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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 Jan. 26, 2021, all passengers traveling to the U.S. must show evidence of having tested negative for COVID-19 within the past 3 days or show evidence of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding their flights. See the CDC announcement here. It is recommended that you contact your airline for details about the type of test they require from you before boarding.
  • When you arrive on campus, you will also need to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test from the past 10 days before being permitted to check into your dorm or evidence of completed vaccination. More details here.
  • We are aware that President Biden has extended travel bans due to new strains of COVID-19 for individuals who have been in the UK/Ireland, Schengen area, China, Iran, Brazil and South Africa within the past 14 days effective as of Jan. 26, 2021 for all except South Africa, which goes into effect on Jan. 30. The national interest exception for F-1 students from the UK/Ireland and Schengen area that was issued on Oct. 1, 2020 still applies. We will update you as soon as we have this information. You can check this page for any pertinent updates. 

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: 
The previous guidelines published by SEVP on July 6, 2020 have been rescinded and we have reverted to the guidance provided in March 2020. These guidelines have been extended to Spring 2021. There may be further clarifications for grey areas, but for the moment, returning students who are studying remotely will be able to preserve their active SEVIS status. For new students are beginning their courses online from their home country, they will need to defer their SEVIS start dates until Fall 2021 (please be sure to contact our office at internationalstudentadviser@earlham.edu to let us know that you will be starting online so we can update your I-20).
  • If you choose to take a leave of absence, your SEVIS record will be terminated and you will need to obtain a new one when you are approved to return to campus in person.

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
 
*All funded internships are cancelled for summer 2020 and only remote internships will be supported with funding in fall 2020 and January term 2021. This includes both in and outside of the U.S. This has been extended to Spring.
 
Taxes
Sprintax Webinars Spring 2021
Sprintax has set up a series of tax webinars across the season and you can find the details and registration links below for each (these are all in EST). You can register for the date and time that suits you best via the details below:
The informational webinars will cover the same topics on each occasion:
  • An overview of tax for nonresident students and scholars
  • Who must file a 2020 US tax return
  • What income forms students/scholars may receive
  • Forms that need to be completed and sent to the IRS
  • We cover terms like FICA, ITIN and Form 1098-T
  • What happens if students don’t file, or misfile
  • State tax returns
  • IRS stimulus payments
  • Sprintax overview 
Letters about Missing Documents:
  • If you receive a letter from the IRS about missing tax documents, simply reply with the requested items. 
Deadlines:
  • The deadline for filing and paying both Federal and Indiana taxes is April 15th. If you did not file your taxes by then, you may be subject to additional charges if you owed money.
Mailing Taxes:
  • While the Earlham post office is closed to students, you can mail your tax documents from the Richmond post office at 400 N. A Street (within walking distance from campus). To comply with social distancing advice, we strongly recommend that you wait until after the statewide "shelter in place" policy (see below) has been lifted to mail your tax forms.
Stimulus Checks:
  • We have heard some reports through our networks of the IRS sending out stimulus checks or making stimulus payments by direct deposit to international students in error because these students may have improperly filed their taxes as Residents for Tax Purposes using the 1040 or 1040EZ tax form rather than the 1040-NR or 1040-NR EZ, which are specifically for Nonresident Aliens. International students who have been in the U.S. for 5 years generally convert to 'Residents for Tax Purposes' (determined by the Substantial Presence Test, which Sprintax will calculate for you) and would qualify for these stimulus payments if they were a Resident for Tax Purposes by the previous tax year.  However, if you had not reached that 5 year mark in 2018 or 2019, and if you had not been informed by Sprintax of a change in your tax filing status when you attempted to file your taxes nor by your employer, then you may have received this payment in error.  
  • If you or someone you know has received this payment in error, there are two very important things that must occur.
    1. DO NOT spend the money. RETURN the money as soon as possible to avoid the accrual of interest*. Use the information on this IRS webpage to find out how to return the money.
    2. File an amended tax return as soon as possible for whichever year(s) you filed incorrectly. Click here for some guidance on filing an amended return.
*It is important to note that if the Nonresident Alien does not immediately return the erroneously received stimulus payment, he or she may be subject to interest accrued until the payment is returned.  Also, until such time as the incorrectly filed federal income tax return is amended to submit the correct federal income tax return, the Nonresident Alien is subject to a filing penalty and/or loss of any otherwise applicable deductions or allowances, including income tax treaty exemptions. It is important to note that failure to file a correct federal income tax return and/or filing a fraudulent federal income tax return are violations of U.S. tax law and may potentially impact current or future immigration status.

If you have questions, feel free to reach out to us with your concerns or questions.

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 this 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.
Trump's Executive Orders on Immigration:
  • On April 22nd, 2020, former presidentTrump signed an executive order regarding immigration. Read the details here. Currently, the order does NOT affect F-1 students. 
  • On April 24, 2020, former president Trump signed an executive order barring the entry of individuals who had been in several countries including the UK and Schengen area within the 14 days prior to their attempt to enter the U.S. The State Department has allowed exemptions for students traveling to the U.S. from these areas. In Fall 2020, a national interest exception was granted. 
Travel Restriction Updates
For worldwide updates on travel restrictions, check out this resource: https://www.fragomen.com/about/news/immigration-update-coronavirus

 
Contacting International Student Advisers