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The Impact of COVID-19 on New International Students

Winter Quarter/Spring Semester Guide for New/Incoming International Students

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

Download the New/Incoming Students Guide [PDF]

 

Winter Quarter/Spring Semester Frequently Asked Questions

Student Visa Application and Visa Status

Can I obtain a visa to study at Drexel?

While the decision about visa eligibility is made by the US Department of State (DoS), students planning to enroll at institutions offering hybrid and face-to-face classes in the upcoming term should be eligible to receive an F-1/J-1 visa. Please note that your ability to obtain a visa will depend on the availability of US consular services in your current country of residence.

If your program is 100% remote in the next term: you will need to have your updated I-20/DS-2019 with a future term Program Start Date. Reach out to the US Embassy/Consulate where your interview is scheduled to determine if you can attend your appointment with an I-20/DS-2019 that is updated and emailed to you, or if they recommend rescheduling for a later date when you will have the physical original I-20/DS-2019 in hand. Due to delays in mailing services and large volume of requests, we cannot provide an estimate of when you will receive the original hard copy.

If I already received an F-1 visa sticker for the winter quarter/spring semester, do I need to apply for a new F-1 visa for the winter? Do I need to pay the SEVIS fee again?

You do not need to apply for a new F-1 visa to enter the US in a future term. You will use the F-1 visa sticker that you have already received (assuming it is not expired and you do not have a limited entry window that ends before your intended entry), along with the new I-20 and other required travel documents, to enter the US for a future term. Additionally, you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again because it is the same SEVIS record that we originally created for you; we change the program dates on the SEVIS record for which you’ve already paid the fee.

Do I need a face-to-face (FTF) or hybrid (HYB) course on my schedule in order to follow F-1 regulations?

Please review the New/Incoming Students Guide [PDF] for guidance about course enrollment.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected ISSS I-20/DS-2019 processing times?

We are able to process your completed I-20/DS-2019 application within 2-3 business days and email your I-20/DS-2019 to you as soon as it is generated by SEVIS. However, mailing processing times are delayed due to limited access to physical offices while we practice safe social distancing. 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. You can check the status of your application in DrexelOne.

When should I apply for my I-20 or DS-2019?

If you believe that you can get a visa appointment at a US Embassy/Consulate but haven’t applied for your I-20/DS-2019, we urge you that you do so as soon as possible. The ISSS processing time for I-20/DS-2019 issuance is dependent on the receipt of complete and accurate application materials. 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?

The US Department of State temporarily suspended all routine visa services at all US Embassies and Consulates, but some Embassies/Consulates are reopening if local conditions allow it. There is very limited visa appointment availability. Please continue to check with your local embassy/consulate for updates about its operating procedures.

What if I am currently in another immigration status and wish to apply for a change of status (CoS) to F-1 or J-1 and not travel to get a new visa to return?

This process can take several months and, unless you are currently in an appropriate immigration status that would allow you to study full-time in the US, you will not be able to start your program at Drexel before your CoS is approved by the USCIS. F-1/J-1 rules/regulations apply to you only if your CoS application is approved before/on the first day of the upcoming term.

If your CoS application is not approved before/on the first day of the winter quarter/spring semester, your I-20/DS-2019 Program Start Date will be deferred to the following term (spring quarter or summer semester). You will remain in your current visa status (and adhere to the regulations governing your current status) for the duration of upcoming term, even if your CoS to F-1/J-1 is approved while the term is in session. Please consult your current visa's sponsor or an immigration attorney for guidance regarding your course enrollment for the next term if your CoS application is not yet approved.

How do I show the visa officer at the US Embassy/Consulate that my program is operating in a hybrid model?

We recommend that you download/print a copy of your course schedule from DrexelOne to show that you have at least one course on your schedule requiring in-person attendance. Please view the New/Incoming Students Guide [PDF] for guidance about course enrollment. If the Embassy/Consulate requires a letter stating that Drexel is operating in a hybrid modality, please email isss@drexel.edu to request this letter.

Will I be allowed to stay in the US if my program switches from hybrid to fully remote instruction after my arrival?

Yes, you will be allowed to remain in the US if your program switches from hybrid to entirely remote as long as you continue being enrolled in a full-time courseload.

Do I need to get a new I-20 to show I will be taking a mix of in-person and online classes?

No, an updated I-20 is not required.

Travel to the United States (US)

Will I encounter difficulties getting to the US?

It is crucial that you stay up to date on the list of countries whose citizens may face difficulties entering the US; 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.

What is the latest date I can arrive to start my program if I am delayed by visa issues and/or continuing travel restrictions?

You are expected to arrive in the US by the program start date listed on your I-20 (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students). If you are not able to arrive by your I-20/DS-2019 start date, please contact your academic department and consider alternate enrollment options by consulting your designated Admissions counselor. While you may be able to receive permission from your academic department to arrive later, entry into the US after your I-20/DS-2019 start date is at the discretion of the immigration officer at the US port of entry and may be denied. It is generally not a good idea to arrive more than one week after classes start. If you still plan to arrive after classes start, make sure that you have a late arrival permission letter from your department and proof of enrollment.

What if I cannot arrive in time to start my program? Will I have the option to take courses online from outside the US if I cannot arrive in time?

If you cannot arrive on time for the upcoming term, remote study study from outside the US may be an option for you. You may also consider deferring the start of your studies to a future term. Please review the New/Incoming Students Guide [PDF] for complete guidance.

What documents do I need to have when entering the US?

Students traveling to the US on a new I-20 and F-1 visa should carry the following:

  • Valid passport (passport must be valid for at least 6 months from date of intended entry).
  • Valid (unexpired) F-1 visa sticker (page) in your passport (except for Canadian and Bermudan citizens).
  • Valid I-20 form. If you only received an I-20 from ISSS via email, include the digital I- 20 support letter that was provided to you. If you received one via mail (UPS, DHL, etc.), carry this original "wet-ink" copy.
  • Evidence of funding; bring a copy of whatever funding is mentioned on your I-20.
  • A copy of your acceptance letter; you can print this from Discover Drexel.

There have been reports of the CBP agents 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; make sure it includes at least one course that is face-to-face (FTF) or hybrid (HYB)* or includes a required in-person component.
  • Students traveling from Europe/UK/Ireland: a printout of this webpage.
  • You may email isss@drexel.edu for a letter stating that you are enrolled in a graduate program with a required in-person component.

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.

How do I show an immigration officer at the US port of entry that my program is operating in a hybrid model in the fall?

We recommend that you download/print a copy of your course schedule from DrexelOne to show that you have at least one course on your schedule requiring in-person attendance. Please view the New/Incoming Students Guide [PDF] for guidance about course enrollment. If the Embassy/Consulate requires a letter stating that Drexel is operating in a hybrid modality, please email isss@drexel.edu to request this letter.

Will I be required to quarantine myself when I arrive to the US?

The winter term will begin one week later on January 11 for all quarter-based graduate and undergraduate classes, allowing for a gradual move-in and COVID-19 testing period. The first week of learning will take place remotely to allow on-campus students to complete a two-week “quiet” period. Students and Phase I-IV employees will undergo baseline COVID-19 testing at the start of the term. Click here to read more.

Will I be allowed to enter the US if my program switches from hybrid to fully remote instruction before I arrive?

No. New F-1 students will ONLY be allowed to enter the US to start their programs if they can show at the ports of entry that their schools will be operating either entirely in-person or providing hybrid instruction with a required in-person component.

SEVIS Transfer Students

I transferred my SEVIS record to Drexel and am currently in the US. Can I remain in the US?

Yes, you can remain in the US You will be able to maintain your F-1 status as long as you enroll for at least 12 credits (undergraduate students) or 9 credits (graduate students). Those credits can be a combination of any of the five available methods of instructions.

I transferred my SEVIS record to Drexel. I am currently outside the US. Can I travel back to the US?

If you are enrolled in 100% remote coursework, you may NOT enter the US. You will only be eligible to enter the US and attend your program if you enroll in at least one course that is face-to-face (FTF) or hybrid (HYB)* or includes a required in-person component.

* You MUST be sure that the HYB course that you are registered for REQUIRES in-person class attendance. As a new student entering the US, registering for a course schedule with no required in-person attendance would be a violation of F-1 status.

If you do not wish to return to the US and would prefer to start your program remotely, please notify ISSS at isss@drexel.edu as soon as you know that you will not be able to return to the US for the upcoming term.

I transferred my SEVIS record to Drexel but am currently outside the US. What will happen if I am unable to return to the US, but will start my program remotely?

The ISSS will work with SEVIS to defer your I-20 start date into the next available program start date. It is important that you notify ISSS at isss@drexel.edu as soon as you know that you will not be able to return to the US for the upcoming term. Please be aware that this change to transfer students' documents may take a long time. We will communicate a timeline/instructions to you when you request this update.

I transferred my SEVIS record to Drexel but am currently outside the US. What will happen if I am unable to return to the US, and wish to defer my program start date?

If the time gap between your previous program and the start of your new program at Drexel will be greater than 5 months, ISSS will need to terminate your existing SEVIS record and create a new initial SEVIS record and I-20 for you. Please be aware that this will affect your eligibility for CPT for co-op (undergraduate students), it may affect your eligibility for OPT if you have fewer than 3 quarters/2 semesters remaining to graduate, and you will have to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee for the new SEVIS record. Depending on how long it has been since you submitted your I-20 application documents, ISSS may require updated documents in order to create a new SEVIS record for you.

If the gap between your previous program and the start of your new program (after deferral) will be fewer than 5 months, the ISSS will work with SEVIS to defer your I-20 start date into the next available program start date. It is important that you notify ISSS at isss@drexel.edu as soon as you know that you will not be able to return to the US for the upcoming term. Please be aware that this change to transfer students' documents may take a long time. We will communicate a timeline/instructions to you when you request this update.

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.

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

The University has made the decision to delay the start of winter quarter to January 11, undergraduate students may move into on-campus housing, and courses will be taught with a hybrid modality. Click here to read more.

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

I am outside the US and 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.

Who do I contact if I have questions about on-campus housing and move-in?

Drexel University housing will be open to undergraduates during the winter quarter and spring semester. Residence halls will be single occupancy only. Priority will be given to students with emergency or hardship situations (such as international students who cannot travel home). If you have any questions, please contact Housing and Residence Life at housing@drexel.edu or visit the Housing and Residence Life website. You can also call 215-895-6155 for the latest information regarding housing at Drexel.

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 or for on-campus study.

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