COVID-19 & International Students FAQ
How does switching to online instruction affect my immigration status?
We know that you may be worried about how the recent decision to offer courses online, and the concern about where you will be when participating in online learning, will affect your immigration status. U.S. universities received guidance from the Department of Homeland Security that allows students to continue this semester’s courses online without jeopardizing their 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 international students may take full-time courses online either while in the US or 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, within 10 days. Same goes if you decide to continue your term abroad and remain in active status. Please report all changes to ISSO
Will the five-month rule apply to my visa if I go back home and stay away from Cooper Union 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 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 are enrolled in spring and plan to register in fall, you will maintain your immigration status, thus the 5-month rule does not come into effect.
Will I be able to come back to the U.S.?
As you all 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 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. ISSO is carefully monitoring updates from the CDC, SEVP, USCIS, and the US Department of State, and from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the leading professional organization dedicated to international education and exchange, providing comprehensive and up-to-date information relevant to travel, consulates, and visa.
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 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.)
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. 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.
I applied for U.S. Permanent Residency. Can I leave the country now?
If you applied to become Lawful permanent resident (LPR) status in the United States, consult an immigration attorney regarding international travel, leaving the country is generally not recommended while status is pending.
I still need to apply for OPT. Can I do this remotely from a different state 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. ISSO will continue to process OPT applications as soon as they are received. However, if you have not applied for OPT yet, but plan to do so, I strongly encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible. As you might be aware, per our President Laura Spark’s email on March 18, 2020, Cooper Union temporarily suspended in-person advising until the end of the Spring Term. This means that we will not be able to arrange an in-person review of your OPT materials, but will instead process your new I-20 recommendation for OPT and then communicate with you regarding next steps including any possible revisions you need to make, how to compile your complete OPT package, and mailing options. If needed, you will also be able to schedule a virtual OPT review with your PDSO, Hala Alkasm through Teams or Zoom. Ms. Alkasm will coordinate a virtual review after the processing of your new I-20 with OPT/STEM recommendation.
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 a factor to consider and in these extraordinary times it remains an important consideration. In the best case scenario, if your application process progresses smoothly, your EAD (Employment Authorization Document) is delivered to a valid U.S. address, and someone arranges for your EAD to be sent to you, then you may be able to enter the U.S. with your travel documents with less of a risk.
Will the suspension of U.S. visa issuance (announced on March 18th) affect the processing of OPT?
U.S. visa issuance and OPT adjudication are undertaken by different agencies and are not directly related: A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States 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 (DoS) 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 (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As a result, U.S. visa issuance and OPT adjudication are undertaken by different agencies and are not directly related. So, the announcement on March 18th by the Department of State regarding 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.
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, ISSO will continue to process your request as usual until we hear otherwise. Please refer to our answer above regarding your ability to travel back to the U.S. if you are currently outside the U.S. or plan to leave soon.
My employer registered me for the 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. ISSO legally, cannot answer travel related questions regarding your H-1B petition sponsored by your employer.
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 four options:
- Remain in the U.S. and apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- 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 after your program end date.
- Pursue another degree in the United States and request an extension through ISSO or transfer (if eligible) your SEVIS record to another institution.
- Change to another nonimmigrant classification (for example H-1B or O-1Visa).