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SEVP Guidance for F-1 Students

The information provided below takes into account the most recent regulatory guidance, FAU academic and student policies, and FAU reopening plans. This information is subject to change, and it does not exhaust all questions and concerns. International students and other stakeholders should seek clarification from International Student Services (isss@fau.edu) if they have further questions.

Updated July 30, 2020

Newly admitted international students:

  • International students with an initial SEVIS I-20 who are able to secure F-1 visas and flights to the U.S. may enter the U.S. if the student’s schedule is not 100% online. Students must take at least one course that is not fully online and has an in-person component.
  • International students with a transfer SEVIS I-20 or a change of level SEVIS I-20 must contact ISS directly for guidance on re-entry to the U.S.
  • Students should check with the U.S. embassies in their countries regarding consular reopening, visa appointment, and flight availability. They must request an updated I-20 and support letter from ISS indicating that their program of study will not be fully online.
  • International students should enter the U.S. no later than August 22, 2020, with possible approvals for late arrival up to August 28, 2020. Students who expect visa and travel delays beyond this date are encouraged to defer their entry to the U.S. until the January 2020 semester.
  • Newly admitted international students who are unable or choose not to enter the U.S. for the fall 2020 start may enroll fully online from their home country. They will have to request ISS to defer their I-20 documents to spring 2020. While full-time enrollment is not required for immigration purposes in this case (because students are not in F-1 status until they make an entry to the U.S.), students should be aware that full-time enrollment may be a requirement for their specific academic program. Students who choose to enroll less than full-time (12 credits – undergraduate and 9 credits – graduate) must confirm with their academic departments that they are allowed to do so.
  • Students who are unable or choose not to enter the U.S. for fall 2020 and do not wish to enroll fully online must request a deferral of both their academic program and their I-20 to spring 2020.
  • Students who defer their I-20 to spring 2020 will not be able to enter the U.S. during the fall 2020 session even if they enroll online. The earliest entry date will be 30 days prior to the session start date.

Continuing international students:

  • Continuing international students with active SEVIS records who are in the U.S. will be able to enroll fully online
  • International students who begin their semester in a hybrid (online and in-person) program may remain in the U.S. and continue their studies if the University is forced to move full online during the semester
  • Continuing international students who are outside of the U.S. are unable or choose not to re-enter the U.S. for the fall 2020 semester may enroll full-time and maintain their SEVIS records active

International Graduate Assistants:

The International Student Services (ISS) office does not oversee tax and payroll issues, and therefore cannot answer all questions related to limitations on employment for individuals who are outside of the U.S. In an effort to assist international GAs with questions regarding employment eligibility, we prepared the information below based on what we know at this time:

  • International Graduate Assistants (new and returning) must be in the U.S., or must be able to enter the U.S. and report to FAU in order to begin their work assignment for fall 2020. Reporting to FAU will be completed virtually.
  • International GAs should arrive no later than August 22, 2020. The student’s academic arrival and ISS will review and approve late arrivals on a case-by-case basis.
  • Newly admitted international students who are outside of the U.S. cannot receive employment because they are unable to process their social security number and employment verification forms (an entry in the U.S. is required before these processes take place).
  • Due to tax implications, it appears that returning GAs who are outside of the U.S. and who cannot return by the start of the semester may not be able to resume employment. We are seeking additional input from other University departments, and will notify students if this information changes.
  • The Graduate College will provide tuition waivers to GAs who remain outside of the U.S., on a case-by-case basis. Students may reach out to their academic departments to discuss the option of beginning the program online and receiving the tuition waiver for fall 2020 from the home country. Departments must be able to hold the position until the student’s arrival, or defer the program start date and the financial support packet to spring 2021.
  • Students from Iran who are outside of the U.S. may not be eligible to receive tuition waivers due to export control policies.

Background

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program that administers the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). SEVP provides guidance to SEVIS-approved schools pertaining to F-1 non-immigrant visa holders in the U.S. between March 9, 2020 and July 24, 2020, SEVP issued several policy directive and guidance documents regarding F-1 non-immigrant visa holders impacted by COVID-19.

Schools are following the following documents:

  • Policy Directive issued on March 9, 2020 and the March 13, 2020 Addendum
  • SEVP COVID-19 FAQ (republished March 2020 guidance)
  • July 24, 2020 broadcast message and FAQ

The July 6, 2020 SEVP guidance & July 7, 2020 FAQ were rescinded on July 14, 2020 and are no longer applicable.

Resources:

NAFSA SEVP COVID-19 Guidance Sources

https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/sevp-covid-19-guidance-sources

ICE Guidance on COVID-19

https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus

Contacts:

Edyta Klimczak, Director of International Student Services (eklimcza@fau.edu)

Jennifer Szekeres, Assistant Director of International Student Services (jszekere@fau.edu)

Current Information Regarding COVID-19 and Resources

To all international students on F and J visas (including F and J, IEI, and GSSP)

  1. Temporary guidelines regarding international services while taking courses remotely
  • All students must make advising appointments via phone or skype at this time.
  • Any non-urgent services will need to wait until further notice. These will include: extension of I-20, CPT requests, any letter requests – SSN, DMV, good standing or graduation invitation etc. 
  • OPT requests: if you are graduating this spring 2020 and have not yet applied for OPT, please do so immediately. At the time of uncertainty we are encouraging you to apply and to submit your completed package electronically to ISSS@fau.edu email. We will be reviewing OPT packets as they come and issuing the OPT I-20s. We will provide further instructions regarding the next steps of your OPT application process after the new OPT I-20 is issued. 
  • Travel Signatures:
    • We encourage you to carefully consider your travel outside the U.S. Given worldwide travel restrictions, you may not be able to immediately re-enter the U.S.
    • Due to COVID-19, and upon update from SEVP allowing the issuance of travel signatures electronically ; students who are missing travel signatures on their I-20 will be able to send a request to ISSS@FAU.EDU with the following information in the subject: REQUEST FOR TRAVEL SIGNATURE, Z#..., Student's Name. Our team will print the 2nd page from the system, sign it, scan it, and send it via email back to you. Students will receive, in addition, a support letter issued by ISS which they will need to present to the CBP officials along with the electronically signed I-20 form. 

      For more information please check the U.S. ICE website : https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2020/COVID-19FAQ.pdf pg. 3 regarding I-20 electronic signatures. You can print out this page for additional support when you present your I-20 at the port of entry. 

    • If you already left the country without obtaining your travel signature, please send us an email to  isss@fau.edu  for further instructions.
  1. ISS updates/recommendations regarding travel/visa/status based on SEVP guidance  
  • If you are in the United States, it is recommended not to travel internationally and continue to study remotely while checking frequently FAU current updates and watching out for any updates coming from the International Student Services office
  • If you are outside of the United States please let us know immediately via:  http://bit.ly/fauisstravel . You should be aware of the following:
    • SEVP confirmed that as long as you continue taking courses remotely you will remain in active status in SEVIS.
    • This temporary provision is only in effect for the duration of the emergency time and is subject to change at any time
    • SEVP will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and will adjust this guidance as needed.
    • Please check this page periodically to learn about the most up to date guidance from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement: https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus
  • If you are outside of the United States and planning on coming back during summer (t he remote learning has been extended till further notice)  please check the FAU website for most current updates: https://www.fau.edu/coronavirus/
  • Travel may not be possible at this point, please check below information/websites for the updates

Stay strong and healthy through these uncertain times! 

 Truly yours, 

FAU International Student Services

Important Links: 

  1. FAU Update on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  2. International Travel Advisory – U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs
  3. CDC Travel Restriction List: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html
  4. US Embassies, Consulates and Diplomatic Missions: https://www.usembassy.gov/
  5. SEVP COVID-19 Guidance Resources and Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/sevp-covid-19-guidance-sources

Important Travel Advisory

While we strive to provide updated, factual information to the University community, we cannot provide legal advice or otherwise interpret the law. Individuals seeking legal advice should consult the immigration attorney of their choice.

Additional resources:

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs

NAFSA, Association of International Educators Advisory

 

Travel Abroad and Re-entry Information
For F and J visa Holders


Required Documents to Re-Enter the U.S.

REQUIRED:

  • Valid Passport - valid at least 6 months from the reentry date
  • Valid F-1 visa or J-1 visa in the passport
    • If F-1 visa is expired, you will need to renew it at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate (preferably in your home country) before returning to the U.S.
  • Valid I-20 with travel signature on page 2 (signature must be obtained within the last 12 months for currently enrolled students and within the last 6 months for post-completion OPT or 17-month OPT extension)

Or

  • Valid DS-2019 with travel signature on page 1 (signature must be obtained within the last 12 months for students enrolled in a program of study and within 6 months for students on OPT/STEM OPT)

RECOMMENDED (have these documents available in case they are requested):

  • Proof of enrollment (Official Transcripts)
  • Information on any medications you are carrying with you during your travel

Travel During OPT:

An F-1 who travels outside the U.S. while engaged in post-completion OPT can be readmitted to resume employment for the remainder of the period authorized on the EAD card. To reenter, student must present EAD card, in addition to Form 1-20 (endorsed by DSO within preceding 6 months) and valid passport and visa. A letter of employment is recommended.

Additional guidelines:

  • Students currently enrolled who are on pre-completion OPT or are in their final term of study and pending OPT authorization must follow the guidelines for currently enrolled students.
  • Students who completed their program of study and who received their OPT cards must present the REQUIRED documents above along with their EAD card and (strongly recommended) proof of employment or employment offer.
  • Students with pending OPT applications are advised to wait until their OPT cards are approved before planning to travel abroad, and should consult with ISSS before leaving the U.S.

General Travel Tips

  • Before leaving the U.S., make sure that your I-20 reflects your current academic plan (major/program of study) and the funding sources listed on the I-20 are still accurate. If changes need to be made on the I-20 or DS-2019, you must request an updated I-20 from ISSS at least five business days prior to your departure date.
  • If you are traveling to or through an airport in a country other than your home country, check to see if you need a special visa to do so.
  • When passing through U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), make sure that your passport is correctly stamped F-1, D/S or J-1, D/S (for dependents, F-2, D/S and J-2, D/S). This will be the only proof that you entered the U.S. in the correct visa status.
  • Let ISSS know immediately if you are having difficulties during your visa renewal or when entering the U.S. (at CBP).
  • After returning to the U.S., please bring a copy of your new I-94 (you can print this at www.cbp.gov/I94) to ISSS along with copies of renewed visa or passport (if applicable).
  • Make sure that your I-20 reflects the academic plan (major/program of study) that you are pursuing. If you officially change your academic plan, you will need to be issued a new I-20 stating the new academic plan.
  • Always check the program completion date on your I-20 (under item #5) or DS-2019 (under item #. If the completion date is coming up and you will not be completing your program by that date, visit ISSS for information on Program Extension.
  • If you are a Graduate Teaching or Research Assistant, please inform your department of your plans to travel abroad and expected return date. Make sure that your department is aware of your return date, especially in the case when you must apply for a visa renewal and you anticipate delays in visa processing.

Visa Renewal

If your F-1 or J-1 visa expires while you are in the U.S. or if you changed to F-1 or J-1 status from another nonimmigrant status, you must obtain a new F-1 or J-1 visa the next time you travel abroad in order to reenter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status. Visa application information can be found at http://travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_4401.html. For specific application procedures, visit the website of the consular post where you plan to renew your visa.


Automatic Visa Revalidation

F and J visa holders who have previously obtained an F or J visa at a U.S. consular post abroad, but whose visa validity period has expired, may travel for a visit of 30 days or less to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands in the Caribbean (except Cuba) without having to obtain a new visa prior to reentering the U.S. For complete information visit this web page:

http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/automatic-revalidation.html

A valid passport with the previously issued visa, a valid I-20 or DS-2019, and a valid travel signature (issued within the last 12 months) are still required for re-entry to the U.S. Similarly, F-1 visa holders on OPT must follow OPT travel guidelines.

If you choose to apply for an F or a J visa in Canada or any other country covered by automatic revalidation, you must obtain that new visa in order to return to the U.S. Automatic revalidation does not apply if you seek to renew your visa in that country. T


Travel during special circumstances:

Transfer: If you have maintained F-1 status and are transferring to FAU from another institution, you may travel before you start your program. However, you will need to re-enter the U.S. using your new FAU I-20 for the new degree program. You may use your existing F-1 visa if it is still valid on the day of entry. Your new I-20 will say either transfer pending (if coming from another institution) or initial (if changing degree levels between FAU programs, such as from bachelor’s to master’s). You do not need a travel signature on page 3 as you are returning to the U.S. to begin a new program.

Optional Practical Training: An individual in F-1 status who travels outside the U.S. while engaged in post-completion OPT  may leave and re-enter the U.S. to resume employment for the remainder of the period authorized on the EAD card. To re-enter, you must present EAD card, in addition to Form 1-20 (endorsed by DSO within preceding 6 months) and valid passport and visa. A letter of employment is recommended.

Academic Training (AT): prior to traveling on AT, a J-1 status individual will need to travel with the following documents:

  • A valid passport with valid J-1 visa stamp the day of entry
  • Form DS-2019, endorsed by FAU International Office within the preceding 6 months
  • Proof of employment (or employment offer), usually in the form of a letter from your employer on official letterhead business stationary.

Pending Change of Status Application: Travel during this time is not recommended, as it will be viewed as abandoning your status.

Approved Change of Status: You may travel with the required documents; however, you must obtain a visa for your new status prior to reentering the U.S.

Students Traveling Abroad to Restart F-1 status:

If you are currently out-of-status and plan to travel abroad, you must to meet with an ISSS advisor for appropriate immigration advising.

You must obtain a new I-20 issued for “Initial Attendance” under a new SEVIS number (record) even if you may have a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport.

If restarting during a summer semester (summer term entry date on I-20), you are required to enroll full-time for the summer semester (minimum of 12 credit hours for undergraduate students; minimum of 6 credit hours for graduate students).

Upon reentry, you must report to ISSS with your passport, new I-94 record, and I-20 in order for ISSS to document and confirm restart of your F-1 status.


Cruises

Taking a cruise is considered exiting the U.S., so you must travel with all your valid travel documents. If you take a cruise during the grace period, please note that you will be unable to reenter as an F-1 or J-1.

Alerts and Travel Notices

FAU is closely monitoring the Ebola situation and complying with recommendations from the Florida Dept. of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has issued Travel Health Notices informing travelers to avoid nonessential travel to the following countries:

Liberia Guinea Sierra Leone

Florida Atlantic University is committed to supporting the comprehensive efforts underway to help contain and end the Ebola virus disease outbreak in parts of West Africa.  The CDC has issued guidance on steps universities can take to help support those efforts.  The following is an excerpt from information provided by the CDC.  For additional information, visit: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/advice-for-colleges-universities-and-students-about-ebola-in-west-africaand also the Florida Department of Health at: http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/ebola/index.html


Grace Period

Following completion of program, an F-1 student may remain in the U.S. for up to 60 days and a J-1 may remain in the U.S. for up to 30 days. During this time, you cannot exit and reenter, take classes, or continue employment.

During the 60 day grace period, F-1’s may:

  • Prepare to depart the U.S.
  • Travel within the U.S.
  • Obtain new I-20 for a new degree level for a program beginning within 5 months of completion of previous program of study
  • Transfer out to another school
  • Apply for Post Completion OPT

During the 30 day grace period, J-1’s may:

  • Prepare to depart the U.S.
  • Travel within the U.S.
  • Begin academic training (if authorized)

Additional Resources

US Department of Homeland Security: Travel FAQ - http://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel/faq_f.htm

Department of State -www.travel.state.gov

Print I-94 - www.cbp.gov/I94

SEVP COVID-19 Guidance Resources and Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/sevp-covid-19-guidance-sources

 Last Modified 7/30/20