Critical Updates: Travel Ban and Coronavirus

Critical Updates: UMass Amherst Reopening

UMass Amherst Fall 2020 Reopening

Dear UMass International Community,

First, and most importantly, the IPO hopes this message finds all of you and your family safe and well. The past several weeks have been an unprecedented challenge on so many levels, but the IPO wishes to remind you that we are here to support you in any way we can.

Our IPO office building remains closed to the public until further notice, but our staff remains fully operational and actively available to you. Our continued operations include full immigration advising for UMass international students and scholars (including virtual Zoom open “walk-in” hours), OPT and CPT applications, travel document signatures, as well as the issuance of new I-20 forms for our newly admitted international students whom we hope to welcome to campus in the fall semester.

We continue to update information and post frequently asked questions (FAQs) below. Please continue to monitor this site as we will be adding new and useful information as further developments occur.

Stay safe and well and keep in touch with our office. We are here for you!

All our best,

IPO


FAQs

Critical Updates ISS

  • 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.

  • If you have already been notified by the IPO that you currently have a document to pick-up in our office, please set up an eShip labelPlease allow 3-4 weeks to receive your document through e-Ship.

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

A: We still do not have definitive updates on the resumption of worldwide US consular services: Some US consulates have indicated gradual re-openings and resumption of visa interviews, though many/most are beginning to do so very late in the summer or later in the fall, even after the UMass semester is scheduled to begin. Each US consulate in each international city is different. Please continue to monitor your local US consulate’s website for the latest scheduling information. We anticipate that there will be forthcoming information in the weeks ahead, so please continue to monitor your local US consulate’s 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 currently has permitted 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.
 

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

A: This is complicated. Until further notice, there is a ban on all international arrivals from anyone who has been in the following countries for the past 14-days: China, the European Union/Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. This includes also includes citizens not only from these above countries but who wish to transit through an airport in one of these above countries on the way to the US. Furthermore, 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 monitor the UMass Campus Health Services website for all health-related questions or concerns.

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.

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: Can or should I travel internationally?

A: Given the ever-increasing disruption to international air travel, and mounting 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. Also as of March 18, 2020 most routine U.S. consular operations have been suspended worldwide. 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 check 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.

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.)  The U.S. State Department announced on March 18 that routine U.S. visa issuance has been suspended indefinitely worldwide.

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 currently allowed to be sent electronically, however DS-2019 forms cannot by regulation. 

F-1 student Travel Information (I-20)

J-1 student Travel Information (DS-2019)

 

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? 

Q: I am a continuing international student at UMass but will not be able to make it back to campus this fall, 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 fall 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: https://www.umass.edu/dean_students/support/withdrawing-umass. 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 US.

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

A: Fortunately, the two most recent Executive Orders regarding graduate Chinese students in STEM academic fields, and regarding the limitation of certain employment visa categories should not have an initial direct impact on your ability to study in the United States. We have additional resources on these matters on our IPO homepage. 

Q. Students continuing to live on-campus this spring and summer.

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.

Q: Will the new Pass/Fail spring semester grading affect my student visa?

A: No, you will continue to maintain your student visa status regardless of Pass/Fail or letter grades. GPA is not a reportable field in SEVIS. You are, however, still obligated to maintain good academic standing in your degree program. Failure to maintain academic standing may result in academic suspension which will negatively affect your student immigration status.

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 need to be outside of the US for the next several months, as long as you remain enrolled and participating in temporary remote instruction at UMass, there is no change to your underlying immigration status.

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.

No UMass Extension:

If you are not extending your appointment or affiliation with UMass, but wish to take advantage of the additional 2-month extension to your original DS-2019 end date, please email shunley[at]umass[dot]edu to let us know. You will need to show additional medical coverage for any time in the U.S. past your original DS-2019 end date. 

UMass 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 funding shown as well as continued medical coverage. 

30 Day Grace Period:

Currently there is no amendment to the 30-day grace period. 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.

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: Do I need a new I-20 form for my F-1 visa application (or DS-2019 form for J-1 visas) because the fall semester starting date has changed to August 24?

A: You do not need a new I-20 or DS-2019 to continue your US visa application process and to schedule a consular appointment. There will be no change to your established “SEVIS” record or “SEVIS” identification number and the existing information in your F-1 or J-1 immigration records do not change as a result of the amended fall semester start date. The IPO will be updating this new fall semester information in your SEVIS records for you. If you are able to secure a US consular appointment in time for an in-person fall semester arrival, please contact visarequest[at]umass[dot]edu for undergraduates, or gradvisarequest[at]umass[dot]edu for graduate students and use the subject line: “Fall 2020 COVID.” If you will not be able to arrive in time for fall semester, the IPO will be back in communication with you regarding amended I-20 or DS-2019 forms for a spring semester start date. 

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 currently has permitted 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.

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

A: We still do not have definitive updates on the resumption of worldwide US consular services: Some US consulates have indicated gradual re-openings and resumption of visa interviews, though many/most are beginning to do so very late in the summer or later in the fall, even after the UMass semester is scheduled to begin. Each US consulate in each international city is different. Please continue to monitor your local US consulate’s website for the latest scheduling information. We anticipate that there will be forthcoming information in the weeks ahead, so please continue to monitor your local US consulate’s website.

Q: What if I plan to arrive in January, 2021 instead, will I need a new I-20 or DS-2019 form from the IPO? 

A: Yes, if you will begin your fall semester studies remotely online and will instead 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 and use the subject line: “Fall 2020 COVID.”. We will gladly be able to provide you with an amended I-20 accordingly, though this is not immediately urgent. Please continue to attempt to schedule a US consular appointment using the information found on your current I-20 or DS-2019 form.

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

A: Yes. Please monitor the UMass Campus Health Services website for all health-related questions or concerns. 

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: This is complicated. Until further notice, there is a ban on all international arrivals from anyone who has been in the following countries for the past 14-days: China, the European Union/Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. This includes also includes citizens not only from these above countries but who wish to transit through an airport in one of these above countries on the way to the US. Furthermore, 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.

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: If I have obtained a student visa and I will be able to arrive in-person for fall semester, when can I move into my residence hall?

A: Complete on-campus move in information and instructions will be provided soon. Please monitor the Living at UMass website.

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

A: The IPO is working on providing a meaningful and comprehensive international student orientation program this fall semester, though it will be very different from our normal in-person programming and will need to be conducted with social distancing and other health protocols in mind. The majority of the orientation programing will be conducted online. 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. Additionally, information on the overall New Students Orientation (NSO) can be found at the UMass New Student Orientation website. 
 
Q: How will the recent Federal Presidential Executive Orders regarding immigration affect me as an international student?
A: Fortunately, the two most recent Executive Orders regarding graduate Chinese students in STEM academic fields, and regarding the limitation of certain employment visa categories should not have an initial direct impact on your ability to study in the United States. We have additional resources on these matters on our IPO homepage.

 

Undergradute Admissions

Graduate Admissions

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: 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 2-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 advice do you have for me in the current COVID-19 situation?

A: A recommended source on this topic can be found on this website.

Q: Can I apply for an SSN right now?

A: The 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 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 new 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.”