Critical Updates: Travel Ban and Coronavirus

Critical Updates: UMass Amherst Reopening

UMass Amherst Spring 2021 Reopening

Making Plans to Return for the Spring Semester at UMass Amherst (including UMass Quarantine details)

Official SEVP Guidance and FAQs for Spring 2021 are Forthcoming

Frequently Asked Questions


OPT/STEM OPT Receipts: Extensive Delays with USCIS

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is experiencing nationwide delays with receipting OPT/STEM OPT applications. Delays of up to 4-8 weeks are now common. USCIS will use the day of your application’s arrival at their service center as the date of receipt for all applications. For example, if your application arrived at the USCIS service center on November 4, 2020* but still does not have a receipt number as of December 8, 2020, your case was still logged as having properly arrived at USCIS on November 4, 2020.

The IPO does not have the ability to increase the speed at which the USCIS lockbox is processing applications, or speed up the overall process. Nor can we track your application with USCIS. 

If it has been more than 6-weeks since your application arrived at USCIS and your case still has not been receipted, you can e-mail the USCIS “lockbox” (they process the incoming applications) at lockboxsupport[at]uscis.dhs[dot]gov. If you receive no additional information after waiting the noted time frame on the lockbox e-mail, contact your IPO advisor for next steps. You should not assume a delayed receipt notice implies that there is a problem with your application or it will be rejected.

These USCIS delays are also impacting non-OPT/STEM OPT applications such as J-1 dependent employment authorization, change of status applications (I-539 application form), as well as permanent residency (“green card”) applications.

*Always remember to request US Postal Service or FedEx/UPS tracking on anything you send to the U.S. Government so that you have proof of receipt.

Students Starting STEM OPT:

If your OPT is expiring soon and you have applied to STEM OPT, please note that current F-1 regulations state that STEM OPT only has to be timely filed in order to continue working. F-1 regulations do not require a USCIS receipt or that the case be in pending status. USCIS states that the expired OPT EAD plus your updated I-20 with STEM OPT endorsement should be sufficient in order to update your employer’s I-9 work authorization paperwork.

The IPO recommends that you discuss this with your employer’s Human Resources office or other hiring authority if your initial 12-month OPT is expiring soon.


Updated IPO FAQs for Spring Semester 2021

Critical Updates ISS

These FAQs are based on existing July 27 SEVP guidanceUpdated federal guidance for spring semester is forthcoming and will be announced as soon as they are released:
 

Q: Do I need to maintain UMass insurance coverage?

A: Typically, only U.S.-based plans can be used to waive the SHBP. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, if you are studying remotely in your home country, you can waive the SHBP with your international plan or by attesting to socialized medicine if your home country does not require you to have insurance. If the waiver meets the UMass requirements, the insurance fee will be removed from the tuition bill.  See the University Health Services (UHS) Health Insurance Information for International Students guide for details.

For all other international students who are physically located inside the US, the State of Massachusetts does NOT allow students to use insurance from non-U.S. insurance companies. Full-time students will be automatically enrolled in the insurance plan at UMass in order to meet the State’s insurance requirements.

Q: If I am outside the US and studying remotely do I need to maintain UMass insurance coverage?

A: Until further notice, due to COVID-19 restrictions international students studying remotely or on-line outside of the United States can waive the UMass SHBP insurance by certifying that they have comparable insurance that provides coverage in that location. If the waiver meets the UMass requirements, the insurance fee will be removed from the tuition bill.  Please Contact UHS for further waiver information.

For all other international students who are physically located inside the US, the State of Massachusetts does NOT allow students to use insurance from non-U.S. insurance companies. Full-time students will be automatically enrolled in the insurance plan at UMass in order to meet the State’s insurance requirements.

Q: Do I need an updated I-20 or any special remarks in my SEVIS record?

A: No. The July 24 fall SEVP guidance confirmed that no additional remarks are necessary in a student’s SEVIS record or on their I-20 form. For new students intending to come to campus for spring semester please ensure that your I-20 form has a February 1. 2021 program starting date. Related I-20 questions can be addressed to visarequest[at]umass[dot]edu (undergraduate students) or gradvisarequest[at]umass[dot]edu (graduate students)

Q: Do I need a letter that confirms that UMass Amherst is a hybrid instructional model and provides some in-person (“face-to-face”) courses for new F-1 students?

A: Officially, no, this is not a requirement for either the visa application process at a US consulate, or upon arrival at a US port of entry. However, as a courtesy the IPO has prepared the following letter which can be printed and used for your convenience.

Q: As a new F-1 student, will I need an in-person (“face-to-face”) course for spring semester?

A: Official updated SEVP federal spring 2021 guidance is still pending, however, UMass is planning for spring semester 2021 with the assumption that there will be a continued in-person course requirement for all new F-1 students (new J-1 students are currently exempt from this requirement). Additional information will be provided on this page once updated guidance is known. Please note that as we did in fall semester, UMass will provide in-person coursework for spring semester should it be required and will assist you with registration as necessary. Please see our January 2021 updates page with further questions.

Q: I am a new international student currently here at UMass this fall semester. Will I also need to enroll for an in-person (“face-to-face”) course for spring semester since I already have such a course this fall?

A: See the same answer above.  Based on what the IPO has heard from our sources, it should be assumed that new F-1 students in fall semester will need to enroll in additional in-person (“face-to-face”) coursework in spring semester. This will be confirmed once the official spring SEVP guidance is released. 

Q: As a new student, how will I be able to register for in-person coursework if I intend to come to Amherst this fall?

A: Additional information will be forthcoming, but if you need an in-person course to satisfy F-1 regulations, UMass will provide you with such an opportunity in order to satisfy SEVP guidance for new F-1 students.

Q: I began my studies remotely from my home country in fall semester. Will I need to enroll in in-person (“face-to-face”) coursework if I come to campus this spring?

A: Yes. Even though you began studies remotely in the fall, for F-1 immigration purposes you will be considered a new (“initial”) student upon arrival to the US for the first time, therefore you will be required to enroll in in-person (“face-to-face”) coursework in the spring semester.

Q: How many in-person classes or credits are required for new F-1 students?

A: Based on current federal SEVP guidance there is no specified amount of in-person coursework in the updated SEVP guidance. There is no minimum amount of in-person academic coursework based on the guidance. 

Q: Can I begin online remote classes for spring semester if I have not yet obtained an F-1 visa?

A: Yes. You do not need an F-1 visa to begin your online remote studies if you are outside of the U.S. and do not intend to arrive in the U.S. this spring semester.

Q: I have a J-1 student visa. Are there any changes to my status?

A: J-1 student visas were not affected by the recent SEVP guidance. In the absence of any updated federal SEVP guidance for spring semester, there have been no changes to existing J-1 visa regulations or policies.

Q: My arrival to campus may be delayed because of my visa appointment and/or international flight complications. What is the latest that I can arrive on campus this spring?

A: For new students, it is not recommended that you come to campus any later than the add/drop deadline of Friday, February, 12, 2021. For continuing students, please be in contact with your academic advisor, keeping in mind mandatory quarantine requirements.

Q: As a new or returning international student, do I need to quarantine when I come to campus?

A: Yes. Please see the University's Spring 2021 page for more information. Additional campus operations information can be found on the UMass Spring 2021 website.

 

Q: Can I use my electronically transmitted (e-mailed) I-20 form for my F-1 visa application?

A: Yes, the US immigration service guidance continues to permit the use of electronically transmitted I-20 forms for US visa appointments and for entry into the US at a US airport or border. Please print your I-20 form with a color copier for your US consular appointment and travel to the US and sign and date at the bottom of the I-20 form

Q: How do I schedule a US consular appointment to obtain my student visa?

A: US consulates continue to gradually re-open worldwide and have resumed visa interviews, though many consulates are operating on a limited schedule. Each US consulate in each international city is different. Please continue to monitor your local US consulate’s website for the latest scheduling information. 

Q: What if I can’t arrive in January 2021? Will I need a new I-20 or DS-2019 form from the IPO? 

A: Yes, if you will begin or continue your spring semester studies remotely online and won’t be able to join us in person in January 2021, please confirm your details with either visarequest[at]umass[dot]edu for undergraduates, or gradvisarequest[at]umass[dot]edu for graduate students. We will gladly be able to provide you with an amended I-20 accordingly, though this is not immediately urgent. Please also be in contact with your academic advisor or Graduate Program Director to update them of your plans.

Q: Can I matriculate at UMass and begin my academic courses online from my home country, or any other country outside the US, without an F-1 or J-1 student visa?

A: Yes. Obtaining a student visa is not necessary to begin your studies remotely online. You will only need a student visa to enter the US to attend classes physically in-person in the US.

Q: What if I already have a valid F-1 or J-1 student visa from my US high school or US undergraduate studies?

A: If you have followed the SEVIS transfer procedures with the IPO as instructed, you will be able to enter the US with your new UMass I-20 or DS-2019 form and your existing F-1 or J-1 visa.

Q: Now that on-campus fall semester operations will conclude in late November around the Thanksgiving holiday, will I be able to stay on-campus between November and the start of spring semester in January 2021? 

A: Please see the Living at UMass website.

Q: How early can I enter the US if I have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp?

A. You may arrive no earlier than 30-days from the program starting date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.

Q: How can I arrange a flight to the US?

A: Please follow the advice and updates of your airline or travel agent and other local travel advisories. Until further notice, there continues to be a ban on all international arrivals from anyone who has been in China or Brazil  for the past 14-days. F-1 students coming from the European Union/Schengen Area are exempt from the existing travel ban as F-1 student travel to the US is considered “essential.”  International airline operations continue to be severely disrupted because of COVID-19 and international flights schedules are very much subject to change. Please continue to check directly with your airline or travel agent as this information is very much subject to change.

Q: I am a Mexican or Canadian student. Can I enter the US through a land border crossing?

A: Yes. If a Mexican citizen has a valid F-1 or J-1 student visa, you may enter the US either at a US border crossing or at a US airport. Canadian citizens are visa-exempt and do not need an F-1 visa stamp, only a valid I-20 form issued by the IPO. Educational purposes are considered “essential” travel during the temporary US land border closure with Mexico and Canada. There are no restrictions for Mexican or Canadian travelers to the US by air.

Q: What documents do I need to enter the US?

A: To enter the US in F-1 or J-1 student immigration status you will need a valid passport, a valid F-1 or J-1 student visa stamp issued by a US consulate and an I-20 form (F-1) or DS-2019 form (J-1) form. Canadian citizens are exempt from visa requirements but will need an I-20 or DS-2019 form to enter the US. You cannot enter the US in B-2 visitor/tourist status and begin academic studies, without exception. 

Q: As an undergraduate, if I have obtained a student visa and I will be able to arrive in-person for spring semester, when can I move into my residence hall?

A: Complete on-campus move in information and instructions are located here.

Q: What will international student orientation (ISO) look like and what are my obligations to attend?

A: The IPO is working on providing a meaningful and comprehensive international student orientation (ISO) program for spring semester. Further detailed information will be provided to you directly from the IPO in the weeks ahead. Please continue to monitor our Arrivals and Orientation website for further information.  

Q: How will recent Federal Presidential Executive Orders regarding immigration affect me as an international student?

A: We have additional resources on these matters on our IPO homepage.

Q: If I am outside the US and studying remotely do I need to maintain UMass insurance coverage?

A: : Typically, only U.S.-based plans can be used to waive the SHBP. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, if you are studying remotely in your home country, you can waive the SHBP with your international plan or by attesting to socialized medicine if your home country does not require you to have insurance. If the waiver meets the UMass requirements, the insurance fee will be removed from the tuition bill.  See the University Health Services (UHS) Health Insurance Information for International Students guide for details

For all other international students who are physically located inside the US, the State of Massachusetts does NOT allow students to use insurance from non-U.S. insurance companies. Full-time students will be automatically enrolled in the insurance plan at UMass in order to meet the State’s insurance requirements.

Q: As a current/returning student, what do I need to re-enter the U.S.?

A: The standard F-1 travel requirements continue to apply: A valid F-1 visa stamp and an I-20 with a travel signature within the past 12-months. To request an updated travel signature from the IPO please see our F-1  student travel site.

As a courtesy, UMass also provides the following support letter that confirms UMass continues to operate in a “hybrid” instructional innspring semester 2021.

Q: As a current/returning student, do I need to enroll in any in-person coursework?

A: PLEASE NOTE, ANY CURRENT INTERNATIONAL STUDENT WHO HELD VALID F-1 IMMIGRATION STATUS AS OF MARCH, 2020 does not need to enroll in any in-person coursework.  If you were a brand-new F-1 student beginning in fall semester 2020 you do indeed have additional in-person coursework requirements (please see the information in the “New Student” FAQs above). If you began your studies remotely in your home country in fall semester 2020 and are arriving in the US for the first time for spring semester 2021 you are not considered a “current/returning student.” Please see the information in the “New Student” FAQs above.

Q: As a current/returning student, may I remain outside of the U.S. or return to campus?

A: As a current/returning student you may do either. Your underlying F-1 status does not change and it remains valid as long as you remain enrolled full-time. Please note, this only applies to ANY CURRENT INTERNATIONAL STUDENT WHO HELD VALID F-1 IMMIGRATION STATUS AS OF MARCH, 2020. If you did not, please contact your assigned IPO advisor.

Q: As a current/returning student does the 5-month out of country rule affect me?

A: No. The 5-month out of country rule continues to remain suspended until further notice and your F-1 status will not change as long as you remain enrolled full-time remotely.

Q: If I have already departed the US and will be out of the US for more than 5-months will it affect my status.

A: No. The 5-month absence from the U.S. regulatory rule does not apply in these particular circumstances. If you will remain outside of the US for the next several months, as long as you are enrolled full-time and participating in temporary remote instruction at UMass, there is no change to your underlying immigration status.

Q: I am a doctoral student with Continuous Enrollment this fall semester. Is that permitted?

A: Yes. There are no changes to guidance regarding Continuous Enrollment and your F-1 status will remain valid and unchanged as long as you are considered a full time student. You can remain overseas or in the US while registered for Continuous Enrollment.

Q: As a returning international student, do I need to quarantine when I come to campusand/or the Amherst area?

A: Yes. Please see the University's Spring 2021 page for more information. Additional campus operations information can be found on the UMass Spring 2021 website

Q: I am a continuing international student at UMass but will not be able to make it back to campus this spring, what should I do?

A: Please be in direct contact with your academic advisor or Graduate Program Director. As long as you remain enrolled full-time via remote online instruction, you will be able to maintain your underlying F-1 or J-1 student immigration status. 

Q: I am a continuing international student at UMass and I intend to withdraw from all classes in spring semester, what should I do?

A: You are encouraged to contact your academic advisor (undergraduate) or Graduate Program Director (graduate student) as soon as possible. Additional information can be found here. Note the IPO is obligated to terminate your F-1 immigration status and SEVIS record if you withdraw from UMass and you may not remain inside the US if you are currently in the country.

Q: How will the recent Federal Presidential Executive Orders regarding immigration affect me as an international student?

A: We have additional resources on these matters on our IPO homepage. 

Q. What do I do as an undergraduate student who wishes to continue living on-campus during the December break and this spring?

A: Additional information and other related formalities will be provided directly from the Office of Residential Life. If there are any additional changes or amendments to your campus residential options you will be contacted directly by Residential Life.

Q. Academics/Classroom Instruction.

A: All information regarding your specific academic obligations and (non-classroom) remote instructional delivery will be communicated directly from your faculty member and/or your affiliated academic college or department. The IPO cannot advise on any academic-related obligations or methodology, academic credit or graduation requirements.

Q: Does my F-1 or J-1 student visa allow this type of remote instruction?

A: Yes, these temporary non-classroom remote instruction methods are indeed permissible under your current F-1 or J-1 immigration status. This has been confirmed in recent guidance from the U.S. immigration service. There are no changes to your underlying student visa status during this time and you remain enrolled as full-time for the spring semester and in full compliance with F-1 and J-1 student visa regulations as long as you maintain full-time enrollment.

Q: I am currently staying in my home country. What address should I use in SPIRE?

A: Please continue to update your mailing address type in SPIRE where you plan to return to on-campus or locally in the Amherst area.

Coming To UMass Amherst

If you are flying into the United States and traveling to Massachusetts, please be aware of certain travel requirements.

CDC Global Airline Testing Order

Requirement for negative pre-departure Covid-19 test result or documentation of recovery from Covid-19 for all airline or other aircraft passengers arriving into the United States from any foreign country.

If you are flying into the United States and traveling to Massachusetts, please be aware of certain Massachusetts travel requirements. Per Governor Baker on August 1, 2020, new COVID guidelines are in place.

Massachusetts Quarantine Requirements

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MA) has released updated travel guidance for out-of-state visitors.  As this guidance is likely to change as circumstances evolve, you should continue to monitor the requirements until you arrive. 

  • Visitors, including residents, must complete the Massachusetts Health Form prior to arrival, unless you are visiting from a lower-risk state designated by the Department of Public Health.
  • Visitors, including residents, must quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to your arrival in MA.
  • Visitors into MA are exempt from the quarantine requirement if they have received a negative result from a COVID-19 test based on a sample obtained not longer than 72 hours before their arrival.
  • Failure to comply may result in a $500 fine per day.

Scholars should reach out to their hiring departments to determine UMass Amherst COVID requirements. Information on the UMass Amherst workforce requirements is available here.

Travel Restrictions

Scholars should be aware of the current travel restrictions currently active:

  • Schengen Transit Exception: J Visa Exception for academics in Research Scholar, Short Term Scholar, Professor, Student and Specialist category for traveling directly from and transiting through the Schengen Countries will require a National Interest Exemption. Scholars are urged to reach out to their consulates and airlines regarding how to obtain this before travel. Please see the announcement from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), we recommend you print this for travel.  
  • Traveling to a third country and then flying to the US as a way to avoid the COVID travel ban: Note that the Department of Homeland Security has access to airline manifests and other information that may reveal your prior travel. People attempting to enter the US after spending 14 days in a third country have been denied entry to the US.
  • Canadian and Mexican Travel Ban: Until November 21, 2020, travel through Canadian and Mexican land borders are still restricted to essential personnel only.  

Students and scholars currently outside of the U.S. may be subject to various travel restrictions that make returning to or arriving in the U.S. difficult at this time. Please read below for more information:

Routine Visa Issuance Resuming on a Country by Country Basis

As of July 15, some U.S. Embassies and Consulates have started to resume routine visa services depending on the in-country situation. Please note that different embassies and consulates have different policies and procedures in place about reopening, and they are facing severe backlogs of applications that have accrued during their closures. All incoming students and scholars currently outside of the U.S. require a visa stamp issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country in order to enter the U.S. with, except for Canadian citizens. For specific information, please go to the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.

Presidential Proclamations Suspending Travel        

At this time, individuals are prohibited from entering the U.S. from one of the countries listed on the CDC website:

  • China
  • Iran
  • European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Brazil

This suspension also applies to individuals traveling or connecting through one of the travel ban countries. 

Stuck Outside the U.S. due to COVID Travel Restrictions

Please reach out to Nichole Hunley as shunley[at]umass[dot]edu and work with your hosting department on whether you can continue your work while abroad. Those that are outside the U.S. on UMass Amherst J-1 sponsorship while continuing their projects will be required to complete an Out of Country notification. 

UMass Amherst Extensions 

If more time is required for your appointment to allow you to remain in the U.S., your hosting department will need to initiate this BEFORE the end date of your original DS-2019 end date. You must have sufficient funding shown as well as continued medical coverage. 

30 Day Grace Period

Currently there is no amendment to the 30-day grace period after the end date of your DS-2019. Please make plans to depart the U.S. within this period. If you are having trouble locating flights home, please contact your home country's Embassy for assistance. Please makes sure to check in with your airline regarding travel restrictions and COVID testing as this may delay your departure. 

Early Departure

If you depart the U.S. and UMass Amherst and do not plan to return, and the departure is more than 15 days before the new SEVIS end date, please contact shunley[at]umass[dot]edu to amend your SEVIS record.

Seeking Public Assistance

Please be mindful of seeking outside public assistance, as the rule of Public Charge will still apply. Please see the update from USCIS on receiving assistance as it relates to medical treatment during the COVID-19 crisis. If you have questions regarding certain programs and the public charge rule, please visit Health Law Advocates for assistance.

Medical Coverage

If you are feeling sick, please do not hesitate to contact a local care facility or the local hospital to be tested for COVID-19. If you are concerned your medical coverage will not be accepted, please see additional options on the IPO website. United Health Care will cover medical visits at UHS and regional doctors.

 

 

Q: How do I schedule a US consular appointment to obtain my visa?

A: US consulates continue to gradually re-open worldwide and have resumed visa interviews, though many consulates are operating on a limited schedule. Each US consulate in each international city is different. Please continue to monitor your local US consulate’s website for the latest scheduling information.

Q: Can I use my electronically transmitted (e-mailed) I-20 form for my F-1 visa application?

A: Yes, the US immigration service guidance continues to permit the use of electronically transmitted I-20 forms for US visa appointments and for entry into the US at a US airport or border. Please print your I-20 form with a color copier for your US consular appointment and travel to the US and sign and date at the bottom of the I-20 form

Q: How can I arrange a flight to the US?

A: Please follow the advice and updates of your airline or travel agent and other local travel advisories. Until further notice, there continues to be a ban on all international arrivals from anyone who has been in China or Brazil for the past 14-days. F-1 students coming from the European Union/Schengen Area are exempt from the existing travel ban as F-1 student travel to the US is considered “essential.”  International airline operations continue to be severely disrupted because of COVID-19 and international flights schedules are very much subject to change. Please continue to check directly with your airline or travel agent as this information is very much subject to change.

Q: As an international student will I be required to be quarantined on the UMass campus before I can begin studies?

A: Yes. Please see the University's testing website. At present there are no specific testing requirements for entry into the US but please check with your departure airport and/or airline in advance.
 

Q: I am a Mexican or Canadian student. Can I enter the US through a land border crossing?

A: Yes. If a Mexican citizen has a valid F-1 or J-1 student visa, you may enter the US either at a US border crossing or at a US airport. Canadian citizens are visa-exempt and do not need an F-1 visa stamp, only a valid I-20 form issued by the IPO. Educational purposes are considered “essential” travel during the temporary US land border closure with Mexico and Canada. There are no restrictions for Mexican or Canadian travelers to the US by air.

Q: I am traveling from, or transiting through, the European Union (Schengen zone), Ireland or the United Kingdom with a valid F-1 visa. May I travel to the US?

A: Current Department of Homeland Security and Customs & Border Protection guidance indicates that: “Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, and their F-2 and M-2 dependents traveling from or otherwise physically present in the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, or Ireland during the preceding 14 days may travel to the United States while these Proclamations (travel ban) are in effect.” The IPO highly recommends that you print the following guidance for airline and immigration officer reference if asked.

Q: What documents do I need to enter the US?

A: To enter the US in F-1 or J-1 student immigration status you will need a valid passport, a valid F-1 or J-1 student visa stamp issued by a US consulate and an I-20 form (F-1) or Ds-2019 form (J-1) form. Canadian citizens are exempt from visa requirements but will need an I-20 or DS-2019 form to enter the US. You cannot enter the US in B-2 visitor/tourist status and begin academic studies, without exception. 

Q: I am an international student currently inside the US. Can or should I travel internationally?

A: Given the general worldwide disruption to international air travel, and certain restrictions other countries are implementing on travel and re-entry, the IPO continues to discourage all non-essential international travel at this time. Ultimately, the decision to travel and return home internationally is entirely you and your family’s decision and we completely respect that. If you do plan to travel internationally you should plan in advance for all possible contingencies and the distinct possibility that you will not be able to return to the U.S. until further notice. Valid visa, passport, and signed I-20 or DS-2019 forms for re-entry to the U.S. are still an international travel obligation as usual.

Q: If I travel internationally will I be able to come back to the US?

A: The ability to travel and re-enter the US is extremely fluid and there are many variables out of our control including US consular operations, health-related travel bans and quarantine procedures in various countries and the disruption of commercial airline service. You will need to check the travel and visa restrictions that may be in place at the time you are planning to travel as the situation is changing daily. If you are currently outside the U.S. or plan to travel outside the U.S., we recommend that you continue to monitor travel updates by CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The IPO continues to carefully monitor updates from the CDC, US immigration service (SEVP, USCIS, CBP, etc.) and the US Department of State. Please continue to monitor the IPO website for updates.

Q: My visa stamp has expired/will expire soon, and I am unable to travel to my home country, what should I do?

A: Your visa stamp in your passport is only necessary for international travel and re-entry to the US. As long as you continue to maintain status as indicated on your I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) program ending date, you do not need a valid visa to remain inside the US as long as you otherwise are maintaining status by being enrolled full-time.

Q: My visa stamp has expired/will expire soon and I plan to travel to my home country, what should I do?

A: If you choose to leave the U.S. and your visa will have expired by the date you wish to re-enter the U.S., then you must obtain a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens are exempt from visa stamp and consular interviews to enter the U.S.)   Note that US consular operations worldwide continue to be disrupted so check with the particular consulate that you may need to visit while abroad

I-20 & DS-2019 Travel Signatures: The IPO cannot provide in person travel signatures until further notice. Please see the links below to request your I-20 or DS-2019. Note: I-20 forms are now allowed to be sent electronically via e-mail, however DS-2019 forms (J-1 visas) cannot by regulation. 

 

 

Your IPO advisor will continue to process F-1 CPT and OPT applications and J-1 Academic Training applications. Please see F-1 student employment information and J-1 student employment information for further information.


Q: I'm currently on F-1 Post-completion Optional Training or STEM OPT and have been working remotely. Can I continue to do so?

A: There is no official updated guidance on remote employment while on OPT. As long as you continue to hold suitable employment related to your field of study and continue to report your OPT employment to the IPO there are no changes to your underlying F-1 OPT status or ability to remain employed remotely.

Q: I'm currently on J-1 Academic Training have been working remotely. Can I continue to do so?

A: "Sponsors may continue to temporarily allow active students to continue their Academic Training remotely to prevent unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. In the case of graduating students, sponsors may temporarily allow them to begin their Academic Training remotely to prevent unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 as long as the host organization is open and able to provide the training remotely. This policy reflects sponsor obligations to promote the health, safety and welfare of Exchange Visitor Program participants while at the same time meeting program objectives. Other conditions, criteria and requirements under the regulations remain in effect. In the case of a College or University Student participating in Academic Training, for example, the regulations require that the student be primarily in the United States to study rather than to participate in Academic Training, that the Academic Training be directly related to his or her major field of study, that the student be in good academic standing with the post-secondary accredited academic institution; and the student receive written approval in advance from the responsible officer for the duration and type of academic training (22 CFR 62.23(f))." Exchange Visitor Program Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Q: How long are OPT applications taking once filed with USCIS?

A: Currently USCIS continues to process OPT applications as normal, and recent processing trends have been approximately 3 months or less

Q: Are there any changes to current F-1 or J-1 work regulations?

A: No. F-1 and J-1 students are still allowed to work on-campus up to a maximum 20-hours per week or less while the current semester is in session (even with remote instruction). Non-assistantship on-campus employment beyond 20-hours per week is not allowed except for vacation and interim periods when school is not in session. Any/all off-campus employment is only allowed through authorized CPT, OPT or J-1 Academic Training (see the employment links above).

Q: I am planning to graduate and work in the U.S. What job search advice do you have for me in the current COVID-19 situation?

A: A recommended source on job search advice can be found on this website.

Q: Can I apply for an SSN right now?

A: Current Social Security Administration operations are severely limited until further notice. Current SSN application steps may be different than what students normally experience. Should you need to apply for an SSN, please contact your local SSN office to determine their new procedures and discuss these with your employer prior to sending in any original documents through the mail to the SSN office. Information on SSN eligibility can be found here and the USCIS I-9 Fact Sheet can be found here. *Students applying for an SSN through their OPT application to USCIS can continue to do so without issue by filling out the appropriate boxes on their I-765.

Q: I still need to apply for OPT but I am outside of the US. Can I still apply for OPT? 

A: There is no updated guidance on this from the immigration service, so based on current regulations, no, you must be physically inside the US at the time you submit your OPT application to the immigration service (USCIS).

Q: Can I depart the US and travel internationally after I mail my OPT application to USCIS? 

A: Yes, but be sure to be in close contact with your IPO advisor for more specific information based on your own particular situation. You would still be required to possess a valid F-1 visa and have evidence of US employment for re-entry to the US.”

Q: I used IPO’s address to receive my OPT EAD, approval notice, and receipt notice. What should I do to receive these documents?

A: You will be notified by the IPO by email if you have a document to collect from the IPO such as a new OPT EAD card, new I-20 form, etc. Refer to this email for further details and instructions to express mail your documents. Please note that the IPO remains closed for walk-in service