Frequently Asked Questions: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Updated July 9, 2020
Questions below address general concerns related to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, such as travel issues and questions related to remote learning.
Immigration regulations and policies are subject to change and may change rapidly without much advance notice. Students should routinely review our FAQs, the university’s Coronavirus Information page, as well as read all university emails sent to their Andrew account.
With CMU operating in hybrid mode this fall semester, will I be able to keep my F-1/J-1 status? How will this affect my future OPT/CPT/AT eligibility?
Please review our Fall Semester SEVP Guidance for Continuing F-1 Students FAQ page, where we have outlined in detail the various questions, including this one, that continuing students have regarding the new SEVP guidance for fall 2020.
Where can I find information about the current travel bans in place?
I am a continuing student/scholar in F-1 or J-1 status. Will the 4/22/2020 Executive Order suspending entry of immigrants to the US apply to me?
No, this order will not apply to you.
The Executive Order signed by President Trump on April 22, 2020, and effective April 23, 2020, prohibits people who are outside the US from obtaining an immigrant visa and entering the US as immigrants (permanent residents) for a 60-day period.
This order DOES NOT apply to people who are in the US or to people seeking to obtain a non-immigrant (F, J, H, E, O) visa or to people who are outside the US who are seeking to enter or re-enter the US in a non-immigrant status.
This order also DOES NOT apply to current US permanent residents who are seeking to re-enter the US, to people inside the US who are applying for permanent residence, to people who are spouses or minor children of US citizens seeking to enter as immigrants, or to several other categories of people seeking admission as immigrants (permanent residents).
Do I need to leave the U.S. during this period or what will happen if my home is outside the U.S.?
International students in F-1 or J-1 status can remain in the U.S. during the summer period. Additionally, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. if your visa sticker expires as long as the program completion date on your I-20 or DS-2019 is in the future or you are a recent graduate on pending or approved post-completion OPT or Academic Training.
Students who are considering leaving the U.S. should carefully consider international travel plans as access to remote courses may be limited.
Students who elect to leave the U.S. 1) may not be able to re-enter at the time they wish to return, 2) may lose eligibility for future immigration benefits if stuck outside the U.S., 3) may find visa processing to be delayed or unavailable due to continuing health and safety concerns at many U.S. Consulates and 4) may be unable to be employed by CMU this summer.
Students in F-1 or J-1 status should consult their OIE advisor prior to traveling to discuss potential impacts with respect to their specific immigration situation.
Do I need a travel signature if I decide to leave the U.S.?
Students/scholars do not need an OIE travel signature to depart the U.S., only to re-enter the U.S. A valid passport with a valid visa sticker along with a valid I-20/DS-2019 will be required to re-enter the U.S at the time you are returning to campus.
You do NOT need a signature prior to departing the U.S. and due to CMU's remote operations, OIE is not currently providing travel signatures on I-20s/DS-2019s for students/scholars who are departing the U.S. It is possible for OIE to issue a new document for re-entry, for thse people who need a travel signature and will be outside the U.S. for a short trip. If that is your situation, email firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the details of your travel plans.
If you have traveled, check the travel signature on your I-20/DS-2019 prior to your return to the U.S. For continuing students/scholars, the signature must be less than 12 months old at the time of your re-entry.
Contact OIE 2-4 weeks prior to your expected return for instructions about the process for obtaining a travel signature/new document to re-enter the U.S. The situation is continuing to change and we will update our FAQs as processes evolve.
NOTE: domestric travel, within the U.S., does NOT require a travel signature.
If I am planning to leave the U.S. and my visa sticker is valid and my I-20/DS-2019 was signed in August 2019 (or since then), do I need to report to OIE or stop by the OIE office?
No, you do not need to stop at the OIE office to report your departure or obtain any immigration documents. Students who are considering leaving the U.S. should carefully consider international travel plans, though, as access to remote courses may be limited. Additionally, with a rapidly evolving global situation, students who elect to leave the U.S. may not be able to re-enter at the time they wish to return, which could impact future immigration benefits. Students in F-1 or J-1 status should consult their OIE advisor prior to traveling to discuss potential impacts with respect to their specific immigration situation.
Moving forward, however, OIE will collaborate with other offices to determine the best way to collect this information at a later date.
If I leave my current on or off campus residence and relocate to a new U.S. address, do I need to report it within 10 days? Where do I report? What if I left the U.S. and will not be returning until the fall semester?
Current students need to report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government, within 10 days. Please follow the regular address reporting process by updating your address in SIO. If you are currently outside the U.S., please make sure that your latest U.S. address is listed in your SIO account. Do NOT change it to your overseas address.
Students in a period of approved OPT or STEM OPT should continue to report address changes in the SEVP portal.
I have completed my program and I’m not applying for OPT/Academic Training. What options do I have if I want to leave the U.S. before I’m in violation of my F-1/J-1 status, but there are no flights from the U.S. to my home country?
Please schedule an appointment with your OIE advisor by calling the OIE front desk at 412-268-5231. You may be able to apply for a change of status to a visitor’s status, but we will need to look into every case individually.
Please note that USCIS instructions to apply for immigration status extension (“COVID-19 Delays in Extension/Change of Status Filings”) do not apply to students in F-1 or J-1 status.
If an international student has been in their home country since spring semester and does not come back to the U.S. until fall semester, can they maintain F-1 student visa status? Does the 5 month rule applies to them?
International students who chose to return to their home country (or other non-U.S. location), are able to retain their current F-1 status provided they remained enrolled full-time and participated in their courses remotely and return to the U.S. for their next academic semester (fall 2020 for most students). The 5 month temporary absence provision does not apply to the students who meet the above requirement. Students who were not able to remain enrolled, who dropped classes and/or who remained outside the U.S. more than 5 months without being enrolled, may need to obtain a new I-20 and should consult with their OIE advisor.
If a student leaves the U.S. for a period of 5 months or more, will their I-20 be terminated or inactivated?
F-1 students who are enrolled full-time and participating in their courses with school authorization are allowed to study remotely and retain their status. F-1 students are also allowed to have temporary absences from the U.S. As long as students remain fully enrolled this semester and return for fall 2020, they will be able to retain their current F-1 status.
What will happen if students leave the U.S. and then cannot obtain visa appointments or receive their visas before the fall semester? Should students stay in the U.S. if they need visas?
OIE recommends that students (from all countries) consider international travel plans carefully as travel bans/restrictions may be in place at the time they want to return to the U.S. Visa processing may be delayed or unavailable due to health and safety concerns at many U.S. Consulates.
If I’m allowed to enroll remotely for the fall semester and I’m not able to return to the U.S. (I’m taking classes in the fall from my home country), will this affect my F-1 status? What about my future OPT/CPT eligibility?
Once we have any new guidance from SEVP, we will add it to these COVID-19 FAQs.