Questions and stress level remains the same for international students as affected by the Covid-19 closures in the USA. For many international students studying in US schools, universities and other academic institutions are not allowed to perform in-person classes. However, the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that foreign students will be able to take up classes online without affecting their VISA statuses.
But as the health crisis has forced universities to partially close their campuses, many questions remained unanswered. Recently the American Council on Education along with six major higher education associations wrote to the Secretary of State raising some pertinent questions. Among them one of the questions was whether there is a possibility to extend the status of the international students where visa statuses are going to expire but whose home countries are still under health-related travel advisories, making them unable to return home.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ for Incoming International Students
Below are some of the related FAQs for foreign students amid Covid-19
- How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected ISSS I-20/DS-2019 processing times?
ISSS will continue as it is but with a remote working option. Everything from filling to processing of the immigration documents (I-20s/DS-2019s) for upcoming foreign students. Current processing times will take approximately 3 weeks but may get extended because of the limitations of remote work. You can also check the status of your application once your application is processed and you will get a confirmation email with your SEVIS ID. The document will be shipped to you after the submission of the e-form online.
- If I decide to start my program remotely from home, should I apply for my visa now? Should I use my I-20 with the fall start date or wait to receive an I-20 with a spring start date?
If you are planning to get enrolled remotely from home for the fall semester, you need to postpone your visa appointment and wait till you get updated about I-20 with a spring start date. You are allowed to apply for a visa up to 120 days in advance of the program start date. The start date of the spring semester falls on January 13, 2021, so you need to plan accordingly for the visa after September 15, 2020. Your updated I-20 will contain the same SEVIS ID, so you don’t need to bother for the I-20 before making a new visa appointment.
- Will I encounter delays or difficulties getting a visa appointment?
Presently the Department of USA has temporarily halted the visa services globally and there seems a very limited visa appointment availability. However, chances are that this will change in future and the normal situation will prevail. You need to keep a check on your local consulate or embassy for further updates about the operating procedures.
- Will I encounter difficulties getting to the US?
The answer to this question is to understand which of the countries citizens are facing difficulties entering the USA. These restrictions are constantly evolving as the situation develops. Keep on a close watch to the CDC's webpage on travellers prohibited from entry into the USA for the latest guidelines. As of July 16, 2020, international students travelling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with the valid F1 and M1 visas have been granted an exemption under the Presidential Proclamations that suspended entry from there areas.
- What is the latest date I can arrive to start my program if I am delayed by visa issues and/or continuing travel restrictions?
You need to have a consultation with your academic school to determine the latest possible date you may arrive on campus to start your program.
- What if I decide to defer my program start and I have already applied for an I-20 or DS-2019?
If you make a decision of deferring your program start, you must confirm the deferral with your admitting school. Starting in July 2020, admitting schools will try to communicate with the ISSS of any students deferring.