1. I am planning to leave, or have already left the United States and do not expect to return until next semester. What will happen to my F1 status if I do so?
Your SEVIS record will remain in ACTIVE status up until the beginning of the Fall 2020 term.
2. I have read in articles and/or my friends told me that I am trouble because I am now 100% online and/or I will be away from the U.S. for over 5 months. Would I be in violation of my F1/J1 status as a result?
As we have advised you in the FAQ, Question 1: Your F1 will remain in ACTIVE status until the beginning of the Fall 2020 term. Only the OIS and SEVP could terminate your record.
3. I need to apply for OPT, but I am outside the United States, am I able to apply remotely from where I am now?
No. You must be present in the U.S. at the time of the submission of your OPT application. Our professional association NAFSA is currently advocating this issue. However, we must advise based on current circumstances. The Form I-765 itself states that the student must file the I-765 Form from within the U.S. (Form I-765, Part 3: Applicant Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification, and Signature).
4. Will the OIS continue to provide service for international students while operating remotely?
Yes, all staff members of the OIS will continue to serve your needs remotely to the best of their ability. A number of our processes have changed however, some of which are detailed in this FAQ, and others can be found by referring to our website.
5. How does the OIS’ response to the COVID19 health crisis affect my ability to make appointments?
Effective immediately, all in-person advising is suspended and will be provided instead through electronic/remote methods. If you have a special need or concern, please send your concern or query as listed on the OIS’ Contact Us page. Once you do, we will contact you with further details to address your case.
6. How will I retrieve my documents from the OIS if the office is operating remotely?
After March 18, 2020, you will no longer be able to retrieve documents in person from the OIS offices. In the event that you request a document be mailed to you, or are expecting a document based on notification from our office, it will be shipped to you through UPS upon your shipment request order. We will send you further instructions on how to receive your documents once the item is ready for shipment.
7. How can I submit documents to the OIS now that the office has gone “remote”?
The best and easiest ways to submit documents securely to the OIS is through email or through the appropriate document submission portal. The OIS will address your submission on a case by case basis and work with you to determine the best method of submission.
8. I need to apply for OPT or STEM OPT, am I still able to do that? (If you are presently outside of the U.S., please refer to Question 3.)
Effectively immediately and until further notice, all OPT and STEM Extension applications must be filed remotely. You will find instructions and to access the appropriate application for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM Extension on our website.
9. If I am able to return to the United States, what challenges might I face upon reentry?
This is a fluid time; the most current up-to-date advice regarding this question can be found in the Director’s Notice, dated March 14, 2020.
10. How can I obtain a new travel signature if the office is operating remotely?
You do not need an endorsement or any other item from OIS in order to depart the United States. We will advise you in the future about your return.
11. My situation is that my D/S is expiring soon (i.e. completion date for your studies in SEVIS or end date of OPT + 60 days) and I bought many flight tickets to return home. They are all canceled by the flight company due to the coronavirus. What should I do to avoid being in the U.S. unlawfully?
First, continually contact your Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. – many nations are arranging special flights.
Second, with guidance from a reputable immigration attorney, you could file a change of status from F1 to B2 tourist.
Lastly, as you consider options above and as U.S. academic institutions await for additional guidance from the SEVP or Dept. Homeland Security regarding possible overstays due to travel restrictions - we recommend you keep good records of your intent to depart, such as flight schedules and/or any correspondence with airlines and ticketing agents. We also strongly recommend NOT to contact immigration offices for guidance on your individual case but to keep in touch with OIS for specific advisement on your case.
12. In my personal research on immigration regulations and policies, I just found that I could file an extension of stay as an F1. Will you help me to file my Form I-539? For your reference, this is where I found this information; it looks official: https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/covid-19-delays-extensionchange-status-filings
Yes, this is official:
Apply for an Extension. Most nonimmigrants can mitigate the immigration consequences of COVID-19 by timely filing an application for extension of stay (EOS) or change in status (COS).
However, if you read this “alert” carefully, you read “most nonimmigrants”-- but not ALL -- J1s and F1s could not. We recommend that F/J nonimmigrants (when the regulations allow) to file a change of status, not this “frivolous” application for an extension. In either case, we strongly recommend to obtain guidance from a reputable immigration attorney regarding filing a change of status or an extension via an I-539.