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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

International Students FAQs

Fall 2020

If the College goes fully online due to unforeseen circumstances for COVID-19, will I have to leave the country?

No, F-1 students pursuing studies in the United States for the fall 2020 school term may remain in the United States even if their educational institution switches to a hybrid program or to fully online instruction. Students will maintain their nonimmigrant status in this scenario and would not be subject to initiation of removal proceedings based on their online studies. If a student violates U.S. laws or regulations, they could potentially be subject to removal.

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I will be traveling to the U.S. from my home country, do I have to quarantine?
Yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance advising anyone who has traveled internationally to stay home for 14 days from the time you returned home from international travel and to monitor your health.
 
Following CDC guidance, Flagler College is requiring all international travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days from the time they return home from travel or upon their arrival to the United States before attending classes.
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Can I quarantine in my dorm room?

Yes, quarantine requirements may be met while living in residence halls. You may also elect to move in early to your dorm. Early move-in to residence halls is available beginning Sunday, Aug. 16.  Meal Service will be available. A $50 per night early arrive fee will apply.  To indicate your preference for an early move-in, please contact Residence Life at Residencelife@flagler.edu by Aug. 7.

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I am a new F-1 student and requested to participate in 100% online instructions for the fall, will I be able to get a visa?

F-1 students in New or Initial status after March 9 will not be able to obtain a visa or enter the United States to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue full course of study that is 100 percent online. Please take this into consideration when planning your visa appointment.

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I am a new F-1 student and requested to participate in 100% online instructions for the fall, when can I enter the U.S.?

F-1 students in New or Initial status after March 9 will not be able to enter the United States to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue full course of study that is 100 percent online. You will have to wait to enter the U.S. until the spring semester. If you need to travel to the U.S. before the spring term, you will have to enter the U.S. under a different visa category (e.g. B-2 tourist visa).

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What are the recent travel restrictions?

On July 16, 2020, the U.S. Department of State adjusted some travel restrictions; specifically for students in the Schengen zone, Ireland and United Kingdom. The updated travel regulation states that students from the aforementioned areas can travel to the U.S. if they have a valid visa and appropriate supporting documents (i.e. valid I-20, visa, passport, etc.). Unfortunately, there has not been a similar announcement for other areas.

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What do I need to travel?
Any international student planning to travel to the U.S. will need the following documents.
  • Your valid passport with an expiration date that is at least six (6) months past your arrival date.
  • Your valid F-1 student visa with an expiration date that is at least six (6) months past your arrival date. 
  • (Returning students only) Your Form I-20 with travel endorsement for re-entry
    • The travel signature is an important part of your international travel as it indicates to U.S. Border Protection Officers that the International Center is aware of your international travel. Please note that the I-20 travel signature is shown during RE-ENTRY to the United States. 
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Do I need a new I-20 to travel?

Check Page 2 of your Form I-20. If you have an endorsement from someone in the International Center (Ms. Lisa Fiala or Mr. Dylan Rasnick) that is from any point after September 2019, you do not need a new signature. If your I-20 does not have a travel signature, you will need an updated I-20 from the International Center. Please contact us at InternationalCenter@flagler.edu

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Are Embassies and Consulates open?

On July 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of State (DoS) announced the phased return to normal services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. You will need to contact your respective Embassy/Consulate to see what services they are offering.

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I will be graduating in the fall and taking 100% online instruction outside of the U.S., can I still apply for OPT?

Unfortunately, individuals wishing to apply for OPT must be present in the U.S. when submitting their application. Thus, you will not be eligible to apply for OPT if you are outside of the U.S. during your final semester. 

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If I am an international student (F-1) or a student that resides abroad can I complete the semester online?

Yes. The entire Flagler community will be able to continue the rest of the spring semester 2020 online.

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Is the 5-month rule still in place?

If an Active F student is outside the United States, their SEVIS record can remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status.

SEVP will allow F and M students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v), even if they are outside the United States and are taking the online classes elsewhere. This temporary provision is only in effect due to COVID-19 and only for schools that comply with the requirement to notify SEVP of any procedural changes within 10 business days.
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I am taking 100% online instruction, will I still need meet the full credit requirement?

Yes, even if you are taking all of your classes online, you will need to ensure you are enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours. If you are in a situation that you believe does not allow you to take 12 credit hours, please contact the International Center at InternationalCenter@flagler.edu.

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I am taking 100% online instruction, will I still need to complete the SEVIS check-in?

Yes, in order to maintain your student-status, you will still need to participate in the SEVIS check-in for the semester. You will receive more information about completing the check-in at the beginning of the semester.

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My Form I-20 is signed electronically, is this ok?

Yes, due to COVID-19, the International Center staff can sign your Form I-20 electronically. However, you must continue to sign the Form with a wet signature (i.e. print out the document and sign in BLUE ink).

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F-1 Student-Specific

What is an F-1 Student?

An F-1 student is an international student on Flagler who has been issued an F-1 visa from the Flagler College International Center.

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Is the 5-month rule still in place?

If an Active F student is outside the United States, their SEVIS record can remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status.

SEVP will allow F and M students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v), even if they are outside the United States and are taking the online classes elsewhere. This temporary provision is only in effect due to COVID-19 and only for schools that comply with the requirement to notify SEVP of any procedural changes within 10 business days.
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Is there any official guidance about my visa status from the US Government?
The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) released official guidance to stakeholders on March 13, 2020, stating the following:
 
"If a school closes temporarily but offers online instruction or another alternative learning procedure, non-immigrant students should participate in online or other alternative learning procedures and remain in active status in SEVIS. Schools must notify SEVP of COVID-19 procedural changes within 10 business days. Given the extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 emergency, SeVP will allow F01 and or M01 students to temporarily count online classes towards a full house of study in excess of the limits state in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v), even if they have left the Homeland Security Investigations National Security Investigations Division Student and Exchange Visitor Program United States and are taking the online classes from elsewhere. This temporary provision is only in effect for the duration of the emergency and in accordance with the procedural change documents filed in a timely manner to SEVP."
 
The International Center sent official communication, as required by SEVP, stating that the remainder of Flagler College’s spring semester 2020 will now be held online.
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I am graduating and plan to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Can I apply from elsewhere in the U.S.? Can I apply from outside of the U.S.?

As always, OPT requires full time enrollment for at least one year and a US address for the application. If these factors are satisfied, the student may continue the application per normal. However, students interested in taking advantage of this visa benefit should consider the possibility of future travel restrictions, either from the US or their home country. If you choose to depart the United States to complete your courses from your home country your eligibility to apply for OPT benefits may be subject to change per SEVP guidance.

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I am currently on Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Will the move to online instruction affect my practical training authorization for Spring 2020?
Students on CPT are expected to report to work as scheduled unless otherwise instructed by their supervisor. If you decide to leave your current position or your employer implements measures that discontinue your employment due to this unprecedented situation, you must inform International Center Staff at InternationalCenter@flagler.edu.
 
If your CPT position is attached to a credit-bearing course that counts toward your full-time enrollment, any change to your CPT may affect your visa status.
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J-1 Specific

Is there any official guidance about my visa status from the US Government?
The Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program sent the following guidance on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
 
“The Department appreciates your efforts in addressing the care and concern of your exchange visitors during this challenging time. We know that you are actively seeking alternative ways to maintain program objectives and/or employment, such as telework, online classes, or other arrangements while preventing unnecessary exposure to the disease and its spread. Please know that OPA recognizes flexibility is needed given the uncertainty created by the widespread COVID-19 outbreak, and we will work closely with you to support you however we can.
 
In accordance with monitoring requirements, we ask that if your institution is moving towards an online environment, please report it to [State Department] using the Incident Report Form if you have not already done so. OPA is aware that as some sponsors move their operations to an online environment, their institutions are concurrently working on measures to decrease the density of their campuses. […] Please use this opportunity to remind your exchange visitors of the requirement for them to report to you within ten calendar days any changes in their telephone numbers, email addresses, actual and current U.S. addresses, and site of activity [22 CFR 62.10(d)(3)].  Please update SEVIS when necessary to reflect accurate program information including current U.S. address and site(s) of activity.”
 
The International Center sent official communication, as required by SEVP, stating that the remainder of Flagler College’s spring semester 2020 will now be held online.
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Do I need to contact my Embassy in the United States?

Yes, the Exchange Visitor Program is asking that all J-1 students still in the U.S. to contact their respective Embassy or Consulate in the United States. Country specific information will be posted on: https://j1visa.state.gov/covid-19/. In particular, please make sure to check the 'EMBASSY CONTACTS' section regularly as the Exchange Visitor Program is updating it almost daily. This web page contains a frequently updated list of foreign embassies and consulates, including possible repatriation flights. This information may be helpful to J-1 students who may experience difficulties returning to their home country due to lack of commercially available flights or travel restrictions.

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Travel

I want to depart the US. What documents will I need?

Please be advised that the State Department recommends that all travelers reconsider international travel at this time.

As an F-1 or J-1 visa holder, if you decide to travel abroad you must have the following documents in order to re-enter the United States:

  • Valid F-1 or J-1 Student Visa
  • Valid Passport, valid at least six months beyond your re-entry date
  • Valid I-20 or DS-2019, with Valid Travel Signature

Under the Presidential Administration’s order, some countries are currently prevented from entering the US. This includes most European countries, China, Japan, Korea, and Iran. This situation may change and include additional countries or regions.

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Who do I need to update if I depart the United States?

You need to contact the International Center at InternationalCenter@Flagler.edu to inform us of our departure. If you are living on campus, you will need to update Residence life at Residencelife@Flagler.edu. We also recommend you update your professors so they are away you will be in a different time zone. 

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When will I be able to return to the United States?

Due to the fluid, ever-changing mechanics of the pandemic, we cannot provide an exact date for when you will be able to return to the United States. Please be sure to keep in mind your home country and U.S. travel restrictions when planning your return.

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What about travel in the US?

The College strongly recommends all students refrain from personal domestic travel except for emergency purposes. While not required to have the above-listed documents for international travel, we recommend you keep these documents with you. Please make sure you have made copies.

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What if I cannot get a travel signature?

SEVP has allowed DSOs to electronically send signed Forms I-20 to students instead of physically mailing the forms. Only DSOs can sign Forms I-20 electronically. Students are still required to physically sign their I-20 in BLUE ink. The International Center staff will work with students who cannot receive a travel signature before their departure on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us at InternationalCenter@Flagler.edu if you find yourself in this situation.

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Where can I get additional travel information?

For more information regarding travel advisories, please visit the Department of State's Official Website here. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/covid-19-information.html  

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Other

If I move out of my on or off-campus residence, do I need to update my address?

Yes, F-1 and J-1 visa holders must report any change in residence within 10 days per federal regulation. To update your local address in the U.S., please contact the International Center at InternationaCenter@flagler.edu with your updated U.S. address.

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How can I receive immigration advising while the College is online?
Please email InternationalCenter@flagler.edu with any questions or concerns. International Center staff will remain available during regular business hours to assist you by email or schedule an appointment by telephone or Skype. We will attempt to answer all emails within 24 hours of receipt.
 
Please continue monitoring your Flagler College email or visit the College’s coronavirus information page for the most up-to-date announcements: www.flagler.edu/coronavirus
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I have other immigration-specific questions.

Any questions regarding items such as on-campus employment, I-20 extensions, CPT/OPT or grace periods should be directed to the International Center. Please contact us at InternationalCenter@Flagler.edu. We want to ensure we are answering any and all of your student-status related questions.

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Where can I get additional information on Flagler and COVID-19?
The College has developed a series of Frequently Asked Questions on a variety of topics. Please visit www.flagler.edu/coronavirusfaq.  
 
If you have additional non-immigration related questions, please email studentaffairs@flagler.edu 
 
Please continue monitoring Flagler College email or visit the College’s coronavirus information page for the most up-to-date announcements: www.flagler.edu/coronavirus
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I have a pending/approved OPT application; has anything changed with the OPT process?

At this time, USCIS has released no guidance regarding changes, accommodations, or extensions to the OPT process. This means that all regular OPT guidelines are still in place. If you have any specific questions about the OPT process, you can contact the International Center InternationalCenter@Flagler.edu.

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I am on OPT and my hours have been cut to less than 20/I cannot find a job that relates to my major and meets the minimum 20 hours per week requirement. What should I do?

For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT. Employment must continue to relate to the students major. Please note SEVP can change this guidance at their discretion. Be sure to have a plan in place for increasing your hours once the COVID-19 emergency subsides.

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I will not be able to leave the U.S. before my grace period ends. What can I do to make sure I am maintaining student-status?

Students nearing the end of their grace periods are encouraged to apply for a Change of Status through USCIS. Please contact the International Center if you are nearing the end of your grace period. We ask you contact as us at minimum 10 business days before your grace period ends. The International Center has resources for students who find themselves in this situation. Please email us at InternationalCenter@flagler.edu to elaborate on your situation.

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