COVID-19 FAQs for F-1 and J-1 Visa Holders

Currently Enrolled Students   Travel   OPT/CPT/AT   Currently on OPT/AT   Messages sent to international students

The Notre Dame community continues to work collectively to do all they can to support current and new international students and scholars through the current health crisis. We appreciate the many difficulties our international students and scholars face during this unprecedented time of crisis, and we are committed to navigating this with you.

While the physical office is closed in alignment with current University policy, ISSA continues to offer full advising services. While some processing may be delayed, all requests will be processed in a timely manner.  We have addressed frequently asked questions below, but please contact us at with additional questions that are not addressed below.

Incoming Student FAQs

Will I be able to get a visa?

While some embassies and consulates have resumed visa processing, the Department of State has not provided guidance about when each embassy will open or what to expect once they have. We are a member of a number of professional educational organizations that have actively and publicly encouraged the government to expedite the visa process for international students so they can begin their programs on time throughout the U.S. this fall. Ultimately, it is the federal government's decision as to when visas will be processed again in your country, so we recommend you check in to the embassy website daily.

Can you help me get an expedited visa appointment?

Because the visa application is between the Department of State and the student, there is no mechanism by which ND or ISSA can intervene on behalf of the student. In most cases, the embassy will review your program start date and make a determination to expedite based on that.

What documents should I bring to my visa interview? Can the University provide me with a letter verifying that I will be taking classes in person?

You will need a valid passport, your updated I-20 with the updated Program Start Date, documentation of your financial resources, your admission letter, and any amended admission letters that indicate your new start date. Generally, the consular officer will also want evidence that you intend to return to your home country or that you have strong ties to your home country. 

If I cannot make it to campus by the start of classes, but can arrive later in the semester, am I allowed to start classes online and then move to in-person once I am able to travel to the US?

It is hoped that all students will be on campus by the first day of classes, as defined by the University calendar. Due to the global health crisis and travel restrictions, students do have some flexibility to arrive by the end of Roll Call, or the sixth day of class. If you cannot arrive on campus by the sixth day of class, then you are not eligible to study on campus for the semester.

I paid my SEVIS I-901 fee in 2020 to start in Fall 2020, but I have had to defer to Fall 2021. Can I still use that same SEVIS payment? 

If your SEVIS ID has remained the same, we understand that at this time, you should be able to use the same SEVIS fee. 

I have questions about deferring enrollment. Who should I contact?

Undergraduates: All questions about deferring enrollment should be directed to International Admissions at

Graduate & Professional Students: all questions about deferring enrollment should be directed to your admitting department (i.e. Law School Admissions, Mendoza Admissions, Graduate Admissions).

I have a B1/B2 visitor visa. If I do not get a F-1 or J-1 visa appointment, can I just enter with the B1/B2 visa?

We appreciate the many creative approaches our students and families are considering as we are faced with the continued suspension of visa processing. Unfortunately students entering the U.S. with an ESTA or B1/2 visa are prohibited from studying full-time in that status. Though a student could enter the U.S. with their ESTA or B1/2 visa, they would be violating that status if they enrolled in a degree-seeking program. That status violation would likely cause problems with any future visa applications.

Will ISSA mail me a physical copy of my Form I-20? 

No, ISSA will not mail a physical copy of your Form I-20. Current SEVP policy allows ISSA to issue a digital copy of the I-20, which the student can print off, sign, and present at the visa appointment or U.S. port of entry. 

How will I know if a vaccine from my home country will be accepted by the University? Or, what do I do if I cannot get the vaccine before arriving on campus. 

All questions about vaccines should be directed at University Health Services and the Covid Response Unit. You can find most information already posted on the HERE website's vaccine page here

Are there other resources for me as an incoming student? 

Yes, you can find information about applying for a visa here or generally preparation to consider as an F-1 or J-1 student on our Pre-Arrival Session page; we'll also post messages to incoming students there. You'll also hear from ISSA and campus partners in the next few months, so continue to monitor your email.

Currently Enrolled Student FAQs

If I cannot make it to campus by the start of classes, but can arrive later in the semester, am I allowed to start classes online and then move to in-person once I am able to travel to the US?

If you are unable to arrive on campus by Monday, August 30,  you will need to explore other study options for the fall semester.

I’m took a leave of absence this spring semester, but I’m worried about my visa status:

  • Now that my I-20 SEVIS record has been terminated, what will happen next?
  • Can I be assured that I will be granted a visa again when I come back for the spring semester, or is there a possibility I won't get a visa at all?

   If you took a leave of absence, the university was required to terminate your I-20 record in SEVIS. The termination of your SEVIS record means your current Form I-20 is longer be valid, you no longer have an F-1 status, and you can not use your F-1 visa to enter the U.S.

   If you decide to return for the fall 2021 semester, ISSA will create a new SEVIS record for you, and we will issue a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID number and program dates. We would need updated financials from you, and you would need to pay the I-901 fee again which is currently $350USD. Go to to complete the "Request a New I-20" form.

   Besides the cost of this scenario, it is important to consider the impact on a CPT or OPT applications. Unfortunately, a new SEVIS number restarts the clock for CPT or OPT eligibility, and you would not be eligible for either until you had completed a full academic year on that number.

   If the F-1 visa stamp in your passport is still valid at the time of travel, i.e. the expiration date is in the future, then in most situations, you are eligible to reenter the U.S. with the I-20 and visa. The visa stamp in your passport is valid through its expiration date with a valid I-20. However, an additional precaution, you may want to contact the U.S. embassy in your country of citizenship to determine whether you. may need a new F-1 visa stamp.

Your decision to take a leave of absence does not impact ISSA's ability to issue an I-20 to you again, and you are not applying for this status again (unless the F-1 stamp in your passport has expired or your embassy advises you to apply again). You do, however, want to be cognizant of your responsibilities in communicating and initiating the process with our office when you have determined your return plans. If you will return in Fall 2021, you will want to contact us in June 2021.

These actions are, of course, in addition to conversations you may have with your college advising dean and/or director of undergraduate/graduate studies to discuss the impact on your academic goals and participation.

I was supposed to transfer my SEVIS record to ND for Fall 2020, but I was unable to get to campus. Is my transfer still valid, and can I get an I-20 with the same SEVIS number? 

Students who were attempting to transfer their SEVIS record to ND for Fall 2020 semester but could not matriculate ON CAMPUS can submit the Request New I-20 form in Current SEVP policy does not allow us to request the reactivation of your transfer until we are within 60 days of your new program start date. If you will attempt to get to campus for an August 16 or 18, 2021 start, please contact ISSA the week of June 14, 2021. 

Alternately, students have the option to request a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID number. This will require you to pay a new I-901 fee (currently $350) and 

How/will my stipend be affected if I am unable to enter the U.S.?

All questions regarding stipends, fellowships, and scholarships should be directed to Financial Aid (undergraduates) or your department  or Graduate School (graduate students).

If Notre Dame has to go to completely online classes mid-semester, will I be allowed to stay in the U.S.?

Based on guidance from SEVP, students are permitted to remain and finish the semester in the U.S. even if we go fully online.

If I am deferring for a semester, when will I get a new I20 with a new start date?

We will not issue updated I-20's for Summer or Fall 2021 until March 2021, after Admissions has confirmed student plans and Financial Aid has posted updated tuition. If you need the I-20 before that for a pending visa appointment, you can request one in under "F-1 Student Services."

I left the U.S. in March/ How does the 5-month rule affect me?

The five month rule does not apply to students who maintained their active status, as long as you maintain full-time enrollment in coursework. 

I am enrolled full-time and currently engaged in Research Abroad? I have completed all my classwork. Must I come back to the U.S.?

You will need to report the year abroad through and complete Roll Call each semester; we will continue to register you in SEVIS and maintain your I-20 record throughout the year. Upon your plans to return, you may need to request an updated travel signature, which can also be done through

If I left my residence in Notre Dame/South Bend/Mishawaka, do I need to report this somewhere?

Yes, immigration regulations require that a change of U.S. residential address must be reported within 10 days of the change. Email your new address to until Roll Call in Spring 2021. When we return in the spring, Roll Call will capture all address information, which we will report to SEVIS. Changes after Roll Call can be sent to

If you have recently graduated, then you will report changes in your U.S. Residential Address in ISSAlink. The form is under "F-1 Student Services." 

Have there been any changes to F-1 or J-1 employment regulations?

There have been no announcements from USCIS regarding temporary accommodations to F-1 or J-1 employment regulations. A reminder that ISSA cannot provide guidance until an update is published by the U.S. government. 

Travel FAQs

Important considerations for return travel to the U.S.

Will there be a shuttle from campus to airports at the end of the semester? 
Notre Dame Transportation has links to available shuttles here; currently, shuttle times are available on May 18 and 19, 2021. Scroll to the bottom of the page to access the tickets at the Eventbrite link.

How can I get an updated travel signature if the ISSA office is physically closed?

You can request the new I-20 in with the “Request New I-20” form found under “F-1 Student Services,” and the “Request New DS-2019” under “J-1 Student Services.” Current guidance from SEVP allows us to scan and email a digital copy of the I-20 to you, as well as allows students to print off, sign and present the printed copy at the visa appointment or the port of entry.  

I have already left the U.S. or plan to leave in the next few weeks. When can I return?

As the public health situation continues to evolve globally, it continues to impact mobility and travel. While ISSA continues to monitor guidance from the Department of State, the CDC, SEVP, and USCIS,students are responsible to also closely monitor entry requirements, travel restrictions, vaccine and testing requirements, and relevant U.S. restrictions that may impact their travel. 

If you plan to exit the U.S. and your visa will expire before your intended return, we remind you that consular processing remains challenging worldwide. The Department of State has has not provided a specific date for resuming services, and each consular office has their own operational guidelines. With the suspension, we expect significant backlogs for visa applications, which may impact your travel plans.

OPT/CPT/Academic Training FAQs

I am in the U.S., and I still need to apply for OPT. How do I do that?

Follow the instructions found here, and ISSA is offering OPT Application Appointments via Zoom.

I am outside of the U.S., and I still need to apply for OPT. How do I do that?

You must be physically present in the U.S. to submit an OPT application to USCIS. If you are outside of the U.S. and your program end date has passed, you are no longer eligible to apply for OPT.

Will USCIS processing times for OPT be affected by coronavirus-related social distancing measures?

While USCIS has suspended routine in-person services, service centers that adjudicate immigration petitions like OPT will remain open. USCIS processing times have been affected, and there has been some delay in mail delivery of receipt notices and EAD Cards. 

I heard that as of April 2021, USCIS is allowing F-1 students to file their OPT applications online. Could you provide information on this? 

Please look to our OPT webpage for updates on filing your OPT application. 

I still need to apply for CPT. How do I do that when the ISSA office is physically closed?

Follow the instructions found here. We will email a copy of your new I-20 when it is processed. Please wait five business days before following up on your completed application.

I am a J-1 student and need to apply for Academic Training. How do I do that when the ISSA office is physically closed?

Follow the instructions found here. We’ll mail out your DS-2019 when it is processed.

Students on OPT / STEM OPT FAQs

My OPT authorization period expires soon, what should I do if I can’t leave the U.S.?

USCIS has not issued any guidance that allows an F-1 student to extend their F-1 status or OPT authorization period. Students on OPT and nearing the end of their OPT authorization period should plan to:

  • return to their home country by the end of their 60-day grace period,
  • apply for change of status (to H1B, if eligible, or B2 visitor visa),*
  • apply for the STEM OPT Extension, if eligible, or
  • apply to a new program of study; if accepted, then request that Notre Dame transfer their I-20 record to the new institution

While students cannot work or attend classes during the grace period, they can remain legally present in the U.S. for up to 60 days after their OPT authorization end date.

I was laid off from my job because of coronavirus-related measures. Do I need to report this?

Yes. Immigration regulations require that you report changes to employment start date and end dates. By reporting the end date, you will want to monitor your unemployment days count. Students are allowed 90 days of unemployment during the first 12 months of OPT; students currently on the STEM OPT Extension are allowed a total of 150 days of unemployment across 36 months.

I am working remotely due to my employer’s physical distancing policies. Do I need to report this?

If your primary work site has remained unchanged, then you do not need to report the change.

I am within 90 days of my OPT authorization end date, and I am eligible to apply for the STEM OPT Extension. How do I do that?

Follow the instructions here. As our process to issue the I-20 with STEM OPT recommendation is already online, there have been no changes to it.