A number of NAFSA letters sent to agency leadership ask the agencies to address immigration-related COVID-19 concerns within four major groupings that offer specific examples:
- Protect the immigration status of students, scholars, staff, and faculty at U.S. educational institutions
- Provide flexibility on deadlines, filing windows, penalty counts, reporting requirements, and filing/adjudication processes
- Use a "one government" approach where each Agency and their component bureaus and offices honor each other's COVID-19 policies
- Allocate resources to handle standard seasonal surges as well plan for surges that may come post COVID-19
NAFSA Letter to SEVP on Fall 2020 Guidance. On July 10, 2020, Dr. Esther Brimmer, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO, sent a letter to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) asking the agency to takes steps to revise the guidance immediately to once again allow continuing students within the United States to enroll in a full online course of study and to allow schools to maintain SEVIS records in Active status for all continuing students enrolled in online studies outside the United States, among other suggestions.
June 12, 2020 NAFSA Letters. NAFSA asked the agencies to issue clear guidance for the Fall that allows standard SEVIS actions for both new and continuing students and exchange visitors, such as SEVIS registration and validation, transfers, changes of level, and recommendations for student benefits like Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training, regardless of the student’s or exchange visitor's location or the modality of instruction the school is using. NAFSA asked the Department of State to to waive the in-person visa interview requirement to the fullest extent allowable under the law and allow U.S. consulates to conduct interviews via video conferencing. NAFSA also asked the agencies continue to coordinate their guidance, and to instruct their respective bureaus and offices to honor their partner agency’s guidance as it is issued.
April 8, 2020 NAFSA Letter. NAFSA requests "that the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) work collaboratively during and after the COVID-19 crisis to ensure efficient visa and immigration processing, to include protecting the immigration status of international students, scholars, and exchange visitors at U.S. higher education institutions impacted by COVID-19, and ensuring the smooth entry this fall of returning, as well as newly-arriving, international students and scholars for the start of the 2020-2021 academic year," and "urges DHS, DOS, and other agencies to continue with the development of creative flexibilities."
March 16, 2020 NAFSA Letter. NAFSA asked DHS to allow for flexibility in adjudication of benefit requests and status determinations for international students and scholars who are impacted by COVID-19 and the measures institutions of higher education are taking in response to it.
On July 8, 2020, DHS responded to NAFSA's March 16, 2020 letter. The letter was dated the day following the publication of SEVP's July 6 and 7 Fall 2020 Guidance and FAQs, but before DHS rescinded that guidance on July 14, 2020 in an agreement with the plaintiffs in the Harvard/M.I.T. case.
For NAFSA letters to Congress related to COVID-19, see the NAFSA COVID-19 Legislation and Policy Resources page.