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.

Incoming Student FAQs

Will I be able to get a visa?

As of March 2020, the U.S. Department of State had suspended visa processing services. In July 2020, some embassies and consulates began processing visa applications again. Unfortunately, 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.  

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 begin classes on campus.

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

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

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.
 

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 August 17, you will need to explore other study options for the fall semester.

I’m planning to take a leave of absence this fall semester, but I’m incredibly worried about my visa status:

  • Once my visa is 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 wont get a visa at all?

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

If you decide to return for the spring 2021 semester, ISSA would contact SEVP and request that your current SEVIS record be reactivated. One of two things would then happen:

  1. If SEVP approves this request, your current SEVIS record would be reactivated, and ISSA would issue a new I-20 with the same SEVIS ID number and program dates you have currently.
  2. If SEVP does not approve this request, then ISSA would create a new SEVIS record for you, and we would 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.

If you decide not to return until Fall 2021, then the second scenario would apply.

Besides the cost of the second scenario, it is important to consider the impact on a CPT or OPT application next summer. 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 both 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.

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). 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 intend to return in spring 2021, then we would recommend you contact us in late November to begin the process. 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.

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 (graduate students).

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

Based on a decision by SEVP, even if we go online, students would be permitted to remain and finish the semester in the U.S.

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

We will likely be distributing those updated I-20s in September, after Admissions has confirmed student plans. If you need the I-20 before that for a visa appointment, you can request one in ISSAlink.nd.edu 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.

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.?

Because you are enrolled full time and engaged in approved research abroad, you are not impacted by either the July 6 guidance or its rescinding last week.

You will need to report the year abroad through ISSAlink.nd.edu 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 ISSAlink.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 FAQs

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 a digital copy of the I-20 to you, as well as allows students to take a printed 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 FAQs

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 FAQs

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.