UF is committed to supporting you during this global health crisis. The global COVID-19 situation is dynamic and quickly changing, and so is the guidance on how to minimize its impact on international students. Since we are in an environment of evolving information, please make sure to regularly check the immigration webpage for important information and updates.
Below are answers to some immigration related questions. We will keep updating this page with new information or guidance as they become available. If you have other questions and concerns, please email the Int'l Admissions & Immigration office at [email protected]. We will continue to compile all the questions and provide answers here.
Q: How does switching to all online courses affect my immigration status?
U.S. colleges and universities received guidance from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which allows students to continue their Spring 2020 semester courses online without jeopardizing their immigration status. The Student and Visitor Exchange Program (SEVP) has confirmed that “If a school closes temporarily but offers online instruction or another alternative learning procedure, nonimmigrant students should participate in online or other alternate learning procedures and remain in active status in SEVIS.” SEVP also confirmed that international students may take full-time courses online for this semester, either from the U.S. or from abroad. You need to be enrolled full-time, participate in your online courses, and make normal progress toward your degree in order to maintain your immigration status. If you continue to do these things, your SEVIS record and I-20 will remain in active status, regardless of where you are participating in online classes.
Q: If I move to a new U.S. address, even temporarily due to isolation measures, do I need to report it within 10 days? How do I report it?
Yes, you need to report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government, within 10 days of the change. Please go to the address update form
for updating your address. Please remember that your “current” address needs to remain a U.S. address, even if you have returned home for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester.
Q: I have departed the U.S., or plan to leave soon, but I do not have a valid travel signature on my I-20/DS-2019. What should I do?
F-1 students who wish to depart the U.S. and need a new valid travel signature may call the Int’l Admissions & Immigration office at 419-434-4558 to set up a time to come to the office. You will also need to submit the travel form
Q: Will the five-month rule apply to me if I return home for the Spring 2020 semester and do not return to UF until the Fall semester?
Under normal circumstances, if an international student were to remain outside of the U.S. for five or more months, they would need a new initial I-20 in order to resume their studies at UF. This is known as the five-month rule.
If you are maintaining full-time status until the end of the Spring 2020 semester (see above for more information about online courses), then you are entitled to your annual vacation period this summer. According to the immigration regulations, an F-1 student is in status during the annual (or summer) vacation if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term. If you maintain your immigration status by continuing to be enrolled full-time in online courses for Spring 2020, then the five-month rule will not apply to you, according to a recent statement from SEVP. Remember that you must return to campus to maintain your immigration status when in-person classes resume.
Q: I have left the U.S. for the remainder of the Winter 2020 semester. Will I be able to come back to the U.S.?
The current global situation is so fluid, it is impossible to predict whether further restrictions will be put in place by the U.S. government for travelers returning from high risk countries, or if international travel to the U.S. will be restricted due to the situation in the U.S.
You will need to check the travel and visa restrictions that may be in place at the time you are planning to return to the U.S. since the situation is changing daily. If you are currently outside the U.S. or plan to travel outside the U.S., we recommend that you continue to monitor the travel updates by the CDC
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The Int’l Admissions & Immigration office is continually monitoring updates from the CDC, SEVP, USCIS, and Department of State, and will update our website and communicate changes to students as we receive new information.
Q: My visa has expired, or will expire before I plan to return to the U.S. If I leave the U.S. now, will I need a new visa, or can I re-enter on an expired visa?
If you leave or have left the U.S. and your visa will expire by the date you wish to re-enter the U.S., then you will need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.) The U.S. Department of State announced in March 2020 that routine U.S. visa issuance has been suspended indefinitely worldwide.
Q: My visa is expiring, and I am currently unable to travel to my home country. What should I do?
Your visa has no impact on your immigration status in the U.S. You may stay in the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa as long as you maintain your immigration status by being in possession of a valid I-20 and by fulfilling the normal enrollment requirements by maintaining your enrollment as all courses have moved to online only for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.)
Q: I have an on-campus job. May I continue that work remotely from my home in the U.S.? May I continue that work remotely from my home country?
Yes, SEVP has issued special guidance confirming that if the current on-campus employment has transitioned to remote work or the employment can be done through remote means, students may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely.
Q: I need to apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training). Can I do this from elsewhere in the U.S.? Can I do it from outside the U.S.?
You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you submit your OPT application to USCIS. The Int’l Admissions & Immigration office will continue to process OPT requests as we receive them. If you have not applied for OPT yet, but plan to do so, we strongly encourage you to review the OPT application information
on our site and contact the Asst. Director of Immigration as soon as possible.
Q: Can I leave the U.S. and return home after I mail my OPT application to USCIS? Will I be allowed to re-enter the U.S. to start working once my application is approved?
Yes, you can leave the U.S. when an OPT application is pending with USCIS, but there has always been an element of risk in doing so. The basic risk factor is that if you receive correspondence from USCIS in the mail, such as a Request for Evidence (RFE), you would not be there to respond. This has always been true, and in these extraordinary times, it remains so.
In the best-case scenario, if your application is approved without any issues, your EAD will be delivered to a valid U.S. address. USCIS will not send your EAD to an address outside the U.S. You will need to arrange for someone to send you the EAD which you should have with you when you re-enter the U.S. Please be aware that you are still considered to be an F-1 student while on OPT, and you will need to have all your valid travel documents with you when you re-enter the U.S. Please refer to our answer above regarding your ability to travel back to the U.S. if you plan to leave soon.
Q: Will the current suspension of U.S. visa issuance affect the processing of OPT?
All visas are issued by the U.S. Department of State. Optional Practical Training (OPT), on the other hand, is adjudicated by USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), which is an agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The temporary suspension of U.S. visa issuance worldwide will not affect the adjudication of your OPT application. As of this date, USCIS continues to process OPT applications.
Q: Will the temporary closure of USCIS field offices and suspension of USCIS in-person services affect my OPT application?
In March 2020, USCIS temporarily closed its domestic field offices
and has suspended routine in-person services until at least June 3 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve direct contact with the public. OPT applications are adjudicated at the USCIS Service Centers, not at the field offices, and USCIS has not closed any service centers. In addition, OPT adjudications do not involve any contact with the public. For these reasons, we do not anticipate your OPT application being affected by this recent closure of USCIS field offices. However, OPT processing times typically do increase for students completing their studies at the end of Spring 2020. This is due to the large increase in OPT applications because most international students in the U.S. complete their studies in April and May each year.
Q: I completed my program requirements at the end of Spring 2020. After graduation, what are my options?
You have a number of options below.
- Remain in the U.S. and apply for Optional Practical Training (for F-1 students)
- Pursue another degree at another institution in the United States and transfer your SEVIS record to the new institution.
- Pursue another degree at UF. Send an email to [email protected] with your request to apply for a new degree.
- Change to another immigration status.
- Leave the U.S. and return home or travel to another country. You may remain in the U.S. during your grace period after your program end date / last day of your Spring 2020 classes. The grace period for F-1 students is 60 days.