If you have questions and concerns that are not addressed below, please email Aida Neary at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Office of International Programs may not be able to respond to individual emails immediately, but will continue to compile questions and provide answers here.
How does switching to remote learning affect my F-1 status?
We know that you are worried about how the recent changes in the mode of education, as well as the location of your participation in remote learning, will affect your immigration status. U.S. universities received guidance from the Department of Homeland Security that allows you to continue this semester's courses remotely without jeopardizing your immigration status.
The Student and Visitor Exchange Program (SEVP) has confirmed that "if a school closes temporarily but offers online instruction or another alternative learning procedure, nonimmigrant students should participate in online or other alternate learning procedures and remain in active status in SEVIS."
Furthermore, SEVP confirmed that you may take full-time courses online either from within the U.S. or from abroad. This means that to maintain your immigration status you need to participate in remote learning, continue to be enrolled full-time and make normal progress toward your degree. Regardless of where you are participating in remote learning, your immigration status will remain active.
Will the five-month rule apply to my visa if I go back home and stay away from Salve Regina until the fall semester?
If you are maintaining full-time status until the end of the spring semester, then you are entitled to your annual summer vacation. According to the immigration regulations, an F-1 or J-1 student is in status during the annual (or summer) vacation if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term. If you maintain your immigration status, the five-month rule does not come into effect. Remember that when classes resume in person, you must return to campus to maintain your immigration status.
Will I be able to come back to the U.S.?
As you know, we are in uncharted territory regarding international mobility. It is impossible to predict if and when further restrictions will be put in place by the U.S. administration for travelers returning from high-risk countries.
You 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 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of March 18, routine U.S. visa issuance has been suspended worldwide and daily restrictions on travel are being implemented.
The Office of International Programs is carefully monitoring updates from the CDC, SEVP, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State, as well as updates from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the leading professional organization dedicated to international education and exchange, which is providing comprehensive and up-to-date information relevant to travel, consulates and visas.
I still need to apply for OPT. Can I do this remotely from elsewhere in the U.S.? Can I do it from outside the U.S.?
You must be physically in the U.S. at the time you submit your optional practical training (OPT) application. The Office of International Programs will continue to process OPT applications as soon as we receive your submitted request and will communicate with you about how to pick up and mail your application to USCIS. If you have not applied for OPT yet, but plan to do so, we strongly encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible (especially submit the OPT without any delay).
If I vacate my current on or off campus residence and relocate to a new address, do I need to report it within 10 days? Where do I report?
Yes, the Immigration and Nationality Act requires all nonimmigrants and permanent residents, including international students, scholars and their families, to report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government within 10 days. Please report address changes to the Office of International Programs within 10 days.
I am an international student currently studying abroad, and I have concerns about my visa status. What should I do?
If you are an international student studying abroad this spring semester and have concerns, please contact your international student advisor to discuss how a decision to remain or depart early may affect your U.S. immigration status.
I will graduate in May, and my plan was to return to my home country. After I graduate, I would prefer to stay in the U.S. for now. What are my options?
You have three options:
- Remain in the U.S. and apply for optional practical training (for F-1 students).
- Remain in the U.S. during the grace period after your program end date (which you can find on your I-20). The grace period is 60 days for F-1 students.
- Pursue another degree in the U.S. and transfer (if eligible) your SEVIS record to another institution.
My visa is expiring, and I am unable to travel to my home country currently. What should I do?
You may stay in the U.S. on an expired F-1 or J-1 visa as long as you maintain your immigration status by being in possession of a valid I-20 or DS-2019 and by meeting normal enrollment requirements. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.) The U.S. Department of State announced on March 18 that routine U.S. visa issuance has been suspended indefinitely worldwide.
My visa is expiring/has expired. If I leave the U.S. now, but must come back after the expiration date of my visa, will I need a new visa, or can I re-enter on an expired visa?
If you leave the U.S. and your visa will have expired by the date you wish to re-enter the U.S., then you will need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.) The U.S. Department of State announced on March 18 that routine U.S. visa issuance has been suspended indefinitely worldwide.
If you will be traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands, please read here to see if you can benefit from automatic revalidation.
Can I leave the U.S. and go home after I mail my OPT application to USCIS? Will I be allowed to re-enter the U.S. to start working once my application is approved?
Yes, you can leave the U.S. when an OPT application is pending at USCIS, but there has always been an element of uncertainty. The basic risk factor is that if you receive correspondence from USCIS in the mail, you would not be there to respond. That has always been true and in these extraordinary times it remains to be true.
In the best case scenario, if your application goes through smoothly, your employment authorization document is delivered to a valid U.S. address and someone arranges for the document to be sent to you (if you used the Office of International Programs' address as your mailing address, we will email you once it arrives and arrange mailing with you), and you may be able to enter the U.S. with your travel documents.
Will the suspension of U.S. visa issuance affect the processing of OPT?
A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the U.S. generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveler's passport and is issued by the U.S. Department of State via U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. Optional practical training (OPT), on the other hand, is a temporary work authorization for employment that is directly related to an F-1 student's major area of study. OPT is adjudicated by USCIS, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As a result, U.S. visa issuance and OPT adjudication are undertaken by different agencies and are not directly related. The announcement of temporary suspension of U.S. visa issuance worldwide will not affect the adjudication of your OPT application. As of this date, USCIS continues to process certain applications, including OPT.
Will the temporary closure of USCIS field offices and suspension of USCIS in-person services affect my OPT application?
As of March 18, USCIS has temporarily closed its domestic field offices and suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1 to help slow the spread of coronavirus. However, USCIS staff are continuing to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. OPT applications are adjudicated at USCIS service centers and not at field offices. In addition, OPT adjudications do not involve any contact with the public. For these reasons, we do not anticipate your OPT application being affected by the recent closure of USCIS field offices.