ICE Guidance Regarding Fall 2020
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) under Immigration and Customs Enforcement rescinded its July 6th guidance on July 14, 2020 in a court settlement in the Harvard/MIT litigation. On July 24, 2020 SEVP issued clarifying guidance for Fall 2020. We have updated our FAQ incorporating this guidance. Click on the description area to jump to that section.
Continuing students in the U.S. may take all online courses for Fall 2020 and still maintain your F-1 nonimmigrant status. No in-person course will be required to maintain your F-1 nonimmigrant status.
Yes, we have received clarification from SEVP that no in-person course will be required for continuing students and that continuing students may take an entirely online course load in Fall 2020.
No. If you are in a hybrid or in-person course and it moves to online only it will not negatively impact your immigration status.
F/J students are still expected to enroll on a full-time basis unless they qualify and are approved for a Reduced Course Load. However, if you are approved for a Reduced Course Load, you may enroll less than full-time and all of your courses may be online; no in-person course will be required. This is true regardless of the type of RCL you may be approved for (medical, final semester, academic difficulty, etc.).
We do not recommend that you do this. Keep in mind, the purpose of the student visa is to allow you to come to campus, and engage with your campus community. In recent years we have seen very difficult requests for evidence from USCIS in their adjudication of OPT and change of status to H-1B applications asking students to prove they were a bona fide student in cases where the student was not residing near the school in which they were enrolled. As a reminder, students are required to report the address where they are living in the U.S. to OIS and OIS is required to report this information in SEVIS, so this information is recorded in SEVIS. OIS’s official recommendation is to protect your immigration status by complying with the spirit of the law which expects a student will be residing near the location of the school they are attending. Whatever you decide about where you will reside, make sure you have reported the address in MyPack using the SEVIS Local address type within 10 days of changing your residence. If you have specific questions related to this, please contact your OIS advisor.
It may be possible for you to engage in remote CPT from here in the Triangle area. However for reasons explained above, we have seen very difficult requests for evidence from USCIS in their adjudication of OPT and change of status applications to H-1B asking students to prove they were a bona fide student in cases where the student was not residing near the school in which they were enrolled. This is particularly true of students who were engaged in CPT in locations far from their campus location. As a reminder, F-1 students are expected to be students first, and recommend students adhere to the spirit of the regulations expecting a close proximity to campus. If you have specific questions related to this, please contact your OIS advisor.
NC State University is unable to offer remotely-delivered educational services to any international graduate students who are currently or normally resident in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Crimea (a region of Ukraine occupied by Russia) due to export control regulations. All other students may enroll full-time in online courses from outside the U.S. However, below are some factors to take into consideration:
- SEVIS Record and the “5 month rule”: The “5 month rule” refers to the interruption of a student’s F-1 status due to the student being outside of the United States for more than five months. However, under the SEVP guidance, as long as you remain enrolled full-time, your SEVIS record can remain active even if you are enrolled from abroad and in all online courses. Furthermore, the guidance also states that “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.” As such, we expect the 5 month rule to be waived for students who continue to engage in classes online while abroad with an active SEVIS record. If you are currently abroad or go abroad, we recommend you consult your OIS advisor prior to being abroad for more than 5 months so we can give you the most up to date information at that time.
- GSSP for graduate students: As long as your SEVIS record remains active and fully-enrolled, you are still eligible to receive and engage in your GSSP/assistantship (provided you are a continuing student and already have a U.S. bank account and direct deposit set up).
- Technology. Will you be able to access all the resources you need to participate in remote classes? This includes Moodle, WebAssign, Zoom, and Google Apps such as Docs, Slides, and Hangouts. You will want to consider your ability to respond to communication from instructors in a timely fashion and submit required assignments from your home country.
- Visa Validity and Travel Restrictions: Many U.S. embassies and consulates have modified or suspended their visa services. Additionally, there are currently indefinite entry restrictions for noncitizens traveling to the U.S. from certain locations. We do not know when these will be lifted or if other locations will be added. Therefore, it is important to consider whether your visa will be expired or you may be subject to entry restrictions at the time of your anticipated return prior to making any travel plans as there may be some uncertainty as to when you can return to the U.S.. If you want to discuss your plans with an advisor, please contact your OIS advisor before making your decision.
- Return to the U.S.: If you want to and are able to travel back to the U.S. mid-semester, we recommend you reach out to us several weeks in advance of your anticipated travel date so we can advise on appropriate documentation to carry with you while traveling.
- Graduating in Fall 2020 and Optional Practical Training (OPT) Eligibility: OPT is a type of off-campus employment authorization in one’s field of study typically utilized after degree completion. You cannot apply for OPT from abroad. You must be inside the U.S. with a SEVIS record that has been active for at least 1 academic year in order to be eligible to apply for OPT. If you plan to complete your degree in Fall 2020 but also plan to enroll in Fall 2020 full-time from outside the U.S., your SEVIS record will remain active, but you would need to re-enter the U.S. prior to your I-20 end date in order to be eligible to apply for OPT. If for any reason you are unable to return to the U.S. prior to your I-20 end date, you forfeit your ability to apply for OPT.
NC State University is unable to offer remotely-delivered educational services to any international graduate students who are currently or normally resident in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Crimea (a region of Ukraine occupied by Russia) due to export control regulations. All other students may enroll full-time in online courses from outside the U.S. However, below are some immigration and other factors to take into consideration:
- SEVIS Record: If you only enroll part-time, your SEVIS record will be closed (unless you are approved through the Reduced Course Load process to enroll less than full-time). If you do not want your SEVIS record closed for an enrollment violation, you must communicate with us your plans to enroll only part-time by submitting a departure form which will allow us to close your record for Authorized Early Withdrawal, which is a procedural termination reason rather than a violation of status.
- GSSP for graduate students: GSSP appointments require full-time enrollment per Graduate School policy.
- Health Insurance: If you notify us that you are outside the U.S. and we can confirm that, then you do not have to maintain the university-required health insurance. The exception will be processed as an administrative waiver by Student Health rather than as a hard waiver through the Student Blue website. Once we have more details about the steps to complete to receive this administrative waiver, we will provide an update here.
- Return to the U.S.: If you want to and are able to travel back to the U.S. you would need to obtain a new SEVIS record and I-20. The I-20 program start date would correspond to the start date of Spring 2021 and you would be able to re-enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to that date, but no earlier. The start date for I-20s for Spring 2021 is still being determined but we expect it to be mid- to late-January.
- Practical Training (CPT or OPT) Eligibility: Enrolling part-time would require us to close your SEVIS record. To be eligible for CPT or OPT, you would have to complete a new academic year in the U.S. before being eligible for either benefit. If you are trying to preserve your eligibility to participate in CPT or OPT in Summer 2021, we recommend you maintain full-time enrollment in Fall 2020 so that we can keep your record active.
For students planning to return in-person for the Fall semester, please keep in mind the following criteria must be met in order for you to come to the U.S.:
- You have an unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport (or have a Canadian passport)
- You have an I-20 with a travel signature within the past year, or an I-20 and a travel letter. J-1 students do NOT need an updated DS-2019 as long as you have a valid travel signature
- **Please submit the OIS Travel Request to request an I-20 with travel signature.** OIS will process your new I-20, prioritizing imminent travel dates, and will email you an electronic copy of the new I-20 when it is ready. Per SEVP guidance, an I-20 issued electronically during the COVID-19 pandemic is the valid, original document. F-1 students on OPT do not need this updated I-20 but should pay attention to the date of your last travel signature (valid for six months only; read more on our FAQ for travel on OPT).
- You are not travelling from or through a country with Covid-19 related travel restrictions
If you encounter difficulties at the border, call +1.919.515.2961 during regular office hours (Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm EDT). If an emergency occurs outside of these hours, contact NC State’s University Police at 1.919.515.3000 in order to get in touch with an OIS staff member.
NC State follows the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines regarding travel. The CDC recommends all travelers (whether you are traveling within or outside the U.S.) follow enhanced precautions after returning from travel. Information about how to protect yourself and others through taking enhanced precautions is available on the CDC’s website here and here.
Initial students cannot be enrolled entirely in online courses during the Fall 2020 semester and so must take at least one in-person course.
As long as you have already entered with the required in-person course, your status is protected. If the university later moves to remote learning, your F-1 status will not be impacted and you may remain in the U.S.
In the unlikely event the university were to change its plan to remote learning before the semester begins, the guidance states you should not enter, and we would need to defer your I-20 to a later term.
Yes. If you have confirmed that your local consulate or embassy is accepting appointments and you can get one prior to the start of the semester, please request an updated I-20 from the Undergraduate or Graduate Admissions offices. We also recommend you print a copy of your course registration in the MyPack Portal for use at your visa appointment and at the port of entry to the U.S.
NC State University is unable to offer remotely-delivered educational services to any international graduate students who are currently or normally resident in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Crimea (a region of Ukraine occupied by Russia) due to export control regulations. All other students may enroll full-time or part-time in online courses from outside the U.S. However, during this time you would not have an active SEVIS record and you would not be accruing time towards eligibility for practical training benefits (CPT, OPT). Also, you would not be eligible for a GSSP/assistantship.
In order to give yourself the best chance to succeed academically, we always recommend that you arrive prior to the start of the academic term (for Fall 2020, that is August 10th). If this is not possible, then you can arrive up to a week after the start of the semester.
Although the University recognizes that many of you are returning from countries with lower rates of COVID-19 infection than the U.S., NC State follows the Centers for Disease Control guidelines regarding international travel, and as such expects returning international students to stay home for a 14-day period. You should not participate in in-person classes, research, or in campus activities until the quarantine period is over. Those residing off campus can complete this quarantine period in your off-campus apartment. Those who will live on-campus should follow Housing’s guidelines for self-quarantine.
According to the CDC, during this period you should take steps to monitor your health and practice strict social distancing.
- Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever. Also watch for cough or trouble breathing. Use this temperature log to monitor your temperature.
- Stay home and avoid contact with others. Do not go to work or school.
- Do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares.
- Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).
- If you become symptomatic, please contact Student Health for instructions on obtaining a COVID-19 test on campus. Check the Protect the Pack page for additional guidance.