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The following message was emailed to new and continuing international students on 8/26/21.

Welcome to Fall 2021. We hope you are prepared for the start of the term.

For the past 17 months, the Office of International Services (OIS) has operated fully virtually to serve your immigration, visa, and travel needs by providing guidance, issuing required documentation, and fulfilling government reporting requirements. We have learned a lot about how we serve you and how we can serve you even better in the future.


In short, we will continue to provide you with services and guidance in a fully virtual setting going forward as we are now working off-site permanently. For advising questions, you may email us anytime at ois@jhu.edu, or call 667-208-7001 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday from 9am-12pm or 1pm-4pm Eastern Time to speak with an advisor. You may submit requests via our iHopkins system, as well as review the extensive immigration information available on our website, which we work to improve every day.

Working remotely throughout the pandemic allowed us to focus on phone and email advising, and in doing so, we learned we could serve more students faster on average, regardless of their location in the world, while maintaining our high standards for providing competent, thorough guidance. By serving everyone remotely, we have established equity in service levels to students regardless of location, particularly in locations at which we did not have an office open on a full-time basis. We were able to decrease average email response times and significantly increase our individualized advising hours. Virtual advising also enables us to add additional advising call support immediately during peak times, something we could not easily do at all of our locations. And we hope you enjoy the ability to reach us from anywhere, without the need to visit a physical OIS location when it is too hot or cold or rainy or snowy outside!

We remain dedicated to providing you with the best immigration, visa, and travel guidance available anywhere, and look forward to serving you this academic year and beyond. We wish you a successful fall semester.

Sincerely,

The Office of International Services Staff

The following message was emailed on 8/13/2021 to students with a pending or requested OPT application as well as to all students with an I-20 end date prior to 2/1/2022.

You are receiving this email because the Office of International Services (OIS) recently issued you an I-20 with an OPT or STEM OPT recommendation and your request is still in Pending or Requested status OR because you have an I-20 with an end date prior to 2/1/2022 and you may be eligible to apply for OPT in the coming months.

As a result of a recent court order, USCIS is extending prior flexibilities to some OPT and STEM applicants. Please carefully review the full USCIS statement online.

The flexibilities for students who are in the process of applying for OPT or STEM OPT include:

• Providing students with a full 12-month period of OPT even if the OPT end date will extend beyond the allowed period of 14 months after the end of the student’s program. This provision also allows students with an approved period of less than 12 months to request a corrected EAD with a new end date. This is a continuation of USCIS’s February 26, 2021 flexibility.

• Allowing students whose initial application was rejected between 10/1/20 and 10/31/21 to reapply even if it’s beyond the required application timeframe as long as the refiled application is received by USCIS by 11/30/21. A new I-20 from OIS is not required when reapplying. This is a continuation of USCIS’s February 26, 2021 flexibility but extends the refiling deadline from 5/31/21 to 11/30/21.

• Issuing a request for evidence (RFE) for applications that have been receipted and have missing or deficient signatures instead of denying the application. This is a continuation of USCIS’s February 26, 2021 flexibility.

The flexibilities for students who are planning to apply for OPT include:

• A new provision in USCIS’s July 29, 2021 alert appears to allow all students applying for the initial 12 months of OPT to file their applications with USCIS up to 120 days before their program end date instead of the usual filing timeframe of 90 days before the program end date. This applies to applications received by USCIS through 10/31/21. It does not apply to students filing an I-765 for the OPT STEM Extension, those students are still required to submit their application to USCIS within the 90-day period preceding the end date of their OPT.

If you believe you are eligible for one of the flexibilities being afforded by USCIS, please reach out to us at ois@jhu.edu to discuss your situation. It is important that OIS is aware of your plans so we can advise you and help ensure that your F-1 SEVIS record is properly updated.

If you have not applied for OPT and are interested in doing so, you must meet the standard OPT eligibility requirements detailed on our website. Please contact us at ois@jhu.edu if you have any questions about OPT eligibility after reviewing the website.

The following message was sent by email on 07/27/2021 to all current faculty, staff, researchers, and scholars.

Greetings, JHU International Faculty, Staff, Researchers, and Scholars!

We hope your summer is going well and that you and your loved ones are remaining safe and healthy. As the university is preparing for a resumption of many in-person and on-site activities, please find below some tips, guidance, and reminders you may find helpful and informative.

We are acutely aware that it has been a difficult 18 months for global mobility in general. We greatly sympathize with the plight of the hundreds of individuals whose academic plans have been complicated, delayed, or derailed entirely by both the pandemic and the often aggravating and inexplicable government policies and barriers stemming from it.

We would like to assure you that the University, via its teams in the Offices of Federal Strategy and Government & Community Affairs, has been very active since the onset of the pandemic in both requesting relief for our community and in apprising our congressional delegation of the myriad hurdles and hardships faced by Johns Hopkins affiliates. Those offices also engage daily with the many professional associations to which JHU belongs, and those organizations have spoken frequently on these matters with government and administration officials on behalf of the member institutions, including Hopkins. It is perhaps worth noting that individuals may also reach out to the respective constituent services staff for their U.S. House Congressional Representative as well as that of both U.S. Senators from Maryland to share their personal experiences. While the Office of Federal Strategy regularly engages the U.S. Congressional delegation from Maryland on behalf of Johns Hopkins, others are not precluded from doing so on their personal behalf. However, if Johns Hopkins is the sponsor of your visa, we ask that you notify OIS and Federal Strategy if you would like to make an inquiry about your visa.

International Travel for Those Inside the U.S.

The global travel landscape remains uncertain at this time. It is possible that new travel restrictions may pop up with little or no warning. While we continue to strongly advise avoiding travel where possible, we understand the difficulties posed by the lengthy period of restricted travel due to COVID-19. The decision to travel will be at your own discretion. Please discuss your plans with an advisor in OIS well prior to travel to weigh the risks and explore contingencies. Please see the following section for the documentation required to reenter the U.S. Note that you may remain in the U.S. with an expired U.S. visa stamp. The visa stamp must only be valid at the time of each entry to the U.S with some limited exceptions.

General Reminders for Returning to the U.S. from Abroad

There are several items you will need to reenter the U.S. For individuals from COVID travel-restricted countries, please review the “Travel to the U.S.” section below. Each person must present the following:

  1. A passport with at least six months’ remaining validity (if you have less time remaining to expiration, you might only be admitted for the time remaining on your passport or even be denied entry);
  2. A valid visa (individuals from Canada and Bermuda generally are not required to obtain visas, with a few exceptions; for entry from certain countries, expired visas may be used under the Automatic Revalidation rule);
  3. A valid DS-2019 (J-1) or I-797 approval notice (H-1B, E-3) with accurate and up-to-date information (name on document must match your passport name);
  4. For those in J-1 status, a travel signature on your DS-2019 from an advisor in OIS that is no older than one year. Instructions for requesting a travel signature can be found on our website. Allow for 10 business days for processing of travel signature request. Allow extra time for international express mail shipping;
  5. For those in H-1B status, you may request a travel letter from OIS; and,
  6. A negative COVID test (see below).

Upon re-entry to the U.S., pull up and review your electronic I-94 arrival document from the Customs and Border Protection website. Check that all of the information is correct. For J-1s make sure that the “admit until” date is “D/S,” which stands for “duration of status.” For H-1B, O-1, and E-3s, ensure the “admit until” date matches your I-797 approval notice. Also check the stamp and notation in your passport (usually next to the visa) to ensure those are consistent with the electronic I-94 information. If you notice any errors, email OIS as soon as possible.

Travel to the U.S.—COVID Restrictions and Requirements

• COVID travel restrictions and National Interest Exceptions (NIE)

Individuals travelling from China, India, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, UK, Ireland, and Schengen Area remain subject to U.S. COVID travel restrictions. There are a number of exceptions to the restrictions, but the most often-used among scholars and employees is the National Interest Exception (NIE). For additional information on NIEs, please visit the extensive NAFSA resource here. Please note that validity of NIEs for those who receive or have already received NIEs has been extended from 30 days to 12 months from the date of issue.

NIEs must be requested directly from your local consulate (after August 1, 2021, individuals in F-1 student status including those working on OPT are granted automatic NIEs and do not need to request an NIE from the consulate); the consulate will not work with JHU or OIS. There is no penalty for asking and getting a denial of an NIE. The consulate will inform you of the information it needs to consider your NIE request.

Most J-1 scholars in the professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, and specialist categories should be granted an NIE according to DOS guidance because participation in an Exchange Visitor Program is considered to be in the U.S. national interest. Unfortunately, NIE eligibility is less accommodating for H-1B, O-1, and E-3 employees, with the consulate instructed by DOS to place priority on students and J-1 exchange visitors.

We have been asked about the strategy of going through a third country, but we cannot endorse or recommend this due to the risks and liabilities associated with the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and travel restrictions.

• Negative COVID test requirement for ALL air travelers

All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States. More information for international travelers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control can be found here and here.

• University COVID guidance

JHU COVID guidance and information is found here. Vaccine FAQs are located here.

Visa Appointments and Issuance

If you already have a valid visa for re-entry, you may still use it. You do not have to obtain a new one before returning to the U.S.

However, some individuals whose visas have expired and therefore need to renew their visas have reached out to OIS to report difficulties in getting a visa appointment at the U.S. consulate in their country. Unfortunately, it is clear consulates around the world are not fully operating at pre-pandemic levels and are only slowly resuming some routine services. Recent articles from SHRM and Inside Higher Ed capture the essence of what has been happening worldwide.

Here are a few key points to remember when applying for a visa:

  • A visa application is personal to the individual, and the consulate will not speak to JHU about your individual case;
  • Consulates are given wide latitude by the U.S. Department of State in how they conduct services, even at different consulates in the same country;
  • Many consulates are still temporarily closed or offering emergency services only, while others are slowly resuming routine services; consular services will vary based on local conditions;
  • Consulates worldwide are backlogged and are working to prioritize student volume above most other visa types; and,
  • Individuals who have had a valid visa in the same classification in the past four years MAY receive a waiver of the visa interview. See Department of State notice here.

Tips for scheduling a visa interview appointment:

  • Only you can schedule the appointment via the consulate’s scheduling system, and it may be necessary to visit the consulate’s website daily or several times a day until you see appointments become available; new appointments may become available at any time.
  • You may view general appointment information for each consulate by visiting https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html--check this frequently for updates.
  • Prepare contingency plans should the visa backlog continue beyond your desired return date; consult with your host or employing department and OIS regarding delayed return, remote work possibilities, leave of absence options, etc.
  • You may be able to request an “expedited visa appointment” under certain circumstances that may vary by consulate. Check the consulate’s website for instructions.
  • Good luck and keep us posted on the status of your visa efforts and if you encounter anything out of the ordinary (as we routinely pass along special issues to our colleagues in the Offices of Federal Strategy and Government & Community Affairs, so they may inform our congressional delegation and professional associations).

For more complete information, visit our COVID Immigration and Travel FAQs here. After reviewing, if you still have uncertainties about your plans for fall, do not hesitate to reach out to ois@jhu.edu.

Sincerely,

The Office of International Services

The following message was sent by email on 7/20/21 to all current students in F-1 and J-1 status.

Greetings, JHU International Students!

We hope your summer is going well and that you and your loved ones are remaining safe and healthy. As you make your preparations for the resumption of your programs in fall, please find below some tips, guidance, and reminders you may find helpful and informative.

International Travel for Those Inside the U.S.

We continue to strongly advise against travel outside the U.S. if it can be avoided. It is possible new restrictions may pop up with little or no warning. In any case, please discuss your plans with an advisor in OIS well prior to travel to weigh the risks and explore contingencies. Please see the following section for the documentation required to reenter the U.S. Note that you may remain in the U.S. with an expired U.S. visa. The visa must only be valid at the time of each entry to the U.S with some limited exceptions.

General Reminders for Students Returning to the U.S. from Abroad

There are several items you will need to reenter the U.S. For students from COVID travel-restricted countries, please review the “Travel to the U.S.” section below. Each F-1 or J-1 student must present the following:

  1. A passport with at least six months’ remaining validity (if you have less time remaining to expiration, you might only be admitted for the time remaining on your passport or even be denied entry);
  2. A valid F-1 or J-1 visa (students from Canada and Bermuda do not require student visas; for entry from certain countries, expired visas may be used under the Automatic Revalidation rule);
  3. A valid I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) with accurate and up-to-date personal and program information (name on document must match your passport name);
  4. Students on OPT need a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD), commonly referred to as an OPT card, and should carry documentation confirming proof of employment;
  5. A travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 from an advisor in OIS that is no older than one year (no older than six months for students on OPT). Instructions for requesting a travel signature can be found on our website. Allow for 10 business days for processing of travel signature request. J-1 students allow extra time for international express mail shipping; and,
  6. A negative COVID test (see below).

Upon re-entry to the U.S., pull up and review your electronic I-94 arrival document from the Customs and Border Protection website. Check that all of the information is correct and that the “admit until” date is “D/S,” which stands for “duration of status.” Also check the stamp and notation in your passport (usually next to the visa) to ensure those are consistent with the electronic I-94 information. If you notice any errors, email OIS as soon as possible.

Travel to the U.S.—COVID Restrictions and Requirements

• COVID travel restrictions and National Interest Exceptions (NIE)

As you have probably heard by now, for programs starting on or after August 1, 2021, students from the COVID travel-restricted countries of China, India, Brazil, Iran, and South Africa are automatically granted a National Interest Exception (NIE) to the COVID travel restrictions, meaning that you do not need to request an NIE from the consulate in order to travel to the U.S. Students from the UK, Ireland, and the Schengen Area of Europe are not subject to the August 1, 2021 condition for the other countries.

While the Department of State notice was somewhat ambiguous regarding eligibility of continuing and F-1 OPT students for automatic NIEs in their announcement, it does refer to “students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program, including OPT,” so it is expected that continuing and OPT students returning to the U.S. on or after August 1 will also qualify for an automatic NIE.

If you attempt to travel to the U.S. for a fall program or resumption of OPT inside the U.S. prior to August 1, you should contact the consulate and your airline for confirmation that you will be able to travel under the automatic NIE on your chosen date. Additionally, keep in mind that Customs and Border Protection is ultimately responsible for determining your eligibility for admission to the U.S.

• Negative COVID test requirement for ALL air travelers

All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States. More information for international travelers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control can be found here and here.

• University COVID guidance

JHU COVID guidance and information is found here. Vaccine FAQs are located here; note the special section entitled “Vaccination Mandate – International Students.”

Visa Appointments and Issuance

If you already have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa for re-entry, you may still use it. You do not have to obtain a new one before returning to the U.S.

However, some individuals whose visas have expired and therefore need to renew their visas have reached out to OIS to report difficulties in getting a visa appointment at the U.S. consulate in their country. Unfortunately, it is clear consulates around the world are not fully operating at pre-pandemic levels and are only slowly resuming some routine services. A recent article from Inside Higher Ed captures the essence of what has been happening worldwide.

Here are a few key points to remember when applying for a visa:

  • A visa application is personal to the individual, and the consulate will not speak to JHU about your individual case;
  • Consulates are given wide latitude by the U.S. Department of State in how they conduct services, even at different consulates in the same country;
  • Many consulates are still temporarily closed or offering emergency services only, while others are slowly resuming routine services; consular services will vary based on local conditions;
  • Consulates worldwide are backlogged and are currently handling requests from students admitted in fall 2020, spring 2021, and fall 2021, but they are working as best they can to prioritize student volume; and,
  • Student visas are a high priority among all non-immigrant visas, meaning students will be given visa appointments ahead of most other visa applicants.
  • Students who have had a valid F-1 or J-1 student visa in the past four years MAY receive a waiver of the visa interview. See Department of State notice here.

Tips for scheduling a visa interview appointment:

  • Only you can schedule the appointment via the consulate’s scheduling system, and it may be necessary to visit the consulate’s website daily or several times a day until you see appointments become available; new appointments may become available at any time.
  • You may view general appointment information for each consulate by visiting https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html --check this frequently for updates.
  • Prepare contingency plans should the visa backlog continue past the start of fall; consult with your department’s academic advising team regarding delayed arrival, remote study possibilities, leave of absence options, etc.
  • You may be able to request an “expedited visa appointment” with the consulate once you are within 30 days of the start of fall term. Check the consulate’s website for instructions.
  • Good luck and keep us posted on the status of your visa efforts and if you encounter anything out of the ordinary (as we routinely pass along special issues to our Government Affairs colleagues so they may inform our congressional delegation).

For more complete information, visit our COVID Immigration and Travel FAQs here. After reviewing, if you still have uncertainties about your plans for fall, do not hesitate to reach out to ois@jhu.edu.

Sincerely,

The Office of International Services

The following message was sent by email on 7/6/21 to international students with an initial or transfer pending form I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1).

Greetings, JHU International Students!

We hope your summer is going well and that you and your loved ones are remaining safe and healthy. As you make your preparations for the resumption or commencement of your programs in fall, please find below some tips, guidance, and reminders you may find helpful and informative, as well as a request to complete a new eForm once you have secured your F-1 or J-1 student visa.

Visa Appointments and Issuance

Some individuals have reached out to report difficulties in getting a visa appointment at the U.S. consulate in their country. Unfortunately, it is clear consulates around the world are not fully operating at pre-pandemic levels and are only slowly resuming some routine services. A recent article from Inside Higher Ed captures the essence of what has been happening worldwide.

Here are a few key points to remember when attempting to secure a visa appointment:

  • A visa application is personal to the individual, and the consulate will not speak to JHU about your individual case;
  • Consulates are given wide latitude by the U.S. Department of State in how they conduct services, even at different consulates in the same country;
  • Many consulates are still temporarily closed or offering emergency services only, while others are slowly resuming routine services; consular services will vary based on local conditions;
  • Consulates worldwide are backlogged and are currently handling requests from students admitted in fall 2020, spring 2021, and fall 2021, but they are working as best they can to prioritize student volume; and,
  • Student visas are a high priority among all non-immigrant visas, meaning students will be given visa appointments ahead of most other visa applicants.

OK, great, but what can I do to increase my chances of securing a visa appointment?

  • Only you can schedule the appointment via the consulate’s scheduling system, and it may be necessary to visit the consulate’s website daily or several times a day until you see appointments become available; new appointments may become available at any time.
  • You may view general appointment information for each consulate by visiting https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html --check this frequently for updates.
  • Prepare contingency plans should the visa backlog continue past the start of fall; consult with your department’s academic advising team regarding delayed arrival, remote study possibilities, deferral options, etc.—students must be able to arrive and check-in with OIS no later than the 30th day of the term (with their program’s permission) or will need to obtain a new I-20 and plan to arrive the following term.
  • You may be able to request an “expedited visa appointment” with the consulate once you are within 30 days of your program start date as stated on your I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1); check the consulate’s website for instructions.
    • Good luck and keep us posted on the status of your visa efforts and if you encounter anything out of the ordinary (as we routinely pass along special issues to our Government Affairs colleagues so they may inform our congressional delegation).

I have obtained my F-1 or J-1 student visa! Now what?

  • Once you have secured your visa, please complete the short “Notification of Student Visa Issuance eForm” located in the “New Students” tab of iHopkins; your program will have access to a report showing that you have received your visa.
  • REMINDER: immediately after your arrival in the U.S., be certain to complete the separate required OIS “Check-In eForm” found in iHopkins. It can be completed up to 30 days before your program start date. If you arrive in the U.S. within the 30-day period after your program start date, you must complete the Check-In eForm as soon as possible. It is critical that all new F-1 and J-1 students, including transfer students and change of degree level students who studied at JHU previously, complete the Check-In eForm to comply with U.S. immigration regulations for international students.

Travel to the U.S.

• COVID travel restrictions and National Interest Exceptions (NIE)

As you have probably heard by now, for programs starting on or after August 1, 2021, students from China, India, Brazil, Iran, South Africa, UK, Ireland, and the Schengen Area of Europe are automatically granted a National Interest Exception (NIE) to the COVID travel restrictions, meaning that you do not need to request an NIE from the consulate in order to travel to the U.S. If you attempt to travel to the U.S. for a program start prior to August 1, you would need to contact the consulate and request an NIE.

• Negative COVID test requirement for air travelers

All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States. More information for international travelers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control can be found here and here.

International Travel for Those Inside the U.S.

We continue to strongly advise against travel outside the U.S. if it can be avoided. It is possible new restrictions may pop up with little or no warning. In any case, please discuss your plans with an advisor in OIS well prior to travel.

For more complete information, visit our COVID Immigration and Travel FAQs here. After reviewing, if you still have uncertainties about your planned arrival for fall, do not hesitate to reach out to ois@jhu.edu.

Sincerely,

The Office of International Services