Online courses to combat COVID-19 won’t affect Temple student visas

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services usually only allows international students with F-1 or J-1 visas to take a single online course.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is allowing universities to move their in-person classes online without impacting the visa status of international students in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.

With 15 presumed positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania and 23 in New Jersey, dozens of regional universities have moved to online class instruction to combat the spread of the disease this week. Temple announced on Monday that it is preparing faculty to conduct all courses online, but the university has not canceled in-person classes as of Wednesday. 

Non-immigrant students who have F-1 or J-1 visas are required to take a full course load to maintain their student status and typically students can only count one online class to their full-time course load, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s website. 

USCIS is relaxing this policy because of the “unique situation caused by the novel coronavirus,” wrote Joan McGinley, Temple’s director of Immigration Services, and Martyn Miller, Temple’s assistant vice president of International Affairs, in an email obtained by The Temple News.

“USCIS is permitting universities to make accommodations for students, including moving classes to online, without jeopardizing international students’ status,” the email reads.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program encourages non-immigrant students engaging in practical training to reach out to their employers to find ways to maintain their employment, McGinley and Miller wrote.

The university and the Office of International Affairs are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation, McGinley and Miller wrote. 

COVID-19 is a novel strain of the coronavirus, a family of diseases that causes respiratory tract illnesses ranging from severe pneumonia to the common cold, The Temple News reported. Current symptoms reported among people with COVID-19 include mild-to-severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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