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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]

 

Spring/Summer 2020 Frequently Asked Questions

Travel, Immigration, Housing, and Safety

I am an international student. Do I have to leave Drexel's campus?

Depopulating campus and completing the spring and summer terms with virtual classes is an important step that Drexel is taking to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. International students with special circumstances who applied for and were approved to remain in on-campus housing are permitted to stay on campus.

Will I be safe if I remain in Philadelphia?

The Drexel Police Department and the Department of Public Safety will continue to patrol campus and the surrounding area to ensure everyone's safety. As the campus area will be less populated during this time, please exercise extra caution, and call 215-895-2222 to report an emergency. See the Department of Public Safety's website for additional resources. Additionally, please note that as of March 23, the City of Philadelphia has mandated that all residents must remain home unless they are engaged in essential personal activities. Visit City of Philadelphia website for more information.

I am planning to leave the U.S. What immigration documents do I need to have before leaving?

Check that the travel signature on your I-20/DS-2019 is valid. Ensure you have your original immigration documents (passport and visa) and that they are valid. You may still leave the U.S. without a signed I-20/DS-2019, but you will need a valid travel signature to return to the U.S.

Do I need to notify ISSS that I am leaving the country?

You are not required to notify ISSS before leaving the U.S. However, please update your contact information in Drexel One once you arrive to your final destination.

I am staying in the U.S. Is there anything I need to do to maintain my student status?

To maintain your student status, you must simply maintain a full-time course registration/enrollment. Courses can be taken on a pass/fail basis or for a letter grade. Be aware that F-1 and J-1 status-holding international students must follow the same enrollment rules as before, even though the spring and summer terms are temporarily transitioned to remote learning environments. This means that students holding F-1 and J-1 status should not be encouraged to enroll in an overabundance of online or hybrid courses. Please refer to ISSS's information on maintaining F-1 student status to learn more about maintaining your F-1/J-1 student visa status or read the Guidance about Online Coursework section below.

How do I get a travel signature?

Please contact ISSS at isss@drexel.edu 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.

Will I have trouble getting back into the U.S. even if I have a valid visa status?

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. Please see the CDC's webpage on travelers prohibited from entry into the United States for the most current guidance.

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

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.

The visa in my passport has expired, or it will expire before I plan to return to the U.S. If I leave the U.S. now, will I need a new visa, or can I re-enter on an expired visa?

If you leave or have left the U.S. and your visa will expire before the date you wish to re-enter the U.S., then you will need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.). Review ISSS's information on visa renewal for more information.

How are U.S. Embassies' operating procedures being affected by the COVID-19 outbreak?

The U.S. Department of State has temporarily suspended all routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will continue to provide urgent and emergency visa services. This should not affect current visa holders or prevent you from re-entering the U.S. with a valid visa. However, please check with your local embassy/consulate for updates about its operating procedures.

How does President Trump's "Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration to the United States" impact me and my student status? 

On April 22, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) restricting the entry of certain categories of employment-based and family-based immigrants into the United States. The order applies to the following foreign nationals:

  • Individuals who are outside of the U.S. as of April 23, 2020, and
  • Do not have an immigrant visa on April 23, 2020, and
  • Do not have an official travel document other than a visa. These documents include advanced parole, an appropriate boarding foil, or a transportation letter.

While immediate family members of U.S. citizens, such as spouses and minor children, and permanent residents are exempt, the EO does apply to other relatives.

The EO does NOT affect:

  • Non-immigrant visa holders (e.g., F-1, J-1, H-1B, O-1). This includes F-1 students on CPT, OPT, and STEM OPT, J-1 students on Academic Training, J-1 Scholars, etc. F-1, J-1, or H-1B status benefits are not impacted.
  • Newly admitted and confirmed students and scholars who are currently outside the U.S. and plan to apply for non-immigrant visas (F, J, TN, etc.) once U.S. consulates resume their operations.
  • Individuals with currently pending immigration benefit applications with USCIS (e.g., green cards, change of status application, etc.) or individuals currently planning to submit those types of applications, if they otherwise meet the criteria of those immigration benefits.

The EO also does NOT affect:

  • Lawful U.S. permanent residents ("green card" holders).
  • Certain individuals working in health care (e.g., physicians, nurses, etc.) and medical researchers helping to combat COVID-19, including their spouses and children under the age of 21.
  • EB-5 investors, individuals whose presence in the U.S. is in the national interest of the country, individuals whose entry furthers U.S. law enforcement objectives, asylum seekers, and certain other special immigrant entrants (e.g., Iraqi and Afghani nationals who have assisted the U.S. military).

The ISSS will continue to closely monitor the development of this situation and will communicate when additional and appropriate information is available. Updates will be made available on the ISSS website.

Guidance about Online Coursework

Will the remote delivery of courses impact my immigration status?

Drexel ISSS adheres to the guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which is a unit within the U.S. 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 online instruction without negatively impacting the immigration status of enrolled international students.

In order to maintain full-time status, you must be enrolled in 12 credits for undergraduate students or 9 credits for graduate students. Only 1 ONLINE/HYBRID class (up to 3 credits) will be counted toward full-time enrollment. If you plan to take 1 ONLINE/HYBRID class, you must take at least 9 FTF undergraduate credits or 6 FTF graduate credits. Even though all classes have been moved online in spring and summer 2020, you must make sure that the original instruction is indicated as face-to-face "FTF" on your class schedule.

ISSS Operating Schedule and Procedures

Will ISSS be open for the rest of the quarter/semester?

In accordance with the University's guidance about remote work for faculty and staff, ISSS will be providing all services remotely as of Friday, March 20, 2020. For updates regarding our operations, please visit the ISSS website.

If I have documents issued by ISSS after March 20, 2020, how can I get the documents?

ISSS is now operating remotely until further notice. No in-person services are available at this time, including document pick-up and drop off. However, ISSS continues to receive documents via email at isss@drexel.edu and you can arrange to have your updated document shipped to you by sending your request for shipment to isss@drexel.edu. 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 refer to ISSS's information on Curricular Practical Training for further details.

I may not be able to return to the U.S. 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 SCDC, Academic, and ISSS Advisors.

If I am abroad, can I apply for OPT?

No. You must be in the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for more detailed guidance.

Do you anticipate any delays from U.S. 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. OPT processing times typically do increase during this time of year. This is due to the large increase in OPT applications because most international students in the U.S. complete their studies in May and June each year. If you intend to apply for OPT, please do so as soon as possible in anticipation of any additional delays.

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 U.S. 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 contact isss@drexel.edu to change your education level.
  • If you plan to continue studying at another institution in the U.S., 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

Do I have to be in the U.S. to file my taxes? Can I file them from abroad?

You do not have to be physically present in the U.S. 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.S. 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.

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