On the night of March 12, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) provided NAFSA with the following statement:
“SEVP is committed to remaining flexible in allowing schools to make temporary procedural adaptations so nonimmigrant students can continue to make normal forward progress in their program of study. They can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19. SEVP will provide updated guidance as the scope and length of this situation becomes more clear.”
This came as welcome news. Earlier that day, NAFSA had contacted SEVP to advocate that SEVP allow schools to maintain SEVIS records in Active status for students who choose to or must take the online portion of classes abroad under the school's COVID-19 policy pursuant to SEVP's March 9, 2020 Broadcast Message 2003-01, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Potential Procedural Adaptations for F and M nonimmigrant students. A number of NAFSA members had reported receiving guidance originating from SEVP headquarters that schools had to Terminate such records. This created confusion and concern, especially since many schools are now beginning or have already begun their semester Spring breaks, or are in transition between quarters. SEVP subsequently issued the above statement.
On March 13, 2020, SEVP then published a follow-up to its March 9, 2020 guidance providing further details about online adaptations, identifying three common scenarios related to emergency procedures implemented by SEVP-certified schools:
- A school completely closes and does not have online courses or other alternate learning procedures;
- A school temporarily stops in-person classes but implements online or other alternate learning procedures and the nonimmigrant student remains in the United States; and
- A school temporarily stops in-person classes but implements online or other alternate learning procedures and the nonimmigrant student departs the United States.