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F1 and J1 Frequently Asked Questions during the COVID-19 Global Crisis

Immigration Status Questions 

How does switching to online instruction affect my immigration status?

No, 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 international students may take full-time courses online either from within the US or from abroad. This means that to maintain your immigration status you need to participate in online learning, continue to be enrolled full-time, and make normal progress toward your degree. Regardless of where you are participating in online classes, your immigration status will remain active.

If I vacate my current on or off campus residence and relocate to a new U.S. address, do I need to report it within 10 days? Where do I report?

Yes, you need to report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government and to International Programs and Services, within 10 days.  You can send an e-mail with your new address to [email protected].

Travel and Visa Questions 

Will the five-month rule apply to my visa if I go back home and stay away from Benedictine 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 5-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.?

During these unprecedented times it is impossible to predict how the current crisis will affect travel to and from the United States.  Restrictions can be put into place by U.S. government agencies 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 by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). As of March 18, 2020 routine U.S. visa issuance has been suspended worldwide and daily restrictions on travel are being implemented.  The staff members in International Programs and Services are carefully monitoring updates from the CDC, SEVP, USCIS, and the US Department of State.

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.

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

If you will be travelling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands, please read here to see if you can benefit from automatic revalidation.

OPT Questions 

The following questions are aimed to address your concerns regarding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the logistics of applying for OPT and OPT processing by USCIS.

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.  International Programs and Services will continue to process OPT applications. If you have not applied for OPT yet, but plan to do so, we strongly encourage you to make an appointment with an international student adviser by e-mail [email protected].  You can find details about the OPT application process on our website.

Per university guidance IPS has temporarily suspended in-person advising. We can set up a virtual appointment where we can answer your questions and review documentation digitally.

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.

The official recommendation from International Programs and Services is to stay within the United States while your OPT application is being processed.

Will the temporary closure of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices and suspension of USCIS in-person services affect my OPT application?

As of March 18thUSCIS temporarily closed its domestic field offices and suspended routine in-person services to help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. OPT applications are adjudicated at the USCIS Service Centers (specifically at the Potomac Service Center in VA) and not at the 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 this recent closure of USCIS field offices.

Other Employment Questions (F-1 CPT, H1B) 

Can I apply for CPT (Curricular Practical Training) for my summer internship from outside the U.S.?

Yes, at this time, if you are eligible for CPT, International Programs and Services will continue to process your request as normal until we hear otherwise. Please e-mail [email protected] to set up a CPT appointment with an international student adviser.

My employer registered me for H-1B lottery. Can I leave the U.S. now?

If your employer has already registered you for the H-1B lottery, please consult your employer and their immigration counsel before you make any international travel plans.

Post-Graduation Questions 

I will graduate in May 2020, and my plan was to return to my home country. After I graduate, I would prefer to stay in the United States for now. What are my options?

You have three options:

  1. Remain in the U.S. and apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) (for F-1 students) or Academic Training (for J-1 students).
  2. Remain in the U.S. during the grace period after your program end date (which you can find on your I-20 or DS-2019). The grace period is 60 days for F-1 students and 30 days for J-1 students.
  3. Pursue another degree in the United States and transfer (if eligible) your SEVIS record to another institution.
  4. Change to another nonimmigrant classification