US relaxes online education visa rules to battle Coronavirus outbreak

US relaxes online education visa rules to battle Coronavirus outbreak

In reaction to the Coronavirus outbreak, the US immigration authorities have relaxed online education visa rules for international students.

The potential procedural adaptations message released by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP) on Monday last week was sent to all SEVP-certified colleges and universities.

The statement declared that such institutions ‘may need to adapt their procedures and policies to address the significant public health concerns associated with the COVID-19 crisis’.

The US statement also noted that ‘in evaluating these changes, SEVP is focused on ensuring that non-immigrant students are able to continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations’.

The guidance expands the options for these institutions in their use of online education to help keep enrolled students on track to achieve their predicted grades as classes become remotely provided.

SEVP have also stated that it will be flexible with these temporary adaptations.

According to EducationDive, the number of online courses that international students can take is generally restricted, but the new guidance would help to ensure those students could stay in their classes as more institutions take programs online in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

SEVP will relax regulations governing US institutions and online education visa due to Coronavirus

In the last few days, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, announced their plans to join the growing number of institutions temporarily moving their classes online. More are expected to follow.

SEVP is also asking that institutions inform them if they change how they deliver courses to international students, and to provide details on how the school plans to monitor the students’ work. 

SEVP stated that, as part of its committal to flexibility in these challenging circumstances, it ‘recognizes that the COVID-19 crisis is fluid and rapidly changing. For that reason, SEVP is not requiring prior notice of procedural adaptations, leaving room for schools to comply with state or local health emergency declarations.’

Concern expressed on impact Coronavirus will have on US international student numbers

EducationDive stressed the significant role that international students play an important source of income for the colleges, as well as their importance in terms of raising the global profiles of these American institutions.

However, America’s alienating political stance and strong global competition has meant that numbers of international students attending US institutions are beginning to dwindle.

Despite these developments, earlier this year we reported that the United States is the top ‘dream’ study abroad destination for international students.

There is concern about the further impact that the coronavirus outbreak will have on these numbers, particularly because roughly a third of international students in the US come from China. 


Josephine Walbank - Reporter, Global Education Times (GET News)

Josephine Walbank is a reporter for Global Education Times (GET News) with a focus on education in the UK, Asia-Pacific, and Americas, and student experience and lifestyle news.

Josephine is an experienced journalist who previously served as the Editor-in-Chief of The Falmouth Anchor. She is also the former Deputy Editor of Voices, the Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union’s publication, and has written for various food and lifestyle publications.

You can reach her at

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