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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

International Students FAQs

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

On 3/18/2020 President Joyner communicated the Flagler community that the rest of the spring semester 2020 will be held online.

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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?

Yes, the 5-month rule is still in place. The 5-month rule states that F-1 international students cannot be outside of the United States for more than 5 months. This does not include international students currently participating in study abroad. During the COVID-19 situation, the 5-month rule stills applies. You may not be out of the United States for more than 5 months, in order to maintain your student status. Please keep this in mind as you consider when you will return to the United States. As of today, we have received no additional guidance from the Department of Homeland Security, but will update you should they provide some flexibility for this time frame. 

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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 Flagler College planned to provide distance learning from March 23 - April 3 and that face-to-face classes were scheduled to resume on April 6. We will now update SEVP with communication that the remainder of the 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 information, as required by SEVP on March 16. This information will be included that Flagler College planned to provide distance learning from March 23 - April 3 and that face-to-face classes were scheduled to resume on April 6. We will now update this information with SEVP communicating the remainder of the spring 2020 semester will be online.
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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 you 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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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?

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. 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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