1B visa during that period. This rule will be effective from May 10th 2016.

The rule also makes F1 students who subsequently enroll in a new academic program and another STEM degree at a higher education level eligible for one additional 24 months STEM OPT extension. In other words, a student can get 36 months OPT after undergraduate education (BS) and also after completing a graduate degree (MS) from STEM category.

The rule also permits an F1 student completing a non-STEM graduate degree to use a prior eligible STEM degree from a US institution of higher education as the basis to apply for a STEM OPT extension. For e.g. if a student has completed MS in STEM category and now completes MBA which is a non-STEM degree is also eligible for the 36 months OPT extension.

To improve the integrity of the STEM OPT extension, the rule limits eligibility only to students with degrees from schools accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education.

Keep yourself updated on our next blog on E-Verify requirements and Cap-Gap extension.