The Impact of COVID-19 on New International Students
Spring/Summer 2020 Frequently Asked Questions
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected ISSS I-20/DS-2019 processing times?
ISSS continues to operate remotely and process immigration documents (I-20s/DS-2019s) for incoming students. However, the transition to and limitations of remote work have increased processing times. You can check the status of your application in Drexel One. Once your application is processed, you will receive a confirmation email with a welcome letter, next steps, and an electronic copy of your I-20/DS-2019 which you can use to make an interview appointment at your local consulate. The physical paper document will be shipped to you once the University and ISSS reopen.
When should I apply for my I-20 or DS-2019?
We encourage you to begin the process at your earliest opportunity. Due to the large volume of applications and inquiries at this time, we are unable to offer expedited processing.
Will I encounter delays or difficulties getting a visa appointment?
At this time, the U.S. Department of State has temporarily suspended visa services globally. There is very limited visa appointment availability. This will hopefully change as services resume but the overall impact is still uncertain. Please continue to check with your local embassy/consulate for updates about its operating procedures.
Will I encounter difficulties getting to the U.S.?
It is important to 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. Before making any travel plans, you should confirm that neither your destination nor any transit countries have put in place restrictions that could affect your itinerary. In addition, check with your airline to ensure you have the right status to make a layover in other countries.
What is the latest date I can arrive to start my program if I am delayed by visa issues and/or continuing travel restrictions?
Please consult with your academic department and Drexel Admissions to determine the latest date you may arrive on campus to begin your program.
What if I cannot arrive in time to start my program?
You need to notify your academic department and Drexel Admissions. If they authorize you to begin your program in a future term, ISSS will defer your form I-20 or DS-2019 start date and will reissue a new document.
Will I have the option to take courses online from outside the U.S. if I cannot arrive in time?
This might be possible but will depend on the policies of your academic program. Your I-20 or DS-2019 start date will still be deferred to the quarter/semester start date when you will be able to arrive and start classes in person. You will work with your academic department and Drexel Admissions to confirm your new plan. Once that is finalized, ISSS will arrange to issue a new I-20 or DS-2019 accordingly.
What if my program or Drexel delays the start date of in-person classes?
ISSS will need to defer your start date to the next quarter/semester when your program will resume in-person courses and reissue a new form I-20 or DS-2019.
If I am transferring my SEVIS record, may I travel abroad in between programs? What if I do or do not have a valid visa?
If you still have a valid F-1 visa, you may continue to use that visa with your new I-20 from Drexel to return to the U.S. (J-1 students, please consult with ISSS to discuss further.) However, you still need to consider possible travel restrictions and your personal situation before deciding if travel is the best option. If you do not have a valid visa, you should consider not leaving the U.S., as delays at the embassy for visa renewal may prevent you from returning in time to start your program.
What if I am currently in another immigration status and wish to apply for a change of status to F-1 or J-1 and not travel to get a new visa to return?
We highly advise consulting an immigration attorney to review this option.
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.