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The Impact of COVID-19 on Current International Students

Fall 2020 Current Returning Students Guide

ISSS has developed a guide for the fall 2020 term outlining your options for course enrollment, travel, and more.

Download the Current Returning Students Guide [PDF]


Fall 2020 Frequently Asked Questions

Travel and Visa status

What is Drexel's plan to re-open campus?

The University has made the decision that undergraduate courses will continue remotely for the fall quarter and University housing will remain closed to undergraduates during the fall term. Graduate students will continue in the currently planned hybrid modality for the fall term, with some limited activities and with strict health and safety protocols in place that adhere to city and state guidelines. Drexel’s Return Oversight Committee, with guidance from the Fall 2020 Covid-19 Task Force, developed plans to stage a gradual return to campus, but the shifting nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on other colleges and universities has necessitated a change of course for Drexel. The work of the Return Oversight Committee will continue as the University strives to provide the safest, most beneficial and inclusive path to welcome the entire Drexel community to campus. Click here to read more.

Will I be required to quarantine myself when I arrive to campus?

Drexel is not enforcing a quarantine of students arriving to campus. View the Frequently Asked Questions on Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus for more information. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you self-isolate for 14 days following travel to areas that are experiencing high levels of COVID-19, including destinations with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice. You can check the Travel Health Notices for recommendations for places you have traveled, including foreign countries and US territories. You can also check states to determine if these areas are experiencing high levels of COVID-19.

I am planning to return to the US. What documents do I need to have before reentering?

Students returning to the US in F-1 status should carry the following, at minimum:

  • Valid passport (passport must be valid for at least 6 months from date of intended return).
  • Valid (unexpired) F-1 visa sticker (page) in your passport (except for Canadian and Bermudan citizens).
  • Valid I-20 form, with a travel signature on page 2 from an ISSS advisor within the last year. If you received your most recent I-20 from ISSS via email, include the digital I- 20 support letter that was provided to you.

There have been reports of CBP officers requesting that students produce additional documentation. In addition to the above, you may choose to travel with the following:

  • Print your course schedule from DrexelOne.
  • Print your unofficial transcript and/or proof of enrollment from DrexelOne.
  • Evidence of funding; bring a copy of whatever funding is mentioned on your I-20.
  • Students traveling from Europe/UK/Ireland: a printout of this webpage.

If you experience any trouble when attempting to enter the US, it is within your right to ask CBP to contact Drexel Public Safety at 215.895.2822 and connect to the ISSS emergency contact.

The travel signature on my I-20/DS-2019 is too old, or there is no signature. How do I get a new travel signature?

Please contact ISSS at to request an updated travel signature. A new I-20/DS- 2019 for the purpose of travel will be generated along with a support letter. These documents will be provided to you in an email. Travel signatures are valid for one year from the signature date. If you are on OPT or STEM OPT, travel signatures are valid for 6 months.

If all of my classes are remote/online (ASY/SYN/ONL), will I be allowed to enter the US?

Yes, current/returning students can be inside or outside the US and be 100% remote according to SEVP/ICE and DoS guidance. The guidance also suggests that you should be able to re-enter the US with your Drexel-issued I-20/DS-2019 and F-1/J-1 visa sticker. Your SEVIS record will remain in Active status as long as you enroll in at least 12 credits (undergraduate students) or 9 credits (graduate students) in the fall term.

How do I know if my home country has enacted travel restrictions/bans?

It is crucial that you stay up-to-date on the list of countries whose citizens may face difficulties entering the United States; these restrictions are constantly changing as the situation develops. Before you make any travel plans, it is your responsibility to confirm that neither your destination nor any transit countries have put in place restrictions that could affect your itinerary. Please review the Fall 2020 Current/Returning Students Guide [PDF] for advice regarding international travel and necessary travel documents, as well as online resources to stay up to date about travel restrictions.

Is my F-1 status affected if I am outside of the US for more than 5 months?

As long as you remain in Active F-1 status, the 5-month physical presence requirement will not apply while the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place. This means you can remain outside the US for more than 5 months without fear of termination. In normal circumstances, an absence from the US of 5 months or more would result in termination of your F-1 status. However, this is currently not being enforced.

If you departed the US during the spring or summer term and choose to study remotely from outside the US during the fall, your status should remain active as long as you meet full-time enrollment requirements, even if you will be outside the US for more than 5 months.

I am outside of the US, and I want to enter the US for the fall term, but my F-1 visa sticker is expired. What should I do? Can I enter with an expired F-1 visa sticker?

You must apply for a new F-1 visa in order to re-enter the US; you will not be permitted to enter the US with an expired F-1 visa sticker (except for Canadian and Bermudan citizens). Review ISSS's Visa Renewal page to learn about visa renewal and check your US Embassy/Consulate website for visa appointment availability.

The Interview Waiver Program (IWP) was recently expanded due to the pandemic. You may be eligible to renew your visa without attending an interview at the US Embassy/Consulate. Check with your US Embassy/Consulate to learn if you are eligible for the IWP to renew your visa.

If you cannot obtain a new F-1 visa sticker before the fall term, you should enroll full-time in a 100% remote courseload and complete your coursework from outside the US in order to maintain your F-1 status.

Will my visa be canceled if I am studying from my home country?

No. If you have an F-1 visa, your visa (the sticker in your passport) would not be canceled if you are studying from your home country. This is the case even if you take an extended leave of absence and your SEVIS record is terminated. The SEVIS termination affects your F-1 status in a US government database, not your F-1 visa sticker.

How are US Embassies' operating procedures being affected by the COVID-19 outbreak?

After suspending all routine visa services worldwide in March 2020, the US Department of State (DoS) has announced that visa services at Embassies/Consulates may resume if local conditions allow it. This should not affect current visa holders or prevent you from re-entering the US with a valid visa. However, please check with your local embassy/consulate for updates about its operating procedures.

How do President Trump's Executive Orders and/or Proclamations affect me?

Over the past few months, President Trump has signed several Proclamations and Executive Orders limiting immigration. Please review our Notice to Drexel Community: US Immigration Policy Changes for a summary of who is affected by policy changes and any future updates. ISSS will continue to closely monitor the development of these changes and will communicate when additional and appropriate information is available.

Remote Coursework and Visa Status

If my program’s plan of instruction is 100% remote, is my F-1 status affected?

No. Drexel ISSS adheres to the guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which is a unit within the US Department of Homeland Security. SEVP oversees the F-1 international student visa program. Due to the rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19, SEVP issued guidance to universities that allows for increased flexibility to ensure international students can continue their academic progress. Drexel can implement temporary adjustments such as moving to remote instruction without negatively impacting the immigration status of enrolled international students.

How many online/remote courses can I take? Do I need to enroll in any face-to-face courses?

You may enroll in any combination of FTF, HYB, SYN, ASY, and ONL. Undergraduate students’ course options are limited to SYN, ASY, and ONL. Graduate programs’ course delivery types vary (some continue to offer some FTF/HYB while others are 100% remote). You may enroll in 100% remote courses if you wish and complete your coursework inside or outside the US Visit Drexel Central's website for complete details about these instructional methods. If you have questions about these course delivery codes, please consult your Academic Advisor.

As long as you enroll in a full-time courseload (12 credits for undergraduate students, 9 credits for graduate students), your F-1 status will remain active. Please review the Fall 2020 Current/Returning Students Guide [PDF] for complete information.

If all of my classes are remote/online (ASY/SYN/ONL), will I have to leave the US?

No, you may remain inside the US even if you are enrolled in 100% SYN/ASY/ONL (remote/online) courses. If you prefer, you may choose to depart the US and complete remote coursework from home and your SEVIS record would remain active, but this is your choice and not a requirement.

Will I be allowed to continue my studies from outside the US?

Yes, you will be allowed to study remotely, and your SEVIS record will remain in Active status as long as you enroll in at least 12 credits (undergraduate students) and 9 credits (graduate students) in the fall term. Please consult with your Academic Advisor about remote course options availability.

Can I remain in the US and maintain my F-1 status?

F-1 students can remain in the US as long as they enroll in at least 12 credits (undergraduate students) or 9 credits (graduate students) in the fall term. Those credits can be a combination of any of the available methods of instruction. If you have questions about these course delivery codes, please consult your Academic Advisor. Please review the Fall 2020 Current/Returning Students Guide [PDF] for complete information.

Do I need to get a new I-20 stating that my program is remote or hybrid?

No, an updated I-20 is not required.

Can I still apply for Less Than Full Time (e.g. International Break Term, Completion of Studies)?

Yes, it is still possible to apply and be approved to enroll Less Than Full Time (LTFT) for any of the reasons on the form. Your physical location (inside/outside US) does not affect your eligibility to maintain F-1 status while you have LTFT authorization.

ISSS Operating Schedule and Procedures

What are ISSS's office hours?

Beginning Monday, September 28, and until further notice, the ISSS office will open during the following hours:

  • Monday & Tuesday: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
  • Wednesday: CLOSED
  • Thursday & Friday: 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM

You may visit the office for document drop-off, document pick-up, and travel signatures. There will be no face-to-face advising at this time.

For questions and advising, we encourage all interactions be conducted via email: You can schedule a phone call or Zoom appointment via the My Success Team channel in DrexelOne.

I need an original "wet ink" copy of my I-20 or another form/letter issued by ISSS, how can I get these documents?

ISSS continues to receive/distribute documents via email, but you can arrange to have your updated document shipped to you by sending your request for shipment to ISSS will then ship your document to the address you have provided.

Information about Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

If I am abroad but have a scheduled co-op or required internship/experiential component, can I apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

Yes. You may apply for CPT as your school allows as long as you have a confirmed internship offer, completed CPT forms and you meet the CPT requirements for the indicated terms. Please see this page for more information about CPT.

I may not be able to return to the US before the beginning of my CPT internship. What should I do?

Remote work is possible while on CPT and this will not impact your visa status. However, you must first reach out to your employer to make arrangements for working remotely and then send an email detailing your updated working arrangements to your Co-op Advisor, Academic Advisor, and ISSS. You can find contact information and appointment information for each of these advisors in the My Success Team channel in DrexelOne.

If I am abroad, can I apply for OPT?

No. You must be in the US at the time of your OPT application. If you are completing your degree program at the completion of spring quarter, you must return to the US by June 13, 2020.

My OPT request is pending. Can I travel?

There are a number of things you should consider before traveling while your OPT status is pending. Please refer to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for more detailed guidance.

Do you anticipate any delays from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in processing OPT applications or issuing Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)?

It is unclear how the current situation may impact USCIS processing times. Prior to the COVID- 19 outbreak, processing times averaged 3-5 months. If you intend to apply for OPT, please do so as soon as possible (as early as 90 days prior to your program completion for Post Completion OPT) in anticipation of any additional delays. To learn more about OPT, please review ISSS's information on Optional Practical Training (OPT).

I am on F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) and I'm worried about going to work.

SEVP approves of and encourages those on OPT to consult with their employer to seek alternative ways to maintain employment, such as teleworking or other remote working arrangements. No special/additional reporting requirements are necessary.

I am currently on OPT and cannot find work since many companies are closed now. Can the 90-day limit on unemployment be extended?

At this time, there is no new guidance from USCIS that waives the 90-day unemployment limit for students on OPT. Unpaid work may be counted as OPT activity. You may have better luck finding an unpaid internship related to your studies.

If you will exceed the 90-day unemployment limit, you should make arrangements to depart the US before the 90 days expires, or pursue one of the following options:

  • If you plan to continue studying at Drexel and confirm your admission, please email to change the education level of your I-20 and SEVIS record.
  • If you plan to continue studying at another institution in the US, you may be eligible to transfer your SEVIS record.
  • If your employer or family can sponsor you for a different visa/status, e.g., H-1B, H-4, F-2, J-2, or permanent residency ("green card"), you need to consult an immigration attorney regarding this matter.

Other Information and Campus Resources

What is Drexel University doing to support its international students?

We continue to provide the necessary access, support, and opportunity to international students because we truly value the unique perspectives and contributions you bring to our community! Read Drexel University President John Fry's message sent on July 10, Drexel Stands in Support With Our International Students. Drexel is one of 180 institutions of higher education that signed the Amicus Brief submitted in support of legislation challenging the ICE/SEVP guidance. Please rest assured that the ISSS has a dedicated team of international student advisors who will continue to support you throughout this time.

Do I have to be in the US to file my taxes? Can I file them from abroad?

You do not have to be physically present in the US to file your taxes. As long as you have the required documents, you may complete your tax return in your home country and mail it to the U. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Please refer to Drexel's Office of Tax Compliance for more information about the tax filing process and a list of required documents.

Am I eligible to receive the 2020 Recovery Rebates in the amount of $1200 distributed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as part of the "Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act," or the "CARES Act"?

Foreign nationals who do not meet the IRS definition of "resident alien" are not eligible to receive CARES Act Economic Impact Payments. However, if those foreign nationals filed their tax returns on the wrong form, then they may have mistakenly received the Economic Impact Payments. Please note that any incorrectly filed federal income tax returns should be amended immediately. Please see the Office of Tax Compliance website for further information regarding Nonresidents and the Economic Impact Payments.

I am enrolled in Remote Synchronous courses, but the time zone difference will make this difficult. What can I do?

Please reach out to your Academic Advisor to discuss alternative options, like Remote Asynchronous (ASY) or Online (ONL) sections of courses, or other Remote Synchronous (SYN) sections of courses at more convenient times of day. You can schedule an appointment with your Academic Advisor in Drexel One under My Success Team.

Can I apply for emergency on-campus housing?

Students can submit an appeal for housing accommodations by clicking here (the deadline has passed, but late appeals are being reviewed on a rolling basis). As a reminder, all first-year students living in the Drexel Residence Halls will be required to have a dining plan. Further information regarding dining will be sent separately. Please note that you will be asked to sign off on a Housing Addendum in order to submit your appeal form.

Please reach out to the Office of Housing and Residence Life with any additional questions or concerns.

Who do I contact if I have questions/concerns about health insurance requirements?

Please reach out to the Office of Health Insurance and Immunizations if you have questions about health insurance requirements while studying remotely.

Who do I contact if I have questions/concerns about my lease at American Campus Communities (Chestnut Square, The Summit, University Crossings)?

Please reach out to American Campus Communities to inquire about how they are responding to Drexel’s decision to change all undergraduate programs to 100% remote instruction. If you are experiencing difficulties or have concerns, please reach out to Student Life.

If I need more information about the campus resources available to me, where can I go?