SEVP issues clarifications about Fall 2020 guidance

July 27, 2020

Two weeks ago, ISSS shared the news that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) would be reverting to its guidance from March 2020, which allows continuing international students to maintain their nonimmigrant status while taking online coursework whether inside or outside of the United States, among other temporary modifications. On Friday, July 24, SEVP published an FAQ document to clarify  its policies and offer additional guidance for new or initial international students. The full document is available here:

Among the most salient clarifications from the document are the following:

  • New or initial international students who intend to pursue a “100 percent” online course of study will likely not be able to obtain a visa to study in the United States.  
  • New or initial international students who will enroll in a hybrid course of study that includes both in-person and online components will likely be able to acquire F-1 status.  Penn students can get a support letter from their academic school / department to confirm that they are attending a hybrid program in Fall 2020. A template letter is available here:
  • Students who were enrolled at a university in the United States as of March 9 and then left the country are still eligible to receive a visa to resume their studies in the US even if they take all online courses in Fall 2020.
  • Students who are currently in the United States and engaged in a fully online course of study are not required to leave the country. In addition, students enrolled in hybrid programs during Fall 2020 may remain in the US even if the University switches to fully online course delivery at some point during the term.
  • Students may still receive electronic I-20s at their email address as indicated in SEVIS.
  • Schools that did not issue Forms I-20 in accordance with the July 6 guidance or July 7 FAQs (rescinded on July 14) do not need to reissue Forms I-20.

We hope this synopsis provides some clarity as you continue to formulate your plans for Fall 2020. Stay safe, and please do not hesitate to contact your assigned ISSS advisor if you have questions or concerns about how this guidance may impact you.