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 together.

While the physical office is closed in alignment with current University policy, ISSA is offering 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 issa@nd.edu with additional questions that are not addressed below.

Latest Updates


July 9, 2020: Notre Dame to file brief in support of Harvard, MIT court motion

July 9, 2020: Letter from Fr. Jenkins to the Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security regarding new rules for international students

On July 6, 2020, SEVP announced temporary adaptations due to COVID-19 for Fall 2020 enrollment, as it pertains to online classes. As the temporary guidance does establish distinct guidelines for F-1 students depending on their location outside or inside the U.S., we will be issuing updated guidance to students this week. Michael Pippenger, vice president and associate provost for internationalization, released the following statement, in support of Notre Dame’s international students:

“We are deeply concerned about the new immigration policies announced yesterday and how they might affect our students and community. The most notable change, that international students cannot enter into or remain in the U.S. if their university operates only online, does not apply to Notre Dame at this time as we will be returning to in-person classes this fall. There are, however, other changes that may affect our students. We have sought clarification from the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (the part of ICE that manages F and M visas on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security) since they submitted this new direction to us yesterday. We will continue to be in close contact with our international students as we gain clearer understanding.

Notre Dame students come from around the world. As always, we will serve them and fight for them so that they can fully and safely access the academic excellence, residential experience, and unique spirit of their Notre Dame home.”

The University of Notre Dame is also a member of NAFSA, the leading global education organization for institutions of higher learning. NAFSA has put out a statement as well which we fully support.

May 29, 2020: Letter from Fr. Jenkins to the U.S. Secretary of State advocating for student visa processing

Incoming Students

Will there be a required quarantine period upon arrival at campus? 

University Health Services will be announcing testing protocols soon, which may impact move in and arrival plans. Please look for that communication. 

With the announcement of an early start in Fall 2020, when will International Student Orientation be held? 

We expect to host International Student Orientation for undergraduates on August 2, 2020.  Move-in appointments will be scheduled for Saturday, August 1. We also expect to hold additional orientation sessions for late arrivals. More info can be found here

International Student Orientation for graduate and professional students will be embedded in Graduate Student Orientation and program orientations. Graduate & professional students can find more information here

Once the orientation date is set, how will I get an updated I-20 with the new dates? 

ISSA has updated all INITIAL I-20's with the new program start date (orientation) and new initial session start date (August 10). Temporary guidance from SEVP allows: 

  • ISSA to email a scan of the updated document to students, and
  • Students to print off the updated I-20 and both take to the visa appointment and present at the port-of-entry.   

If you have not received your updated I-20 via email by Monday, June 29, please email us at issa@nd.edu. 

Will I be able to get a visa?

As of March 2020, the U.S. Department of State suspended visa processing services, and it has not provided guidance about when the U.S. embassies and consulates will begin processing visa applications again. 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, and until we receive that guidance, we must wait.

Please check the Department of State's websites for updates and monitor the visa services available in your home country. ISSA is closely monitoring and will provide updates here as they are made available. 

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

Undergraduates: All questions about deferring enrollment should be directed to Admissions at international@nd.edu. 

Graduate & Professional students: all questions about deferring enrollment should be directed to your admitting department.

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?

No. Students must enter the U.S. with an F-1 visa to begin their studies at the University. The B1/B2 visitor visa only allows incidental study; to study full-time would be a violation of that status and may prevent you from reentering the U.S. in the future.

Currently Enrolled Students

Note: the visa is the stamp in your passport that allows for legal entry to the U.S. The program start and end dates on your I-20/DS-2019 determine the period in which you are legally present in the U.S. Your legal status in the U.S. is determined by your entry with an F-1 or J-1 visa and the program dates on your I-20/DS-2019. If you are currently outside the U.S., you will need a valid visa and a valid I-20/DS-2019 to enter the U.S.

Will there be a required quarantine period upon arrival at campus? 

University Health Services will be announcing testing protocols soon, which may impact move in and arrival plans. Please look for that communication. 

I am a returning student. When should I be back on campus for the fall semester? 

All returning students should plan to be back on campus by the start of classes on Monday, August 10 (or your program start date). 

While all questions about move-in should be directed to Residential Life (residentiallife@nd.edu), undergraduates living on campus should review this section of the Student Affairs email on June 22:

Most returning undergraduate students living on campus will move in Aug. 6, 7, 8, or 9. Returning students will have the option to select a move-in day and time using the same appointment system used for move-out; that selection period will be July 6 to 13. Any students who do not select a move-in appointment during that period will have a move-in day and time assigned automatically. 

 The information about arriving on campus on August 1 is only for incoming international undergraduate students. 

Because of travel restrictions in my country, I am concerned I will not make it back to the U.S. in time. What are my options? 

The here.nd.edu website says, "There are a series of legal and immigration issues surrounding incoming international students who are unable to secure visas and/or travel to the University of Notre Dame campus to begin classes in person at the start of the fall semester on August 10, 2020. University leadership is working through these issues and will provide an update soon."

I am an F-1 student who graduated in May 2020 or my program is ending. What are my options?

Once an F-1 student has completed their course of study, immigration regulations provide a number of options.

  • Depart the U.S. within your 60-day grace period after the program end date
  • Apply for post-completion OPT by the end of the 60-day grace period. Contact issa@nd.edu to schedule an appointment
  • Pursue a degree at another U.S. institution and transfer your I-20 record to that institution 
  • Pursue another degree at Notre Dame. Contact the admissions department for information about your new I-20
  • Change to another immigration status (requires an application to USCIS)

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 program end date. If your scenario is not covered here, please contact us at issa@nd.edu.

There are currently no other options to extend the F-1 status. According to SEVP, “DHS is evaluating these issues and may issue additional guidance. USCIS adjudicates OPT employment authorization and status requests for F and M students and has yet to issue official guidance on these issues.”

If you are within one month of your program end date and want to return to your home country, we recommend you contact your home country embassy in the U.S. to determine how they may be able to assist you in your plan to return. If you have additional questions, email ISSA at issa@nd.edu.

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 address.1@nd.edu until Roll Call in Fall 2020. When we return in the fall, Roll Call will capture all address information, which we will report to SEVIS.

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

Important considerations for return travel to the U.S.
 

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

You can request the new I-20 in ISSAlink.nd.edu with the “Request New I-20” form found under “F-1 Student Services,” and the “Request New DS-2019” under “J-1 Student Services.” Temporary guidance from SEVP issued in May 2020 allows us to scan and email the updated I-20 to you, as well as allows students to take the copy to the visa appointment or to present at 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 is significantly impacting mobility and travel. ISSA continues to monitor guidance from the Department of State, the CDC, SEVP, and USCIS, and with any travel plans, both domestic and international, we advise you to also closely monitor entry requirements and relevant U.S. restrictions.

If you plan to exit the U.S. and your visa will expire before your intended return, we remind you that the Department of State has suspended all routine visa services and has not provided a specific date for resuming services. With the suspension, we expect significant backlogs for visa applications, which may impact your travel plans.

OPT/CPT/Academic Training

I applied for OPT but used the ISSA address. How will I get my receipt notice / EAD card if the ISSA office is physically closed?

Campus mail distribution is continuing with normal operations until otherwise noted and the ISSA team will pick up the mail each week. Students will be notified by email when mail arrives, and they can leave it at the Main office or they will be asked to indicate in a Mail Delivery Request form how they want the document shipped to them.

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 has not indicated that processing times will be affected, and we are currently receiving mail as expected.

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

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

At this time, 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 social 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.