Marrying an American During COVID-19
On July 6, 2020, ICE issued a revision to its policy regarding online courses for F-1 and M-1 visa holders. Normally, foreign students must attend classes in person. An exception was made for Spring and Summer courses this year due to COVID-19 to allow foreign students to take more online courses than would normally be permitted. That policy is now more restrictive:
Students attending schools adopting a … mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify … that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. The above exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses (see 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v))).
Many immigration advocates see this as causing unnecessary further distress and confusion in our US immigration system. That may in fact be true. However, we should bear in mind that policy guidance is not law. The law in this area requires that foreign students attend classes in person. Were it otherwise, a foreigner would not need a student visa to attend class in the U.S. The foreigner could attend online classes while remaining in the home country. Even so, the change is rather abrupt for those foreigners in the middle of degree programs. I know schools are seeking to accommodate the students as a matter of good will, but also because foreigner students pay high foreign tuition fees and help support our US educational system.
Marriage to an American
Some students are in romantic relationships with U.S. citizens or green card holders. If often happens that changes in immigration policy put the question of the relationship itself at issue. For those who want to move forward with marriage, you can still attend school and you can still continue to work under CPT or OPT terms. There is even a benefit of working at any job with an employment authorization document through marriage.
Please give us a call to discuss if you are in a romantic relationship and want to learn more about your immigration options.