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International Programs

COVID-19 Updates & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


International Students and Scholars is committed to supporting you during this COVID-19 pandemic. In observance of California Governor’s “Stay At Home” Executive Order, International Students and Scholars (ISS) is operating remotely and have modified delivery of some services. We are closely monitoring the developments of this pandemic situation and its impact on international students and scholars. This is created to help answer some frequently asked questions and provide additional resources. Please frequently check this ISS COVID-19 FAQ webpage for updates as this global health crisis is rapidly evolving.

ISS Services While Operating Remotely

ISS Advising: International Student Advisors are available for virtual or Zoom appointments. To schedule an appointment, please go to https://international.fullerton.edu/students/advising/

Please note that ISS’ SEVIS document production services (I-20s/DS-2019s) and processing times are severely impacted by the Executive Order. ISS is severely limited in the number of staff allowed to be on-campus to print and ship out immigration documents.

We are currently accepting all requests, but we are prioritizing requests that are time-sensitive (i.e., OPT, STEM OPT Extensions, extensions of I-20s, or other requests requiring immediate action). Due to high volume and limited resources, processing times have increased. ISS is unable to respond to inquiries about the status of the below listed services/requested received. As we are working remotely, we are unable to accommodate rush requests. Please do not send multiple emails or submissions for the same request. This only adds to our volume and further delays processing of email/request.

Processing times listed below are subject to change without notice, especially during peak request periods.
Requests/emails that are either incomplete or requiring additional follow-up will further extend processing times.

TYPE OF SERVICE/REQUEST PROCESSING TIME FRAMES
(does not include time frame for shipping of I-20 or other documents from ISS^)
Release of ISS Holds related to health insurance 5 business days* after ISS confirms payment
Letter Requests
Travel Signature Request
Concurrent Enrollment Requests
Reduced Course Load Requests
Leave of Absence Requests
Program Extension Requests
10 business days*
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT Employer Updates
STEM OPT Extension Requests
STEM OPT Employer Updates
STEM OPT Validation Reporting
15 business days*

*Business days are Mondays through Fridays, except CSUF holidays. Processing of requests and emails received after business hours begin on next business day. In other words, if you submit your request/email after 5:00 PM (California Time) on a Friday, then processing will count and begin on the following Monday.

At this time, we are only mailing out documents via FedEx Express Mail, UPS, or DHL, which students need to set-up in advance: https://international.fullerton.edu/students/express-mail/

Although SEVP (Student & Exchange Visitor Program) made some allowance for emailing of electronic copies of I-20s, it is unclear whether other government agencies like USCIS (for OPT or STEM OPT Extensions) or Customs & Border Protection (for travel and re-entry) will accept electronic copies of I-20s. As such, ISS will continue to print I-20s and ship out Express Shipping. Outgoing shipments will occur on Thursday and Friday (subject to change without notice).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Current CSUF Students

Here are some frequently asked questions pertaining to maintenance of F1/J1 immigration status during the COVID-19 pandemic, based on available guidance from Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), US Department of State, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As situations related to the COVID19 crisis change and more guidance become available, this document will be updated. Please continue to check your CSUF email for campus and ISS updates.

Travel

ISS does not recommend travel due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions for certain foreign nationals, and temporary suspension of visa services in most US Embassies. If you choose to depart the U.S., please be prepared for delays and possible inability to re-enter the U.S.

ISS does not recommend travel within the U.S. due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Various parts of the U.S. have travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders. Please refer to CDC: COVID-19 Cases in the U.S. If you choose to travel within the U.S., please seriously consider your health and safety. Be sure to follow the recommendations provided by Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

No. While Cal State Fullerton is taking precautionary measures and providing virtual instruction mode for all students, F1 and J1 students can remain in the US if they choose to do so. Students should check the expiration date on their Form I-20 (for F1 students) or Form DS-2019 (for J1 students).

No. Please submit the online Travel Signature Request prior to departure. A new I-20 or DS-2019 will be printed, signed, and shipped to your address. Since ISS is operating remotely and does not have easy access to regular US mail services, we strongly recommend setting up Express Shipping.

A visa is valid until its expiration date. You are not required to apply for a new visa if it has not yet expired or been revoked.

F-1 Visa Holders: If you are unable to depart the U.S. before the end of your Grace Period, you should take action to extend your F-1 status by receiving admission to another SEVP certified School and transferring your SEVIS record or apply for OPT. Please consult with an ISS Advisor regarding procedures and eligibility. Additionally, we encourage you to also contact your home country’s local consulate or embassy in the U.S. for support and information regarding travel home.

As of May 5, 2020

Things to Consider Study Remotely While In US Study Remotely from Outside US
I-20 Expiring between May 22, 2020 – August 2020

Submit to ISS an online Program Extension Request to have your Form I-20 extended.

Note to sponsored students: Make sure your Financial Guarantee is up to date.

Set up Express Mail to receive extended I-20.

Submit to ISS an online Program Extension Request to have your Form I-20 extended in case you need to return to US for Fall 2020 studies at CSUF.

Note to sponsored students: Make sure your Financial Guarantee is up to date.

Set up Express Mail to receive extended I-20.

Travel Signature on Form I-20

As long as your I-20 is not expired, you do not need to worry about this.

Submit an online Travel Signature Request to ISS.
Set up Express Shipping. ISS will reprint your I-20 and provide travel signature.

Note: You do not need to have the I-20 before you leave the U.S.

Visa Expiration

You can remain in US as long you maintain full course of study for Spring 2020. Summer enrollment is optional unless you are graduating in Summer 2020.

If your visa has expired, you will need to apply for visa renewal before returning to US.

Note: As of March 20, 2020, in response to global challenges posed by COVID19 pandemic, US State Department have temporarily suspended all routine visa services and appointments. It is unknown when US Embassies will open visa services.

Check for following webpages for timely updates: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html
https://www.usembassy.gov/

Graduating Spring 2020 or Summer 2020

As long as you complete all your graduation requirements, you will be able to graduate.

Check for emails and updates from CSUF and ISS regarding graduation.

Your OPT eligibility will not be affected by studying remotely in the U.S. 

As long as you complete all your graduation requirements, you will be able to graduate.

Check for emails and updates from CSUF and ISS regarding graduation.

USCIS has not confirmed whether or not students who are overseas are eligible to apply for OPT. We recommend applying for OPT while in the U.S.

Time zone difference

No time zone difference

This may be challenging depending where you are and how instructors deliver online classes.

Please email your Instructors if having challenges due to time zone differences.

Ability to return to campus in Fall if back to in-person instruction

It will be easier for you to return to campus for in-person instruction if studying remotely at this time while in the US.

It will be more challenging to return to the US and to campus due to travel/re-entry restrictions and visa validity.

Immigration Status

Yes, you can remain in the US as long as you maintain a full course of study for the Spring 2020 semester. If you are unable to maintain your full course of study, please schedule a virtual appointment with an ISS Advisor immediately and before requesting any withdrawal(s).

No. As long as you maintain a full course of study for Spring 2020 semester and follow instructions from your Professors to complete course requirements, your SEVIS record will remain active.

Please be sure to clearly communicate your situation with your professor(s) and ask if any accommodations can be made available. If you plan to withdraw from a course, you must discuss your situation with an ISS Advisor if the withdraw will result in you being enrolled in less than a full course load.

Please schedule a virtual appointment with an International Student Advisor regarding your situation. If you plan to apply for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training, then you may need to extend your Form I-20 to reflect that you are still enrolling for another term and not graduating Spring 2020 semester.

As long as you are maintaining a full course of study and completing all required coursework for all of your Spring 2020 classes, choosing a CR/NC grading option for some or all of your Spring 2020 classes will not negatively affect your F1 visa status.

International students must seek advisement from ISS Advisors before any withdrawal from any courses. Any unauthorized drop or withdrawal from a course — where student receives a “WU” grade or “NC*” grade (if choosing CR/NC grading option) will negatively impact visa status.

Yes, you can choose the Credit/No Credit grading option. However, it is best to consult with the Instructor for your Internship Class. If you cannot fulfill the minimum required hours for a passing grade for the Internship class due to COVID19 disruption, please contact an International Student Advisor and your Internship Course Instructor immediately.

Health Insurance

At this time, virtual instruction has been extended through Summer 2020 term only. It has not been confirmed that Fall courses will be virtual. Should this change, you can send an email to ISS to request a refund of Fall 2020 health insurance coverage if you are remaining in your home country while enrolled for Fall 2020. Refund request must be submitted to ISS within 45 days of the Fall coverage start date (between August 1 – September 15), along with evidence that you are in your home country. Due to the current global health crisis, it is advisable that you have health insurance coverage. The CSUF International Student Health Insurance plan is usable worldwide, including in your home country.

Effective immediately, Aetna members will have access to the following resources:

  • Aetna will waive co-pays for all diagnostic testing related to COVID-19. This policy will cover the test kit for patients who meet CDC guidelines for testing, which can be done in any approved laboratory location. Aetna will waive the member costs associated with diagnostic testing at any authorized location.
  • For the next 90 days, Aetna will offer zero co-pay telemedicine visits – for any reason. Aetna members should use telemedicine as their first line of defense to limit potential exposure in physician offices. Cost-sharing will be waived for all video visits through the CVS MinuteClinic app, Aetna-covered Teladoc® offerings and in-network providers delivering synchronous virtual care (live video- conferencing).

For more information, please visit the Aetna Student Health Page

Please note, beginning August 1, 2020, international students’ health insurance coverage will be under Anthem, not Aetna.

Health, Wellness & Coping

For any health information or questions, please see the following recommended resources:

Health

Wellness

Coping

Employment

At this time, we are waiting for clarification on this topic from Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once we receive guidance, ISS will provide updates through emails and the ISS website.

During the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers employment that is less than 20 hours per week to be valid OPT employment.

According to the SEVP FAQ released on April 14, 2020, your SEVIS record does not need to be updated if you are working from home due to COVID19. Additionally, students on STEM OPT are not required to update their I-983 if working from home due to COVID19.

Time off work consistent with the employer’s leave-related policies does not count as unemployment. As long as you are expected to resume work after the leave, you do not need to take any action to update your SEVIS record or Form I-20. Please be sure to save any documentation and/or communication from your employer pertaining to the leave. If you are on approved OPT or STEM OPT and your employment has been permanently terminated, you must report the end of your employment to ISS within 10 days.

At this time, there have not been any changes or flexibility in regards to the limit on unemployment days. If you are on OPT and want to avoid exceeding the unemployment limit, you may want to consider a qualifying volunteer position. Unlike OPT, STEM Extension OPT cannot be maintained with volunteer and/or unpaid positions. Otherwise, you must depart the U.S. or transfer to a new school before exceeding the unemployment limit.

At this time, there has not been an official announcement indicating that an electronic signature on the I-983 is permitted. We therefore must defer to the instructions on the I-983 form itself which indicates “sign in ink”.

USCIS expects visa holders to be “self-sufficient” while in the United States. Receiving public benefits could result in you being considered a “Public Charge” which may impact your eligibility for future benefits, such as change of status or adjustment of status. However, Department of Homeland Security specifically states that unemployment benefits are not considered a public charge as “these are considered to be earned benefits through the person's employment and specific tax deductions.” (Please see the Final Rule published in the Federal Registrar.)

It is important to note that although unemployment insurance is not considered a public charge by DHS, eligibility requirements vary from state to state. Check with the unemployment insurance agency in the state where you worked regarding eligibility guidelines. Click here to search for your state’s program.

Please see the Economic Impact Payment Information Center students for more details. If you have further questions or concerns, please contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or consult an immigration attorney.

Please follow the instructions in the to return the payment to the IRS. Be sure to keep a copy of the check and of anything else that you send to the IRS.

FAQ for New Students

At this time, ISS team is preparing Form I-20s for Fall 2020 admitted students who have paid the enrollment deposit. Form I-20s will be mailed out after May 1st (subject to change).

At this time, it is uncertain how long the US and other global travel restrictions will remain in place due to the evolving COVID-19 situation. Even if you already have an F-1 visa, due to the pandemic you might be restricted from entering the US. ISS staff will work with students on a case-by-case basis to determine the best option.

At this time, to defer Fall 2020 admission to a later semester (Spring 2021) you will need to email the Admissions Office: admissions@fullerton.edu. Please also inform ISS via email (iss@fullerton.edu) if you decide to do this.

If you decide to remain in your home country and enroll in Fall 2020 CSUF courses, please inform ISS as adjustments need to be made on your Form I-20. ISS might request additional documents from you. Additionally, please be sure to consult with your Academic Advisor in regards to your first semester studies remotely.

Newly admitted students are matriculated for the fall term, not summer term. If you are a newly admitted student for fall, we do not recommend taking summer online courses.

Please inform ISS if you are unable to obtain an F-1 visa for the Fall semester and schedule a virtual appointment with an International Student Advisor. Depending on your situation, some options for you to consider are enrolling for Fall 2020 CSUF courses and studying remotely from your home country, or reapplying for the F-1 visa, or submitting a CSUF admission application for Spring 2021.

You will not get a refund; however, you may carry over your deposit if you are approved for an admission deferral. Please email your admission deferral request to the Admissions Office: admissions@fullerton.edu. Please also inform ISS via email (iss@fullerton.edu) if you decide to do this.

Updated May 12, 2020