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Office for International Services COVID-19 Updates

Director’s Notice to the Fordham International Community

Monday, August 24, 2020

Dear International Community,

Happy New (Academic) Year! I hope this note finds you healthy, safe and strong. Below, I will address six distinct audiences:

  • Active students returning to the United States for studies or experiential work;
  • Active students pursuing studies from abroad;
  • new students beginning studies with Fordham in the United States;
  • new students beginning studies with Fordham from abroad;
  • those who planned to begin studies with Fordham this fall, but decided to defer admission to the spring 2021;
  • and those who decided to take a gap year (or Term) or an Academic Leave of Absence.


Current Students - in the United States
(retained an ACTIVE SEVIS status in Spring or Summer 2020)

If you are currently in the United States, you only need to register for courses. Your course load may be comprised of: in-person, hybrid or virtual courses (or any combination of these categories). Please remain mindful of the completion date reflected on your current I-20.

For your information, Fordham University has published THE FORDHAM FORWARD RETURN-TO-CAMPUS GUIDE FOR STUDENTS.


Current Students - outside the United States

If you are abroad and plan to remain abroad during the Fall 2020 as you pursue a full time online program, simply contact us when you are ready to return to the United States for the Spring 2021 term. Your SEVIS status will remain ACTIVE through the Fall 2020 term. 


Initial/New Students - coming to the United States
(newly entering the US, never retained an active SEVIS record in Spring / Summer 2020)

The most important issue for your immediate attention is for you to check in online with OIS here. Please ensure that you are enrolled in at least one in person or hybrid course. If you still plan to begin classes within the United States but are having challenges obtaining a visa and/or flight arrangements, please keep close and constant contact with OIS and your Class Dean, Program Officer, Chair or Academic Mentor.


Initial/New Students – studying from abroad

For those students beginning the academic career with Fordham University from abroad, your F1 status will begin when you enter the United States. If you have already received an F1 visa using your “Fall 2020 I-20,” that F1 visa will remain valid when you enter the United States. for Spring 2021 studies. OIS will be required to update your SEVIS record prior to arrival in the United States for the Spring 2021 term and will issue a new I-20 to you. If you did not obtain an F1 visa, contact OIS so that we could re-issue a Spring 2021 I-20 for you.


Spring 2021 attendees

Those who have decided to defer admission to Spring 2021, ensure that you have notified and received confirmation for this change from your respective Fordham University Admission Office.


Pursuing a Gap year (or Term) or an Academic Leave of Absence

If you are an ACTIVE student, but have chosen to take an Academic Leave of Absence, please contact the appropriate Dean at your specific school within Fordham University.


OIS will continue to work remotely for the near term while monitoring your need for in-person assistance. The Office will shortly open an electronic process for you to request individual advisement sessions through Zoom or telephonically. In-person appointments will be available upon request. Requests for in-person service should be made well in advance. Given the requirements dictated by the public health crisis, unscheduled walk-in appointments will not be available and preference is for advisement appointments to take place via Zoom or by phone.

If I have not specifically addressed your situation, please do not hesitate to contact me (longarino@fordham.edu). You may reach other members of the OIS team at our personal email address or through our general office email of ois@fordham.edu. We are here to serve you. Welcome back!


Sincerely,

Salvatore C. Longarino
Director
Office for International Services
Fordham University

 

Past Notices

Monday, July 20, 2020

 

Dear International Community,

Since I last wrote to you: on July 6, 2020, ICE issued a Broadcast adversely affecting our F1s. Responding to strong and widespread advocacy against this Broadcast, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, the Trump Administration rescinded its policy as announced in ICE's Broadcast of July 6, 2020.  Even though SEVP issued new guidance on July 15, 2020, it still remains unclear because it was simply a republishing of March 2020 guidance not specifically addressing the Fall 2020 term. Therefore, I will update you as we receive further guidance.

Second, as of this day, Fordham University is planning to resume on-ground instruction at the beginning of Fall term 2020 through a flexible hybrid model, with provisions to reduce the density of living and learning spaces to ensure appropriate social distancing: https://www.fordham.edu/info/29768/fordham_forward

Today, Fr. McShane has given us the most recent update concerning these provisions here. Please reference the update in the following link: https://news.fordham.edu/university-news/fordham-forward-update-monday-july-20-2020/

Third, if you have confirmed a flight to return to the US, or have scheduled a visa appointment at a US Consulate, contact OIS so we could scan you a new I-20 reflecting a specialized annotation which will facilitate this process.

Fourth, if your SEVIS record is currently in ACTIVE STATUS and you believe you could not return or have decided not to, first contact your Dean’s Office. Between that office and OIS, we will extend further guidance whether you wish to pursue studies abroad or take a break from your studies. It appears that SEVP will allow you to keep your current SEVIS record if you enroll virtually abroad during the COVID-19 crisis.

Fifth, The State Department has recently posted notice and FAQ on their website on the phased resumption on routine visa services and updates regarding Presidential Proclamations: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/phased-resumption-routine-visa-services.html

The Department of State tweeted last week:

"US embassies and consulates are beginning the phased resumption of routine visa services. The dates for each embassy or consulate will depend on local conditions. We are unable to provide details for each location.

Please monitor the embassy or consulate website for updates."

See: https://twitter.com/TravelGov/status/1281961559753981952

Sixth, those who are completing your programs in August and still remain abroad – ICE and CIS are still considering options for you on how to submit an OPT application.

Seventh, I assume you constantly review our OIS FAQ website links, as we state for you to please check our COVID-19 FAQ page and COVID-19 Update page for the latest news and happenings affecting you, our international community. We plan to enhance the FAQ page through working closely with your respective School’s Deans and Officers, by introducing customized sections per school within the OIS COVID-19 site, so you could find specialized updates.

Finally, please keep in contact with OIS via our website and ois@fordham.edu, and with all other pertinent officials at Fordham University.  We are here to serve you.

 

Sincerely,

Salvatore C. Longarino
Director
Office for International Services
Fordham University

 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

 

Dear International Community,

I planned to write to you earlier, hoping that the U.S. Departments would present new information which I could share.  Alas, no such new substantive information on many important issues; however, allow me to update you on what currently is available.

In this notice, I will separate my comments into four sections: General, Initial Students, Current Students, and Alumni/OPT.

OIS is and will still be available to you and will respond to emails, process OPT applications filed within the U.S., retrieve and forward mail, and assist you with maintaining SEVIS status. 

GENERAL

Latest FAQ for SEVP Regarding COVID-19 as of June 4, 2020

There is no difference between the SEVP FAQ issued on May 14 and the most recent, June 4, except a new section was introduced “Developing Issues” in which, the Service stated in writing that “SEVP has not issued guidance to international students and schools for the Fall semester.”  The Service is working on that issue and many others, and stakeholders will be notified if and when new guidance is ready to be shared.

Travel Signatures

You should not be concerned about this issue.  First, as always, the issuance of a Form I-515 would rectify this situation when your endorsement is found stale upon your next entry to the U.S. Second, DHS/ICE/SEVP have recently loosened their regulation about scanning I-20s to you – if needed. Please be aware that CBP and the US State Department may or may not recognize or accept this process, hence why OIS continues to encourage the use and issuance of I-20 original documents whenever possible.

Visas

We are aware that all U.S. consulates have suspended their services, but our students are notifying us that some consulates are starting to accept visa appointments (please see the link below):

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/suspension-of-routine-visa-services.html

Presidential Proclamations and U.S. Entry Restrictions

Due to four Presidential Proclamations made between the end of January and mid-March, no foreign national can enter the U.S. if they were present in Iran, China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Schengen Area countries, Ireland and the United Kingdom within 14 days of requesting admission to the U.S.

On May 24, 2020, another Presidential Proclamation was issued, imposing the same restrictions on those seeking to enter the U.S. from Brazil. This Proclamation took effect on May 29, 2020. These travel restrictions remain in effect until terminated by the President.

Therefore, we still strongly recommend to remain in the U.S. if you could, and if you are currently in the U.S.

Shift to Distance Learning Model at Fordham University

I would reassure you that we do not anticipate any negative impact on your immigration status due to the shift to a distance learning model recently mandated by the University.  For the largest majority of our nonimmigrant population, your F and J SEVIS status will remain ACTIVE up to the beginning of the Fall 2020 term.  Your Deans will update you when our University decides about the details of instructions for Fall 2020 term.

Five Month Rule

To support this guidance, please be aware that SEVP clarifies that the "Five Month Rule" is not applicable during the COVID-19 Crisis.

It has stated: "Under current conditions, if an active F student leaves the United States to complete the Spring term online, their SEVIS record should remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status."

INITIALS - FIRST YEAR STUDENTS

Those students who will enroll in 100% virtual courses should not enter the U.S.

OIS continually issues original I-20s for the Fall term and may arrange to have such documents to be mailed to you wherever you might be.

CURRENT STUDENTS

Nothing to update except to restate best practices: please keep in contact with your Class Dean, Fordham University Website and OIS for any new information about returning to campus for the Fall 2020 term.

On June 8, 2020, New York City begins “reopening.” While this is a positive step towards resuming business, the reopening does not mean everything will immediately open back up – it just means that at this juncture, employees of construction jobs, wholesale, manufacturing, agriculture and retail companies (with safety procedures in place) can go back to work.

ALUMNI - OPT Pending

By this time, I expected I would be able to notify you that DHS, ICE, SEVP and CIS would have issued guidance for our students who have completed their studies in May, are abroad, are not able to return to the US, but would like to apply for OPT. Such guidance was not issued. I believe it is time to offer you some guidance in absence of any other:

OPT Application Review and Preparation

Filing within the U.S.:

If you are still in the U.S., completing your studies in May or August 2020, and wish to apply for OPT, we strongly encourage you to apply now.  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.

Filing outside the U.S.:

Based on the issues of this case, you are abroad and your completion date has been passed or will pass, I see there are three options for you to consider:

(1) Wait until our U.S. Federal Government offers more concise guidance on this matter. Below is the most recent guidance from SEVP:

Regarding the latest FAQ – Question: Filing an OPT from abroad?

Answer:  DHS is evaluating these issues and may issue additional guidance.  In the meantime, since USCIS adjudicates OPT employment authorization requests, SEVP recommends reaching out to USCIS for further guidance.

The above means that those who are currently maintaining ACTIVE status in SEVIS, those F1s might be allowed to file from abroad.  We will notify you immediately if we are notified.

(2) Being aware of all risks, attempt to enter the U.S. with an expired I-20. Then, if successful and given F1 D/S, contact OIS immediately to submit your OPT.

(3) Submit your OPT abroad, being aware that on the Form I-765, p.4, Part 3, states:

NOTE: Read the Penalties section of the Form I-765 Instructions before completing this section.  You must file Form I-765 while in the United States.

(Bold and size is my emphasis.)

We are here to guide you through any process you choose.

Since we have over 3,000 nonimmigrant students depending on our guidance, my entire staff is online everyday waiting for any new information on all these issues stated above.

Please keep in contact with OIS via our website and ois@fordham.edu, and with all other pertinent officials at Fordham University.  We are here to serve you.

 

Sincerely,

Salvatore C. Longarino
Director
Office for International Services
Fordham University

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

 

Dear International Community,

First, I hope I find you safe and well.  Allow me to update you on the following concerns as fluid circumstances continue.

OIS is and will still be available to you and will respond to emails, process OPT applications filed within the U.S., retrieve and forward mail, and assist you with  maintaining SEVIS status.

Highlights based on Latest FAQ for SEVP Regarding COVID-19 as of April 30, 2020

For Gabelli School – Graduate Division, F1 students could continue with Summer trimester under the suspension of the “virtual courses restriction.” This means that an F1 student could enroll 100% enrollment virtually, and continue to retain valid F1 status.

There is no guidance yet from the US Federal government regarding Fall 2020 term or trimester enrollment.

Travel Signatures

You should not be concerned about this issue.  First, as always, the issuance of a Form I-515 would rectify this situation when your endorsement is found stale upon your next entry to the U.S. Second, DHS/ICE/SEVP have recently loosened their regulation about scanning I-20s to you – if needed. Please be aware that CBP and the US State Department may or may not recognize or accept this process, hence why OIS continues to encourage the use and issuance of I-20 original documents whenever possible.

Visas

We are aware that all U.S. consulates have suspended their services, but our students are notifying us that some consulates are starting to accept visa appointments (please see the link below):

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/suspension-of-routine-visa-services.html

New Federal Government Actions

Presidential proclamations banning entry to the U.S. from certain nations are still in effect. Therefore, we still strongly recommend to remain in the U.S. if you could, and if you are currently in the U.S.

Forbes Magazine’s article, the letter to President Trump from four U.S. Senators reflecting their concerns about H1B and OPT, and President Trump’s current Executive Order all do not affect F or J nonimmigrants. We will remain vigilant regarding future repercussions.

OPT Application Review and Preparation

Filing within the U.S.:

If you are still in the U.S., completing your studies in May or August 2020, and wish to apply for OPT, we strongly encourage you to apply now.  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.

Filing outside the U.S.:

Regarding the latest FAQ – Question: Filing an OPT from abroad?

Answer:  DHS is evaluating these issues and may issue additional guidance.  In the meantime, since USCIS adjudicates OPT employment authorization requests, SEVP recommends reaching out to USCIS for further guidance.

The above means that those who are currently maintaining ACTIVE status in SEVIS, those F1s might be allowed to file from abroad.  We will notify you immediately if we are notified.

Shift to Distance Learning Model at Fordham University

I would reassure you that we do not anticipate any negative impact on your immigration status due to the shift to a distance learning model recently mandated by the University.  For the largest majority of our nonimmigrant population, your F and J SEVIS status will remain ACTIVE up to the beginning of the Fall 2020 term.  Your Deans will update you when our University decides about the details of instructions for Fall 2020 term.

Five Month Rule

To support this guidance, please be aware that SEVP clarifies that the "Five Month Rule" is not applicable during the COVID-19 Crisis.

It has stated: "Under current conditions, if an active F student leaves the United States to complete the Spring term online, their SEVIS record should remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status."

Miscellaneous

Beware of scams or false “official announcements” found on the web, especially the most recent false information about filing for special applications based on financial hardship caused by COVID-19.

Upcoming Town Halls regarding COVID-19 for International Community:

  • GSAS, Thursday, May 14th @ 3:00pm EST
  • Gabelli School, Undergraduate Division: Monday, May 18th @ 10:00am EST

NAFSA continues to advocate for the following. Their letter specifically asks DHS to:

  • Publish a Special Student Relief notice in the Federal Register.
  • Accept and adjudicate benefit requests that are filed outside filing windows and deadlines or otherwise at variance with regulatory deadlines or form instructions, including waiving the optional practical training (OPT) filing windows established by 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(B)(2) and allowing F-1 and M-1 students to apply for OPT while they are physically present outside the United States.
  • Allow F, M, and J nonimmigrants to enter or reenter the United States based on their Initial or Active SEVIS record, without the need for a paper Form I-20 or DS-2019 or travel signature.
  • Develop a written policy to provide that DHS will consider a student, scholar, or dependent to have continuously maintained his or her F, M, or J nonimmigrant status for purposes of future eligibility for immigration benefits and otherwise, where a school or exchange visitor program properly maintains the student, exchange visitor, or dependent's SEVIS record in Active SEVIS status under a COVID-19 adaptation, regardless of the individual's physical location being abroad or within the United States.
  • Provide for flexibility in school reporting requirements.
  • Disable any date-based automatic SEVIS actions during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Not count time spent unemployed during the COVID-19 emergency towards the post-completion OPT and STEM OPT unemployment limits.
  • Make clear that DHS's goal is the health and well-being of all involved.

Finally, please keep in contact with OIS via our website and ois@fordham.edu, and with all other pertinent officials at Fordham University.  We are here to serve you.

 

Sincerely,

Salvatore C. Longarino
Director
Office for International Services
Fordham University

 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

 

Dear International Community,

First, I hope I find you safe and well.  Below please find updates on questions OIS has been receiving on how the pandemic may impact you.

Travel Signatures

Please do not be concerned about this issue.  Should your endorsement be found to be stale upon your next entry to the U.S., the issuance of a Form I-515 would rectify this situation.

OPT Application Review and Preparation

If you are still in the U.S. completing your studies in May 2020 and wish to apply for OPT, we strongly encourage you to apply now.  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.

Shift to a Distance Learning Model

I do not anticipate any negative impact on your immigration status due to the shift to a distance learning model recently mandated by the University.  For the large majority of our nonimmigrant population, your F and J SEVIS status will remain ACTIVE up to the beginning of the Fall 2020 term.

To support this guidance, please be aware that SEVP clarifies that the "Five Month Rule" will not be applicable during the COVID-19 crisis. It has stated:

"Under current conditions, if an active F student leaves the United States to complete the spring term online, their SEVIS record should remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status."

U.S. Consulate Closures

We are aware that all U.S. consulates have suspended services. We are monitoring this situation closely. Please see the link below for more information.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/suspension-of-routine-visa-services.html

Beware of Scams

Beware of scams or false “official announcements” found on the internet, especially the most recent false information about filing for a special application based on financial hardship caused by COVID-19. If you have any questions about your visa status, please reach out to OIS.

DSOs are working for you!!!

OIS staff are advocating for you. Please read the news below.  We will notify you of any developments on these matters as they become available:

  • Special Student Relief notice was published in the Federal Register.
  • Accept and adjudicate benefit requests that are filed outside filing windows and deadlines or otherwise at variance with regulatory deadlines or form instructions, including waiving the optional practical training (OPT) filing windows established by 8 CFR 214.2(f)(11)(i)(B)(2) and allowing F-1 students to apply for OPT while they are physically present outside the United States.
  • Allow F and J nonimmigrants to enter or reenter the United States based on their Initial or Active SEVIS record, without the need for a paper Form I-20 or DS-2019 or travel signature.
  • Develop a written policy to request that DHS consider a student, scholar, or dependent to have continuously maintained his or her F or J nonimmigrant status for purposes of future eligibility for immigration benefits and otherwise, where a school or exchange visitor program properly maintains the student, exchange visitor, or dependent's SEVIS record in Active SEVIS status under a COVID-19 adaptation, regardless of the individual's physical location being abroad or within the United States.
  • Provide for flexibility in school reporting requirements.
  • Disable any date-based automatic SEVIS actions during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Not count time spent unemployed during the COVID-19 emergency towards the post- completion OPT and STEM OPT unemployment limits.
  • Make clear that DHS's goal is the health and well-being of all involved.

Finally, please keep in contact with OIS via our website, at ois@fordham.edu, and all other pertinent officials at Fordham University.  We are here to serve you.


Sincerely,

Salvatore C. Longarino
Director
Office for International Services
Fordham University

 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

 

Dear Members of Fordham University’s International Community,  

As a follow-up to Fr. McShane’s message on March 13th in which he announced the suspension of face-to-face instruction on all of Fordham’s New York campuses for the remainder of the semester, we write to provide you with an update on the continuity of services offered through the Office for International Services (OIS). Please note, we remain available to serve you.

In-Person Advising

Effective immediately, all in-person advising is suspended and will be provided instead through telephonic appointments. In order to make an appointment, please visit the OIS’ Contact Us page. Once you book a teleconference slot, we will contact you with further details.

Document Pick-Up

If you have applied for an updated I-20 or DS-2019, or need to pick up your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card during the week of Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20, you may do so following the schedule below.

  • Lincoln Center Office: Monday or Wednesday between 10am-4pm
  • Rose Hill Office: Monday or Wednesday between 10am-4pm

If you prefer to receive your documents by mail, please let us know this upon receipt of a notice to collect your document. After Friday, March 20, all documents will be sent by mail.

Travel Signatures

You may visit OIS offices during the specific dates/times noted above if you require a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019.

OPT Application Review and Preparation

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.

Shift to Distance Learning Model in NYC

We want to assure you that we do not anticipate any negative impact on your immigration status due to the shift to a distance learning model recently mandated by the University.

Implications and Risks if You Choose to Leave the U.S.

Should you decide to leave New York to return to your home country and plan to return to New York when in person instruction resumes, please be aware of the following implications and risks:

  • There are, and might be further, bans for reentry into the U.S. for all non-immigrants.
  • Your plan to return to the U.S. could be significantly delayed if you need to renew your visa as result of long delays in getting visa appointments at various U.S. consulates.
  • You may risk losing your current active SEVIS record status if you are unable to return for the Fall 2020 term.
  • In order to be eligible for CPT and OPT:
    • You must be lawfully enrolled for two consecutive terms.
    • If you have fewer than two semesters remaining, you would no longer be able to apply for OPT or CPT.
    • At this juncture, it is unclear whether DHS will allow students to submit an OPT application abroad. However, current regulations and processes maintain that an F-1 student must be present in the U.S. upon the submission of their OPT/STEM Extension application.
    • If you are completing your program in May 2020, and you are entertaining the thought of leaving the U.S., we strongly recommend that you apply for your OPT and submit your application to USCIS while in the U.S. before you leave.
  • If you do leave the U.S. and successfully re-enter the country, the University may require you to self-isolate for 14 days and you may not be permitted to come back to classes until after the 14 days of quarantine expires. Please keep your Class Dean or Program Officer, University Health Services and OIS informed of your travel plans.
  • For all Fordham housing-related inquiries, please write to resliferh@fordham.edu.

The most up-to-date information on the University's novel coronavirus response can be found here. Please feel free to reach out to us at ois@fordham.edu for questions or concerns on your visa status.


Sincerely,

Salvatore C. Longarino
Director
Office for International Services
Fordham University