Back-To-School Requirements for International Students

Last Updated

October 20, 2021

Before arriving to the United States, international students passed their first test by meeting the general requirements for obtaining a nonimmigrant student visa to enable their travel to the country. To qualify for an F-1 student visa, an applicant must meet the following requirements:

  1. Must be accepted by an institution that is approved by the Department of Homeland Security to accept international students;
  2. Must be coming to undertake a “full course of study” (i.e. full-time study);
  3. Demonstrate ties to his or her home country and intend to return after studying; and
  4. Prove that he or she has sufficient financial resources to pay for classes and other expenses that may arise while studying in the United States.

Once approved for the visa, the international student is allowed to enter the United States with F-1 student status, and live and study for a specified period, with limitations on the types of activities he or she may engage in while in student status.

As the new academic year begins, many schools across the country are re-opening for in-person learning. However, several institutions still remain closed and offer only online classes. Some schools have taken the hybrid approach, offering both in-person and online learning options. Changes to federal guidelines for the international student program related to the pandemic vary depending on students’ enrollment dates and other factors.

The Department of Homeland Security is continuing its March 2020 guidance for international students in the United States through the 2021/2022 academic year. The guidance varies based on the student’s enrollment date.

Students who were in valid F-1 status and enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, may count online classes toward a full course of study for the 2021/2022 academic year. In addition, students who were enrolled at a U.S. school on the same date and later took online courses while outside of the U.S. may re-enter the country, even if their U.S. institution only offers online learning. However, new or initial F-1 visa students who were not enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, may not take up a full course of study that is offered entirely online. These students may engage in a hybrid education program, meaning that although their program may offer some online classes, in-person learning for some classes must also be required.

Students should be mindful of changes to government guidance to ensure compliance with immigration regulations and maintain their status to study in the United States. If you have any questions about this, please contact your assigned RIS Attorney.