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COVID-19 Updates

We know you all have been receiving a LOT of e-mails regarding Covid-19. Our hope is to help you find all recent information pertaining to students with F-1 visas in one place.
Fall 2021 Updates
 
Traveling to the U.S.:  
  • Please be aware that as of Nov. 8, 2021, all passengers traveling to the U.S. must show evidence of COVID-19 vaccination and having tested negative for COVID-19 within the past 1-3 days before boarding their flights. If you are from a country where vaccines are not yet widely available, you may be subject to an exception. See more specific details about the accepted vaccines and exceptions from the CDC here. It is recommended that you contact your airline for details about the type of test they require from you before boarding.

If you plan to travel internationally, check out these websites for international updates related to travel and immigration: 

Make sure your I-20 has a travel signature that is valid for your planned date of return. The travel signature is on page 2 of your I-20 and it is good for 1 year from the date it was signed. To request a new travel signature, go to our F-1 Requests page and submit an "I-20 Reprint Request". At the moment, we will be sending new I-20's electronically as it is temporarily permitted due to COVID-19.

F-1 Visa Status Guideline Exceptions during COVID-19: 
  • We are currently issuing digital I-20's with digital signatures; however, you must print and sign the student attestation portion in ink before you use it for travel purposes.

Housing: (Remember, all students who move/live off campus need to notify our office of their new U.S. addresses within 10 days. You can do so with our Address Update Form).

Internships
 
Update to off-campus policy regarding internships and EPIC funded activities:
During the winter break of 2021-22, fully vaccinated students may participate in in-person, off-campus activities such as EPIC Advantage-funded activities and community engagement in the following locations:
  • in the United States
  • in a student’s home country other than the US
  • in countries with a current State Department Travel Advisory level of 1 or 2
  • on a per-student petition basis (i.e., not guaranteed), in countries with a Travel Advisory level of 3
 
Taxes
 
Letters about Missing Documents or Payments:
  • If you receive a letter from the IRS about missing tax documents, simply reply with the requested items. 
  • Come see us if you receive a letter about missing payments so we can help verify if there is truly money owed.
IRS Scams:
  • Be aware of IRS impersonation calls, texts, and fraudulent emails about stimulus payments under the CARES Act.  It's important to know that the IRS will not call, email or text an individual to verify financial, banking, or personal information.
  • The official IRS website is www.IRS.gov; please be aware that there are fake websites attempting to obtain personal and/or banking information.  These calls, emails, and texts target individuals by offering assistance to a taxpayer with obtaining a tax refund or stimulus payment faster; the taxpayer is asked to verify personal and/or banking information.  Please DO NOT click on internet links or open attachments in suspicious-looking emails.
  • For more information, please refer to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration's webpage.

Maintaining F-1 status
Remember that returning students must check-in with our office every semester. This year, this will be accomplished by completing the Current Student SEVIS Registration form (accessible on the F-1 Student Requests page) for the current semester.

You are still maintaining F-1 status, whether you are in the U.S. or not, as long as you follow the F-1 visa regulations and continue to participate in all of your classes online.

Per the regulations, you must update your address with us anytime you move. Please update your address in Self-Service. Please note that current students should update the "Exempt" address category in Self-Service for off-campus addresses within the U.S. Students who have graduated should update the "Home" address category in Self-Service.

An important part of the regulations to remember is that you cannot work more than 20 hours a week while school is in session. Even though we have moved to online classes, this regulation still applies.

Remember that you still cannot drop under 12 credits because that would be a violation of your F1 status. SEVP has made an exception to this rule for students who become ill with COVID-19.  If that, or any other issue, might hinder you from completing at least 12 credit hours this semester, please reach out to one of us as soon as possible.

Let us know if you will reach the end of your grace period (60 days beyond graduation or OPT) and cannot leave the U.S. due to border closures, lack of flights, etc. While we cannot extend your program, we need to document the reason in SEVIS with the hopes of avoiding negative consequences in the future. You could also consider applying for a Change of Status to a B2 Visitor visa. Your application must be received before your grace period ends and you can find information on how to apply here: https://www.uscis.gov/visit-united-states/change-my-nonimmigrant-status

Electronic signatures by school officials have been approved by all pertinent government organizations (SEVP, USCIS, CBPT) and will be valid until the student needs a new I-20 or a new travel signature. Therefore, we are now issuing I-20s with digital signatures and sending them via Box. You will get an email notification with a link to the file in Box. Please let us know if you do not have the ability to print it and be aware that electronic signatures by students are not accepted - you still need to sign your I-20 in ink.

Students on OPT are allowed to work remotely, even from outside the U.S., during COVID-19 crisis

U.S. Visas
U.S. Embassies or Consulates have slowly resumed processing visas and a have slowly issued information about when they will resume visa processing.

For those of you who are still in the U.S. and have a visa that is either already expired or that will expire before the you plan to return to the U.S.:
  • Consider this fact if you may leave the U.S.
  • Remember that, as long as you follow all of the F-1 visa regulations and have a valid I-20, you are able to stay in the U.S. and maintain your F-1 student status with an expired visa.
For those of you who are already outside of the U.S. with an expired or expiring visa:
  • We assume that there will be a flood of requests now the decision has been announced to start processing visa applications again, so we recommend that you prepare your documents early and periodically check the website of the consulate or embassy where you apply for your visa so that you may submit your visa renewal application as soon as possible.
  • Please also carefully read any notifications they have posted about the process of applying for visas, as it is possible that they may make changes or accommodations due to the circumstances.
 
Contacting International Student Advisers