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Fall Guidance from Homeland Security

Office of Global Learning

Dear international student community,

We have just received the long-awaited guidance from the Department of Homeland Security around COVID-19 temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester. We understand that this new release is causing anxiety and we will be back in touch as soon as we have further clarity to help you navigate the details.

For now, we can say in brief that the guidance addresses: 

  1. whether F-1 students within the U.S. will be permitted to enroll in more than three online-credit hours during the fall 2020 semester.
  2. maintenance of F-1 and I-20 records for students who will be outside the U.S.

Online enrollments:

The new guidance states that "F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in-person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online".

As you know, Cornell (President Pollack, June 30, 2020) will have an "in-person semester with hybrid instruction and opportunities for remote learning for those who cannot return.” This is good news. As a hybrid institution, international students will have some flexibility concerning online courses. The degree of flexibility for specific individuals and programs is to be determined in the coming days and weeks.

I-20's and five-month absence:

If you are a continuing student and will remain abroad for the fall 2020 term, Cornell's hybrid model will not allow us to keep your SEVIS record ACTIVE. International Services will need to create a new I-20 (with new SEVIS ID and SEVIS fee payment) before your spring 2021 (or later) return.

Again, we recognize that the information released today is stressful and creates many questions about how you are personally affected. We are working to help the university understand its options and also provide support and guidance for our international community members. We’ll have more information to share soon but, for now, please know that we are actively engaged on this important topic.


Office of Global Learning International Services