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Date: Jul 2020

This message was sent to all JHU students outside the U.S. issued an initial I-20 with a fall start date.* We are writing to provide more information about the most recent Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance updated on July 15 as it applies to thousands of new students expecting to come to the U.S. to study at universities all across the country. Many of you have contacted us since that update and are understandably disappointed and upset at what the Federal Government’s guidance means for you. The excitement many felt in the wake of SEVP rescinding the July 6 guidance overshadowed the shortcomings of the judge’s announcement of the parties’ agreement, which called for a return to the guidance issued in March 2020. This March guidance did not provide relief for new students in spring or summer, nor does it provide relief for new fall students, despite prior requests by universities and their professional associations. Since rescinding the July 6 guidance, the Federal Government has not made any public statements regarding their intention to issue further guidance to benefit new fall students. SEVP merely updated the March guidance with a July 15 effective date.

 

We will continue our advocacy with the federal government for a solution that extends the March guidance through the end of the pandemic and encompasses the needs of newly admitted international students who are not yet in the United States. There are indications that Congress is trying to address this issue. However, the outcome is uncertain, and with little time before the fall semester starts, we fear it is possible, if not likely, that the situation will not be resolved before you would otherwise begin travel to the U.S., and so we offer the following guidance.

 

IMPACT TO NEW STUDENTS

Under the March 2020 SEVP guidance, new students are now confronted with the need to employ contingency plans, such as beginning their programs from abroad this fall with the hope of arriving Stateside in a later term, or deferring the start of their program altogether to spring or next fall. The March guidance clearly indicates that new F-1 students should not enter the U.S. unless their school is following normal operating procedures and students can maintain full-time enrollment requirements. JHU does not plan to return to normal operations for fall 2020 due to continuing public health concerns related to COVID-19. Therefore, new JHU students outside the U.S. with an initial form I-20 should not enter the U.S. to begin their program in fall. This guidance does not prohibit students from beginning their JHU program online while outside the U.S. Students interested in beginning their JHU program online in fall should consult with their program to discuss options.

 

ACTION NEEDED

Additionally, all new students with an initial I-20 for fall 2020 will need to inform OIS of their plans so we can amend their Form I-20 as necessary. To inform OIS of your contingency plans, please complete the “New Student Deferral eForm” in iHopkins under the “Admissions” tab at least two weeks before the start of fall semester as indicated on your current I-20. Depending on the contingency plan you and your program agree to, options may include the following:

 

  1. Begin your JHU program online in fall with the intention to travel to the U.S. in spring. OIS will amend your I-20 start date to spring and securely email your updated I-20 to your JHU email account.
  2. Defer your JHU admission to spring. OIS will amend your I-20 start date to spring and securely email your updated I-20 to your JHU email account.
  3. Defer your JHU admission to fall 2021. OIS will cancel your F-1 record and fall I-20. In spring 2021, we will contact you with instructions for requesting a fall 2021 I-20.

 

Alternatively, if you no longer plan to come to JHU, kindly inform your program and email OIS at ois@jhu.edu to let us know and we will cancel your F-1 record.

 

ACQUIRING AN F-1 VISA FROM THE U.S. CONSULATE FOR PLANNED SPRING ARRIVAL

If you are in the process of scheduling a visa interview or already have a visa interview appointment with the expectation of arriving for spring 2021, you should take your amended I-20 with you to the visa interview. However, keep in mind that U.S. consulates typically do not issue F-1 visas more than 120 days in advance of the I-20 program start date. If you have already acquired an F-1 visa, you may use it to arrive in spring if it is still valid on your planned date of entry. If you do not inform OIS of your plans, we must cancel your F-1 record.

 

Please keep in mind that SEVP could issue new guidance for spring 2021! The current guidance applies only to fall 2020. We will communicate any spring updates to you once they are known.

 

We know you may be greatly disappointed that the federal government’s current response to the COVID pandemic does not include a path for you to begin your Johns Hopkins education in the manner you envisioned. We are greatly disappointed, too, and we will continue to advocate for you in Congress and with the administration. Our international students bring irreplaceable vitality to our campus, and we will do whatever we can to help you join us as soon as government regulations and the requirements of public health allow. But please know that wherever you may be in the world this fall semester, you are a valued member of the Johns Hopkins community.

 

Please reach out to OIS at ois@jhu.edu or 667-208-7001 if you have any questions about this email. Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Office of International Services

*Students transferring their F-1 record to JHU and students beginning a second degree program at JHU will receive a separate email that specifically addresses their circumstances.

[This message was sent to all JHU students with an active, initial, change of status or transfer-pending F-1 record at JHU on July 16, 2020.]

 

Dear Johns Hopkins International Students:

We are writing to provide important updates to our message from July 7.

First, please accept our sincere gratitude for your incredible efforts to raise awareness of the devastating impact the SEVP guidance released on July 6 would have had on international students at Johns Hopkins and beyond. Your activism helped bring global attention to the plight of international students seeking to continue their academic programs in the fall and was instrumental in the government’s decision to reverse that guidance this week. The rules governing online courses for F-1 visa holders now incorporate needed flexibility for international students to continue their studies this fall in a manner that is aligned with the best public health guidance.

As you may know, Johns Hopkins was one of many universities that challenged the July 6 guidance in court, and while the issue now appears to be moot, we have chosen to keep our complaint open in case the situation should change. Please view the message from President Daniels regarding the legal outcome here.

We apologize for the delay in responding to the high volume of inquiries we received from students in recent days. Please understand that we remain steadfastly focused on supporting our international students in every way possible, and we hope that these updates will answer many of your questions.

 

FALL OPERATIONS UNDER MARCH 2020 SEVP GUIDANCE

JHU expects that all schools will make significant use of online and remote teaching and learning for fall 2020 due to COVID-19. The guidance the government adopted in March and reinstated this week provides sufficient exemptions to SEVP’s regular in-person enrollment requirements for current students in F-1 status and transfer students already in the U.S. in F-1 status. However, no exceptions have been made for new students or transfer students outside the U.S.

 

UPDATED IMPACT GRID

We have updated the Fall 2020 SEVP Student Impact Grid that details the impact for each student situation. Please review this grid in advance of seeking assistance from OIS, as it will help focus discussion on questions relevant to your specific circumstances.

 

U.S. CONSULATE VISA SERVICES UPDATE

On July 14, the Department of State announced a phased resumption of routine visa services. Please view that announcement here.

 

NEW HEALTH RESOURCE WEBSITE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

We understand that this is an incredibly stressful time and all the changes and uncertainly throughout 2020 are likely to impact your life in ways far beyond your visa status. For additional support, we strongly urge you to take advantage of all the various health and wellness resources for JHU international students. Additional information is available at a newly-launched website just for international students.

The continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the recent announcement by SEVP, travel restrictions, consular closures, lack of available flights, and the ensuing legal action and outcome have made planning incredibly difficult for fall 2020. It has required students, schools, and our advisors to perpetually revisit and update plans each time new information becomes available. Hang in there! Together we will get through this. We remain committed to providing you transparent, thorough, up-to-date guidance to assist you during this crisis. Please continue to direct your specific questions to ois@jhu.edu or 667-208-7001.

 

Sincerely,

The Office of International Services