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Guidance for F-1 International Students under COVID-19 (1/5/2021)

 

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.

 

International Student Services Spring 2021 Operational Updates

ISS staff will be alternating presence in the office for EAD/Social Security documents pick up only by appointment. To schedule an appointment please send an email to ISSS@fau.edu. All other requests will continue to be online. 

This includes all (except the EAD/Social Security document pick-up by appointment) requests for I-20, OPT/CPT applications, travel signatures, letters of support, RCLs etc.

Virtual appointments with students and walk-in hours will continue to be provided remotely. To make an appointment with ISS staff member please send an email to ISSS@fau.edu. Our virtual walk-in hours will continue on the following days:

We will also continue our virtual events (coffee hours, Q&A sessions for new students, and more) and we will let you know about it through email, social media, and announcements on our web page www.fau.edu/international

 

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 who have not yet entered the U.S. should check with the 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 spring 2021 from the home country.
  • 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 directives from the documents listed below:

 

On July 14, 2020, 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)

 

Travel in Spring 2021

For students who intend to enter the US for the fall 2020 (new and continuing)

  • Deadline to enter is no later than August 22, 2020, with possible approvals for late arrival up to August 28, 2020. - Before you arrive, please contact ISS office (isss@fau.edu) to let us know about your arrival date by submitting your returning ticket here: Travel Request E-form
  • Upon your arrival please upload your most recent I-94 form within the first 7 days of arrival I-94 Request E-form
  • Students coming from another country are required to stay in quarantine for 14 days before they come to the campus (for those of you who are enrolled in any hybrid/in-person courses). If you are entering the U.S. just before or on August 22 (semester starting date), you will be able to take any of your remote/in-person classes fully online for the period of the 14 days. Please contact your course instructor directly to let them know that you are in a quarantine. (students who live on housing received separate email regarding instructions for on-campus quarantine)

During the fall 2020 term, we encourage you to carefully consider your travel outside the U.S. Given COVID-19 and worldwide travel restrictions

If you need to travel during the fall term and need a travel signature, the SEVP guidance for fall continues to allow the electronic signatures on the I-20 documents. Please send 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.

Please remember, if your visa has, or is about to expire, you don’t need to leave the country to renew it. As long as your I-20 is valid and you are enrolled full time and following all other requirements to maintain your status, you can renew your visa whenever you will plan to travel outside of the U.S. next time. Visa is needed just to be able to enter the U.S.

 

Important links:

International Travel Advisory – U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs

CDC Travel Restriction List: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html

Interactive Travel Regulations Map from IATA (International Air Transport Association)

 Last Modified 1/6/21