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FAQs: COVID-19 Immigration Implications
 

Last Updated 1/24/2021

This FAQ is for general information purposes only and is subject to change. Please discuss your individual circumstances with an advisor in OIS prior to travel or in advance of any change in the terms of your approved program or employment.

UPDATE FOR STUDENTS REGARDING SPRING 2021 [1/24/21]

Spring guidance has not been formally announced on the SEVP website.  Until further notice, we are operating on fall guidance.  We will provide further updates as soon as formal notice is published by SEVP.
 

GENERAL

What are the COVID-19 travel restrictions?

On January 31, 2020, President Trump signed Proclamation 9984 titled Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus to include all aliens who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

On February 29, 2020, President Trump signed Presidential Proclamation 9992 titled Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus to include all aliens who have been physically present in Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

On March 11, 2020, President Trump signed Presidential Proclamation 9993 titled Proclamation—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus to include all aliens who have been physically present in 26 Schengen Area countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

On March 14, 2020, President Trump signed an additional Presidential Proclamation titled Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus to include all aliens who have been physically present in the United Kingdom or Ireland during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

On May 24, 2020, President Trump signed an additional Presidential Proclamation titled Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Novel Coronavirus to include all aliens who have been physically present in the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

How does the travel restriction apply to U.S. Citizens?
  1. Effective 5 p.m. EST on Sunday, February 2, the following restrictions on U.S. citizens returning from travels in China were implemented:   

          - Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who had been in Hubei province in the 14 days prior to their
            entry to the United States will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they have been
            properly screened and provided medical care as needed.

         -  Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who had been anywhere else in mainland China in the 14 days
            prior to their entry to the United States will undergo "proactive entry health screening at a select number of ports
            of entry," and up to 14 days of "monitored self-quarantine" to ensure they've not contracted the virus and do not
            pose a public health risk. 
                 

  2. Effective 5 p.m. EST on Monday, March 2, 2020, it should be assumed that these same restrictions apply to U.S. citizens returning from travels to Iran.
     
  3. Effective 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 13, 2020, it should be assumed that these same restrictions apply to U.S. citizens returning from travels to Schengen Area countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
  4. Effective 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 16, it should be assumed that these same restrictions apply to U.S. citizens returning from travels to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
     
  5. Effective 11:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 28, it should be assumed that these same restrictions apply to U.S. citizens returning from travels to Brazil.
How does the coronavirus travel restriction apply to foreign nationals?

Effective 5 p.m. EST on Sunday, February 2, the proclamation suspended entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the People's Republic of China, excluding the Special Autonomous Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. However, the travel restriction does not suspend entry to any alien who is:

  1. a lawful permanent resident of the United States;
  2. a spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  3. a parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  4. a sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  5. a child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  6. traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
  7. C (transit) or D (air or sea crewmember) nonimmigrants;
  8. seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to an A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 visa (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories);
  9. any alien whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement;
  10. an alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the CDC Director, or his designee;
  11. an alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee; or
  12. an alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.
  13. a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

However, these individuals should expect to be screened and/or quarantined upon arrival.

Effective 5 p.m. EST on Monday, March 2, 2020, the Presidential Proclamation 9992 (relating to Iran travel) suspended entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. However, the travel restriction does not suspend entry to any alien who is listed under the above-numbered exclusions.

Effective 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 13, 2020, the Presidential Proclamation 9993 (relating to Schengen Area travel) suspended entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. However, the travel restriction does not suspend entry to any alien who is listed under the above-numbered exclusions.

Effective 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 16, 2020 the additional Presidential Proclamation (relating to United Kingdom and Ireland travel) suspended entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the United Kingdom and Ireland during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

Effective 11:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 28, the additional Presidential Proclamation (relating to Brazil travel) suspended entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

If I am able to travel to the U.S. even if I have been in one of the above-named countries in the last 14 days, must I enter at a specific airport?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration published a notice terminating the arrival restrictions for individuals entering the U.S. from the above-named countries effective September 14, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. EDT.  Individuals arriving in the U.S. from those countries no longer have to enter the country through specific airports.  

What if I need to travel internationally while the restrictions are in place?

In all circumstances, avoid travel to travel-restricted countries named above at this time unless you are willing to comply with the restrictions above. Additionally:

  • Ensure you meet the exclusions from the travel restrictions listed above.
  • Ensure you have all required documents for reentry to the U.S. (passport, valid visa, etc.).
  • Carry clear travel history documentation with you that demonstrates compliance with the travel restriction upon entry to the U.S.
  • Expect possible secondary inspection upon reentry to the U.S., as well as possible delays for health screenings in third countries, all requiring extra time and delaying travel.
  • Check for travel restrictions to the country you are visiting as well as any countries through which you will transit.

Certain travelers are eligible for a waiver of these restrictions under a National Interest Exception (NIE). Check with the U.S. Consulate in the particular country to see if you qualify. An explanation of NIE under the Proclamations for travelers from the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Schengen Area is provided on the Department of State website. If the NIE request is granted, you must enter the U.S. within 30 days of the issuance of the NIE; if you cannot, you will need to request another NIE from the consulate and enter within 30 days of its issuance date.

If you have not been in the travel-restricted countries in the 14 days prior to your entry to the U.S., the travel restrictions do not apply to you. Note, though, that circumstances could change suddenly or dramatically between the date of your departure and the date of your return, so be prepared with contingency plans.

Do I need to document that I have tested negative for COVID before entering the U.S.?

Yes, if you are entering the U.S. on or after January 26. 2021.  On January 12, 2021 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] announced a COVID-19 testing requirement for all air passengers entering the U.S. Effective January 26, all travelers will be required to provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test before they will be allowed to board their flight to the U.S. The test must be administered within 72 hours of the departure flight to the U.S. and travelers must provide written documentation by paper or electronic copy of a negative test result to the airline. Airlines will deny boarding to travelers who cannot comply with this requirement. If you are planning travel to the U.S. on or after January 26, please consult your airline for specific procedures for presenting your testing results.

Please note that this new federal requirement does not affect or change the university’s testing requirements as outlined in the Return to Campus guide.

 

CONTINUING STUDENTS AND ACADEMIC/FACULTY ADVISORS

I am a student in F-1 status. Can I continue to take courses remotely in spring 2021?

SEVP has indicated that they will issue a continuation of the current guidance. This would mean that students who were in F-1 status in spring 2020 and who have maintained full-time enrollment in spring 2020 and fall 2020 will be able to continue taking courses remotely for spring 2021. We remain unsure what the impact would be to students who entered the U.S. with an initial I-20 for fall 2020, but without further clarification from SEVP, we must assume this group will need to continue to meet the fall guidance requirement of one in-person course. While SEVP has informally announced their intentions to continue the fall guidance, they have not provided anything to us in the form of a formal written notice. We understand that individuals are trying to make plans accordingly, and once we have more info, we will be reaching out to you via your JHU email.

I started my JHU program from outside the U.S. in fall 2020. Can I enter the U.S. to take classes at JHU this spring?

As notice above, SEVP has informally indicated that they will continue their fall 2020 guidance for spring 2021, which means that students with an initial I-20 can only enter the U.S. if their program is not 100% online and if they are taking at least one in-person course. If you are able to meet this criteria, then you can enter the U.S. for spring 2021 with the required documentation for entry as an F-1 student (passport, visa, I-20). If you are unsure whether in-person courses will be available to you, please consult your academic advisor. Some JHU schools are preparing to offer sufficient in-person courses while others may not.

What is the OIS guidance for students considering travel outside the U.S.?

The University will continue the suspension of normal operations and employ extensive use of remote instruction with only some in-person courses through spring 2021. Some programs will only offer online and remote instruction for spring while others will have some in-person courses and research. Students who are considering departing the U.S. should consult with their JHU program to determine whether travel or unforeseen delays abroad will have an impact on their ability to continue in the program.

We recommend that students also carefully evaluate their individual circumstances when deciding whether to travel. The choice to remain in the U.S. or depart is up to you and you have many risk factors to consider. OIS advisors will help you understand the potential impact of either choice on your immigration status. Please consult OIS at ois@jhu.edu prior to making your final decision to travel.

I am a current JHU student. Is it OK if I return to my home country if JHU is offering remote instruction in the spring?

Because the COVID situation is ever evolving and restrictions on global mobility continue to fluctuate, discuss your personal circumstances with an advisor from OIS to weigh the pros and cons for your specific situation.

However, if you and your family determine it is in your best interests to return home during spring 2021, please know that OIS cannot control whether you would be able to return to the U.S. on your desired return date. Thus, you must be prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. Regarding remote instruction, you may be able to continue your courses remotely from abroad in the spring. Provided SEVP and Department of State continue their fall guidance, students who were in the U.S. in F-1 status as of March 2020 can continue to take a fully online course load for spring 2021. OIS will not take any negative action with regard to your F-1 or J-1 SEVIS program status as a result of this travel choice as long as you continue to be enrolled full-time.

We remain unsure what the impact would be to students who entered the U.S. with an initial I-20 for fall 2020, but without further clarification from SEVP, we must assume this group will need to continue to meet the fall guidance requirement of one in-person course for spring. Therefore, these students would need to remain in the U.S. for spring in order to maintain their F-1 status.

  • If you do travel home, here are some questions for you to consider for which we do not have answers at this time:
  • Will there be any travel restrictions in place that may prevent you from returning at the desired future date?
  • Would an academic leave of absence from your program be necessary or possible if you are unable to return when desired?
  • If you planned to do an internship in the spring or summer, are you ok with cancelling those plans in case you cannot
    return?
  • If you are close to graduation, can you complete your program while abroad, and are you willing to forfeit your
    eligibility for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

We understand that you are faced with a difficult choice, and there are many other personal factors above and beyond your study at JHU to consider. If you do choose to return home, please email OIS at ois@jhu.edu to let us know, consult us with questions, and continue to watch for updated guidance in this FAQ or as you receive email notifications. Additionally, if an any point during the term (whether you are inside or outside of the U.S.) you are considering withdrawing from your courses, taking a leave of absence, or taking less than a full-time course load, please seek guidance from OIS prior to doing so.

Will my visa status end if I depart for home and am out of the U.S. for 5 months or more?

Under normal circumstances, the five-month rule takes effect five months after a student’s F-1 SEVIS record has been terminated by the school, OR the student has spent five continuous months outside the U.S. AND has not been participating in their program of study full-time during that time.

Under the present extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances, SEVP spring 2020 guidance indicates that students who were in F-1 status in March 2020 are allowed to engage in remote instruction either within the U.S. or abroad as long as in-person classes have not resumed and the university does not return to normal operations. SEVP has unofficially indicated they will continue fall 2020 guidance for spring 2021. We will communicate any updates to you once they are known. As long as SEVP guidance continues, you can remain abroad engaging in full-time remote instruction and that time abroad will not count toward the five-month rule and your F-1 SEVIS record will not be terminated.

However, if you depart the U.S. and do not maintain full-time enrollment in remote courses or you take a leave of absence from your program, then your F-1 SEVIS record will most likely be terminated. This termination is an administrative process, not a negative mark on your immigration record. The primary impact will likely be a requirement to study in the U.S. for one full academic year in order to meet eligibility requirements for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

If you are able to return to the U.S. within five months of the termination, OIS may be able to reactivate your previous F-1 SEVIS record. If you return to the U.S. five months or more after the SEVIS program termination, then OIS will need to create a new F-1 record for you. OIS advisors will work with students falling below full-time or taking a leave of absence to provide more details on this process as it applies to an individual’s circumstances.

We remain unsure what the impact would be to students who entered the U.S. with an initial I-20 for fall 2020, but without further clarification from SEVP, we must assume this group will need to continue to meet the fall guidance requirement of one in-person course for spring. Therefore, these students would need to remain in the U.S. for spring 2021 in order to maintain their F-1 status.

I am a continuing JHU student who began a second degree program at JHU in fall but am outside the U.S. How does the SEVP guidance impact me?

Students who are entering a second or subsequent degree program at JHU are issued a new “initial” I-20 even though the SEVIS number/record remains the same. SEVP guidance for fall treats all students with initial I-20s as new students if they are outside the U.S. SEVP’s guidance and FAQs for fall 2020 issued on July 24 allows new F-1 students to enter the U.S. if the student’s program is not 100% online and if the student is able to take at least one in-person course. SEVP has unofficially indicated that they will continue their existing guidance for spring 2021. Therefore, students who fall into this group who are enrolled in JHU schools that have announced that spring instruction will be completely remote should remain abroad for spring 2021. Students whose JHU schools will offer in-person instruction should consult with their program to determine whether it is possible to take at least one in-person course for spring 2021. If it is possible, those students can enter the U.S. for fall (with all required documentation).

If all classes are online or remote OR if your program has in-person courses but you are unable to travel to the U.S. for spring 2021 and you were previously issued an I-20 with a spring start date, your F-1 record will automatically end if you do not come to campus for spring. It may be possible to reactivate that F-1 record if you plan to come to campus for a future term. We are still waiting for formal notification from SEVP that they will continue their fall 2020 guidance that allowed this type of reactivation. However, reactivation is not typically possible until 60 days before the start date of the term in which you will be on campus. If reactivation is not possible, we can create a new F-1 record for you instead. The disadvantage to creating a new F-1 record is that you must pay the SEVIS fee again and a new F-1 record will restart the accumulation of time towards eligibility for CPT and OPTAt this time, you do not need to take any action. If you plan to come to campus for summer or fall 2021, please contact OIS in mid to late March for further information.

If you will continue your JHU program remotely at time OR defer your JHU admission to fall 2021 and you were not previously issued an I-20 with a spring start date, take no action at this time. If you plan to come to campus for fall 2021, you may request a new I-20 under a new F-1 record in mid to late March 2021 once tuition has been determined for the next academic year.

I am a continuing JHU student who is entering a second degree program at JHU in spring and am inside the U.S. How does the SEVP fall guidance impact me?

Students who are beginning a second degree at JHU and are inside the U.S. can remain in the U.S. and begin their JHU program in spring 2021 based on SEVP’s plans to continue their existing COVID-19 guidance for F-1 students. Do not depart the U.S. prior to the start of spring. OIS will be able to register their F-1 records and can keep them active for spring as long as they enroll full-time. Students who were in F-1 status in March 2020 and have remained in the U.S. can take any combination of online, hybrid or in-person courses. We do not yet know the impact of a continuation of fall guidance on students who entered the U.S. in F-1 status for fall 2020, so it is unclear whether those students can take a fully online course load or if you will be required to continue taking at least one in-person course for spring 2021. Without further clarification from SEVP, we must assume this group will need to continue to meet the fall guidance requirement of one in-person course.

I am a current JHU student in F-1 status who is currently outside the U.S. Due to travel difficulties, I may not be able to return for spring and spring is my last semester before graduation. What does that mean for me?

Aside from whether the contingency planning options described above are feasible for completing your program, the other main consequences may be your inability to return to the U.S. at all for this program, as well as the loss of eligibility for F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) or J-1 Academic Training after the completion of your program. There is currently no regulatory relief for students caught in this situation. Discuss options with an OIS advisor as soon as possible.

I received CPT for an internship for spring 2021 and I learned that the internship will now be remote. Is that ok?

Prior SEVP guidance has confirmed that students can engage in CPT remotely from within the U.S. as long as the employer has a way to assess your engagement and attainment of CPT learning objectives remotely, or outside the U.S. as long as the employer has an office outside the U.S. and/or the employer has a way to assess your engagement and attainment of CPT learning objectives remotely.

My I-20/DS-2019 is expiring soon and I do not want to return to a travel-restricted country at this time. What are my options?

Available options depend on individual circumstances. If you will not complete your academic program by your I-20/DS-2019 end date, you may be eligible for an extension. Other options may include transferring to another university’s program, requesting a change of status with USCIS, or departing for a third country, if permissible. Discuss options with an advisor in OIS well before your program’s expiration date.

What if my program has ended and I am currently in my grace period?

Unfortunately, there is no regulatory relief available to students in this situation, and such individuals are expected to depart the U.S. by the end of the grace period. Discuss your limited options with an advisor in OIS immediately, which may include quickly gaining admission to a new degree program at JHU or another U.S. school and updating or transferring your I-20/DS-2019, requesting a change of status with USCIS, applying for post-completion training, if available, seeking admission to another country other than your home country, or returning to your home country.

My flights departing the U.S. keep getting cancelled, what happens if I cannot leave during my grace period? Has the government loosened this regulation because of COVID-19?

If you are unable to book a flight, we recommend reaching out to your country’s embassy or consulate within the U.S. to see if they are able to help. Students should check their embassy’s website and social media for special communications. Other options may include starting a new degree program at JHU, transferring to another university’s F-1 or J-1 program, requesting a change of status with USCIS, or departing for a third country.

U.S. government agencies have not issued any official guidance or regulatory relief for F-1 students in this situation. At this time you should still attempt to depart the U.S. no later than the end of your 60-day grace period following your last date of enrollment or your OPT end date or consider one of the options listed above. There is no way to keep your F-1 SEVIS record active after the end of your grace period.

Department of State (DOS) provided automatic program extensions for certain J-1 students with DS-2019s ending between April 1 and May 31, 2020 and allowed special extension requests to be submitted for certain J-1 students with DS-2019s ending between May 31 and July 31. No guidance has been issued for J-1 students with end dates beyond July 31, 2020. DOS is maintaining a list of embassies who are trying to assist their exchange visitors.

I completed my degree program in fall 2020 but will continue my studies in a new degree program at JHU or after transferring to another U.S. university in the spring. Must I leave the country?

F-1 and J-1 degree-seeking students are generally permitted to remain in the U.S. when transferring between programs at the same school or transferring their visa status to another school as long as they have requested an update to their F-1 record in a timely manner. As long as there is no international travel during this time, no new visa stamp is needed from the U.S. consulate since you are already in the country. A valid visa stamp is only needed at the time of entry into the U.S., with very limited exception.

However, if you are considering travel, because the situation is ever-evolving and restrictions on global mobility continue to fluctuate, discuss your personal circumstances with an advisor from OIS to weigh the pros and cons for your specific situation. Also consider whether you are willing to accept the travel restrictions above in the “General” section of these FAQs.

I must travel to a travel-restricted country and/or do not have the option to remain in the U.S. in the spring. What does that mean for me?

Finding a flight to a travel-restricted country may prove difficult, based on current restrictions and limited commercial airline operations to and from a travel-restricted country. If you are able to get to a travel-restricted country, understand that you will likely be subject to the travel restrictions listed in the “General” section above and may not be able to return to the U.S. as planned. If/when the travel restrictions are lifted, there could be difficulty obtaining a commercial flight to return to the U.S. Additionally, if you need a new visa from the U.S. Consulate, there could be a backlog at consulates which could increase the time it takes to get a visa.

 

NEWLY ADMITTED STUDENTS (ADMITTED TO BEGIN A NEW PROGRAM AT JHU IN FALL 2020 or SPRING 2021)

I am a newly admitted student for spring 2021. Can I come to the U.S. for spring and take a completely online course load?

SEVP has informally indicated that they will issue a continuation of the current guidance which would mean that students with an initial I-20 could only enter the U.S. if their program is not 100% online and if they able to take at least one in-person course. Students should check with their JHU program to see if it is possible to take an in-person course for spring before they enter the U.S.

Under a continuation of fall 2020 guidance, students who were in F-1 status in spring 2020 and who have maintained full-time enrollment in spring 2020 and fall 2020 and are currently in the U.S. in F-1 status could transfer their status to JHU and take a fully online course load or a combination of online and in-person courses. F-1 transfer students may request an I-20 from JHU for spring 2021 at this time. Students who entered in initial F-1 status in fall 2020 who wish to transfer will likely need to continue taking one in-person course to comply with current SEVP guidance.

I am a newly admitted student inside the U.S. already in F-1 status. Can I take a fully online course load at JHU in spring 2021?

Newly admitted students who are already in F-1 status inside the U.S. and who were enrolled at a U.S. institution in spring 2020 and fall 2020 and are transferring their F-1 record to JHU may remain in the U.S. for spring 2021 and take any combination of online or hybrid courses per SEVP guidance. Do not travel outside the U.S. before the start of spring term.

What should students do if they received an I-20 with a spring 2021 start date but will be unable to come to campus for spring?

If you are not able to come to JHU for spring 2021, please notify OIS by February 5:

  1. If you will come to JHU in a future term, complete the “New Student Deferral eForm” in iHopkins under the “Admissions” tab.
  1. If you no longer plan to come to JHU, kindly inform your academic program and also email OIS at ois@jhu.edu to let us know and we will cancel your F-1 record.

Please keep in mind that SEVP has not issued official guidance for spring 2021 yet but they have indicated they plan to continue the fall 2020 guidance for spring 2021. Due to the rapidly-changing nature of the situation, it is possible that their guidance could change again for fall 2021. We will communicate any updates to you via email once they are known.

Will admissions continue while travel restrictions are in place?

Yes, schools will continue to admit qualified students according to their admissions standards. Discuss available immigration options with an OIS advisor at the time you request your initial I-20.

Will OIS continue issuing immigration documentation to newly admitted students?

Maybe. Currently, OIS can only issue I-20s with a spring 2021 start date to students whose JHU program is not 100% online and who will be able to take at least one in-person course for spring 2021. OIS will not issue I-20s for summer or fall 2021 until mid to late March once tuition has been set for the next academic year. If you do not yet have an I-20 from OIS, please plan to request one in mid to late March. As has always been the case, students who are conditionally admitted are never eligible for immigration documentation. Students owing schools final transcripts and other documentation needed to satisfy admissions requirements must do so by the time of enrollment.

I heard that schools can issue electronic I-20s now. Is that true?

Yes, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) stated that we can issue electronic I-20s, and on May 14, 2020 they confirmed that they coordinated with both the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on this new policy. Starting in late June 2020, students requesting a new or updated I-20 have the option of receiving their I-20 from OIS electronically.

I am a new student currently residing outside the U.S. My program is allowing me to begin courses online for spring 2021. Do I need to request an I-20 now?

No. If you will begin the first term of your program by taking courses online, you cannot get an I-20 with dates that include the on-line portion of your program. You would request an I-20 with a start date in the term in which you plan to come to the U.S. to begin taking courses on campus. You will be required to arrive no later than 30 days from the original term start date as shown on your I-20 (note, your academic program may require you to arrive earlier). Please consult your program. At this time, if you plan to come to campus for summer or fall 2021, you can request and I-20 in mid to late March by completing the New International Student eForm in iHopkins. You will need to wait until mid to late March because that is when tuition amounts for the upcoming academic year are typically set. Once they are set, OIS will update the required funding amounts for I-20 issuance for each JHU school and program on our website. We recommend that you request an I-20 at least 90 days before the start date of the semester that you will come to campus.

If I begin my JHU program online from outside the U.S., will it impact my eligibility for CPT or OPT?

Maybe. You become eligible for CPT and OPT after completing one academic year of your JHU program in the U.S. as a full-time student.* One academic year is defined as two semesters or four eight-week terms, not including summer. Currently, the only exceptions to this requirement are for students who were in F-1 status in spring 2020. Those students can accrue eligibility for practical training while outside the U.S. as long as their F-1 record remains active during that time.

*There are limited exceptions for transfer students and, in the case of CPT, for students whose academic program has a practicum requirement.

What is the impact of COVID-19 on students transferring their F-1 record to JHU?

SEVP guidance states that F-1 transfers should be handled differently depending on whether the student is inside or outside the U.S. SEVP has informally indicated that they plan to continue fall 2020 guidance for spring 2021. We are still waiting for formal notification from SEVP regarding spring guidance.

Transfer students remaining in the U.S. between degree programs

Students who are currently in the U.S. and transferring their F-1 record to JHU can complete the transfer and begin their JHU program in spring 2021. Students who were in F-1 status in spring 2020 and remained in the U.S. for fall 2020 are permitted to continue taking any combination of in-person, online or hybrid courses. We remain unsure what the impact would be to students who entered the U.S. with an initial I-20 for fall 2020, but without further clarification from SEVP, we must assume this group will need to continue to meet the fall guidance requirement of one in-person course for spring. Transfer students in the U.S. should travel outside the U.S. before the start of spring term if they intend to be in the U.S. for spring.

Transfer students who are currently outside the U.S. or will depart the U.S. before the start of their JHU program

SEVP’s guidance and FAQs for fall 2020 that specifically addressed new students, which includes students who are transferring their F-1 record to a new school and are currently outside the U.S. We have unofficial confirmation that SEVP will continue that guidance for spring 2021. The guidance states that new F-1 students are only permitted to enter the U.S. to begin a program of study if their program is not 100% online and the student will take at least one in-person course.

If all classes are online or remote OR if your program has in-person courses but you are unable to travel to the U.S. for spring 2021 and you were previously issued an I-20 with a spring start date, your F-1 record will automatically end if you do not come to campus for spring. It may be possible to reactivate that F-1 record if you plan to come to campus for a future term. We are still waiting for formal notification from SEVP that they will continue their fall 2020 guidance that allowed this type of reactivation. However, reactivation is not typically possible until 60 days before the start date of the term in which you will be on campus. If reactivation is not possible, we can create a new F-1 record for you instead. The disadvantage creating a new F-1 record is that you must pay the SEVIS fee again and a new F-1 record will restart the accumulation of time towards eligibility for CPT and OPTAt this time, you do not need to take any action. If you plan to come to campus for summer or fall 2021, please contact OIS in mid to late March for further information.

If you will continue your JHU program remotely at this time OR defer your JHU admission to fall 2021 and you were not previously issued an I-20 with a spring start date, take no action at this time. If you plan to come to campus for fall 2021, you may request a new I-20 under a new F-1 record in mid to late March 2021 once tuition has been determined for the next academic year.

I am a continuing JHU student who is entering a second degree program at JHU in spring 2021. How does the SEVP fall guidance impact me?

This question is addressed in the “Continuing Students and Academic/Faculty Advisors” section of the FAQs.

Should students currently in the U.S. who plan to transfer and start a new program at JHU in spring 2021 travel abroad before their program start date?

We recommend that you do not travel outside the U.S. before the start of spring term. If you do choose to travel, you will need to remain outside the U.S. if your JHU program will be completely remote for spring 2021 (see above FAQ for more details). No formal guidance has been issued for spring 2021 at this point but SEVP has informally communicated that their fall guidance will be extended to spring 2021. If you choose to travel you may only re-enter the U.S. with a transfer-pending I-20 if your program is not 100% remote and you are able to take at least one in-person course for spring 2021. You must be able to re-enter the U.S. no later than 30 days from the original term start date as shown on your I-20 (note, your academic program may require you to arrive earlier). Please consult your program.

If remaining in the U.S., it is essential that such individuals maintain valid student status while waiting in the U.S. for their JHU program to begin and they become eligible to transfer to JHU for study here. Since this group would already be in the U.S., no new visa stamp would be needed from the U.S. consulate since a valid visa stamp is only needed at the time of entry into the U.S.

The U.S. consulates in my home country have closed and/or are not scheduling visa interview appointments at this time. Should I wait to request my I-20 once visa interviews resume?

Note that OIS will not begin processing I-20s for summer or fall 2021 until sometime in March 2021. We routinely recommend requesting your I-20 without delay so that you have it in your possession and are ready to attend a visa interview as soon as possible when the consulates make them available. OIS typically creates and ships the I-20 within ten business days of receiving a completed I-20 request. However, if many students wait for the consulates to re-open to request an I-20 and we receive a large number of requests at one time, our processing time may increase and you could face delays in receiving your I-20. U.S. Department of State announced a phased resumption of routine visa services on July 14, 2020 and operations at consulates continue to vary by country and post. Please check with your local U.S. consulate for more details. If you have a spring I-20, keep in mind that U.S. consulates typically will not issue an F-1 visa more than 120 days before the I-20 start date.

How long will it take to get my F-1/J-1 student visa?

The Department of State’s website lists estimated wait times for obtaining an interview appointment at each U.S. Embassy or Consulate. F and J visa wait times are listed under Student/Exchange Visitor Visas. These visa types receive priority and typically have a shorter wait time than other visa types. Please keep in mind that this website shows estimates and the information is subject to change. Once you submit the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160) form and pay the associated fee you will receive specific instructions for scheduling your visa interview. If you are successful in scheduling a visa interview, please share your expected interview date with OIS at ois@jhu.edu.

I have a spring I-20 but have decided not to attend JHU. What should I do?

If you no longer plan to come to JHU, kindly inform your academic program and also email OIS at ois@jhu.edu to let us know and we will cancel your F-1 record. OIS will cancel your F-1 record upon receiving this notification. You should destroy your I-20.

If I get an F-1 visa stamp now can I use that visa stamp to enter the U.S. in fall 2021?

Typically an F-1 visa stamp is valid for entry to the U.S. until it expires. Therefore, if you get an F-1 visa in spring or summer 2021, you should be able to use that visa to enter the U.S. at a later time as long as it is unexpired on the date you enter. However, keep in mind that U.S. consulates typically will not issue an F-1 visa more than 120 days before the I-20 start date. In addition, only students who have a spring 2021 I-20 and request a deferral of their I-20 start date will be given an I-20 for summer or fall 2021. All other students must wait until mid to late March to request their I-20.

What costs are associated with my I-20 request and F-1 visa application, and are any costs refundable?

I-20 shipping costs – if you choose to receive a paper I-20 by mail, your I-20 is shipped to you via eShipGlobal, an outside shipping service. OIS will provide you instructions for setting up the shipment at the time we send you the I-20 request instructions. Once we ship your I-20, the fee you pay is non-refundable. If you set up the shipment and then decide not to attend JHU or wish to defer your start date, you must contact OIS as soon as possible to request that we do not issue and ship the I-20. As long as the shipping label is not used, you can request a refund from eShipGlobal up to 30 days after you created the label. eShipGlobal’s refund policy is on their website. If you choose to receive an electronic I-20, there is no shipping charge.

SEVIS/I-901 Fee – this fee must be paid before you attend your visa interview and is non-refundable [Canadians do not need a visa but they must pay the fee before entering the U.S. to begin their program]. Do not pay this fee until you are ready to go for your visa interview! Additionally, this fee is only paid once per SEVIS program, so students transferring their visa status from another school to JHU do not need to pay the fee again at the time of transfer to JHU.

Visa application (MRV) Fee – this fee is paid at the time you schedule your visa interview through the Department of State website and is non-refundable. The fee is valid for up to one year from the date you pay so you shouldn’t have to pay a second time if you need to reschedule your interview within that year. Refer to the website of the U.S. consulate where you plan to apply for your visa for more details.

 

STUDENTS ON OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT)

Is USCIS still open and will they review my OPT or STEM extension application?

USCIS service centers are open and have continued to process paper-based applications throughout the pandemic . This means you can still submit your OPT or STEM Extension application and it will be received and processed according to normal processing times. Please note that the USCIS receipt issuance process is backlogged and processing times are longer than normal.

My prospective employer will not hire me at this time. Has the government extended the 90-day limit on unemployment?

The allotted unemployment time has not been extended. Students on OPT are still only allowed to accrue 90 days of unemployment during OPT. Students on the STEM Extension may accrue up to 150 days total between their original period of OPT and the STEM Extension. To mitigate the number of days you are unemployed, you should discuss with your new employer whether it is possible to begin work remotely while you are here in the U.S. You can also continue to look for a different employer.

Can I work remotely from within the U.S.? What about working remotely outside the US?

Prior SEVP guidance confirmed that working remotely during OPT or STEM OPT is allowed in the U.S. as long as the employer is able to assess your progress by electronic means. We expect SEVP to continue this guidance for spring 2021. SEVP has also confirmed that OPT or STEM OPT is allowed outside the U.S. as long as the employer has an office outside the U.S. and/or is able to assess your progress by electronic means. It is important to note that there may be other challenges for specific employers that make remote work impossible at that employer, particularly if the work is done in a different country. Employers are not required to accommodate remote work arrangements. Please consult your employer to determine whether they will allow you to work remotely.

Do I need to update my employer address while working remotely?

SEVP stated that students on STEM OPT do not need to update their Form I-983 to report remote work. No guidance has been provided for students on the initial 12-month period of OPT.

If I am on unpaid leave but still employed, does that count against my 90-days unemployment?

No, if you are considered employed by your employer and they have given you an authorized time off, paid or unpaid, then it will not count against your 90-day unemployment. Specifically stated: to be considered employed for OPT purposes, any job undertaken must be for at least 20 hours per week, excluding time off taken that is consistent with leave-related policies applicable to the employer’s similarly situated U.S. workers. Authorized time off and vacation time do not add to your unemployment days while on initial OPT or the STEM extension. We suggest that you keep for your records an email, letter, or similar type of documentation from your employer authorizing the leave, and that you document the date of return to paid employment once that occurs.

If I have been furloughed, am I considered unemployed for OPT purposes?

You should first determine whether you are being laid off or placed on a temporary leave. A furlough is typically an employer-directed leave for a temporary, defined period of time after which you will return to work, but you are still considered an employee of the employer. If you are laid off, this generally means you do not have a job to return to and are therefore considered unemployed. You must report the end of your employment within 10 days.

If you are placed on temporary leave in accordance with your employer’s official policy and the employer expects you to return when they resume business, then the days you are not working are not counted towards unemployment for OPT purposes.

 

FACULTY, SCHOLARS, AND EMPLOYEES

I am a current JHU J-1 scholar who is currently in a named travel-restricted country and cannot return due to the travel restrictions. What does that mean for me?

Under limited circumstances and with prior approvals from the appropriate JHU offices and individuals (OIS, HR, Export Controls, Divisional representatives, etc.), it may be possible to go on a leave of absence (LOA) or continue working from abroad. Please note that the continuation of benefits during an LOA can vary by employment type and eligibility. Please contact the Office of Benefits and Worklife at benefits@jhu.edu for further details.

How will working remotely impact my J-1 Professor/Research Scholar/Short Term Scholar immigration status?

In order to maintain your U.S. immigration status, you must continue to uphold all of the objectives of your position while at a remote work location. J-1 Exchange Visitors must continue to follow the requirements for maintaining J-1 status.

OIS cannot advise on remote work logistics. This is something you must arrange through your department and supervisor. However, many Johns Hopkins physical work locations have been temporarily closed to non-essential employees, and the university has strongly encouraged remote work. It is important to consult with your department about whether remote work is possible for your individual circumstances. If you and your sponsoring department determine that it will not be possible to fully engage in your position remotely, please consult with OIS regarding the implications for your J-1 immigration status.

Note that the above guidance applies only to remote work in the U.S. If you or your department are contemplating remote work outside the U.S., they will need to consult Global HR, General Counsel, and other relevant JHU entities for guidance before engaging in such remote work. Working for a U.S. employer outside of the U.S. has significant tax, payroll, export control, and other implications. These questions are beyond the purview of OIS.

Further, if you choose to depart the U.S. at this time, it may pose significant challenges for re-entry to the U.S. at a later, uncertain date. Once Johns Hopkins is able to resume normal operations, there may be significant travel and visa delays due to travel restrictions and the burden on embassies/consulates, airlines, airports, border agents and others which will affect your ability to physically return to work from abroad at the desired time.

How does a leave of absence work for J-1 scholars?

LOAs are typically not permitted for J-1 Exchange Visitors. Department of State considers a J-1 exchange visitor in “active” status to be indicative of uninterrupted program participation. In addition, while a J-1 record is in “active” status, the University (as the J program sponsor) is required to monitor the progress and welfare of the exchange visitor and the exchange visitor is required to maintain health insurance. An LOA represents a break in program participation and is therefore not permitted while in J-1 status, under normal circumstances.

However, the OIS recognizes that some individuals who were granted vacation or other approved time off, and traveled to a travel-restricted country prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, may be unable to return to the U.S. to resume their J-1 program. Under these extraordinary circumstances, the OIS will consider maintaining the J-1 record until such time that the individual can return where the following conditions can be met:

  • The Academic Appointment in the host School must remain active;
  • The Exchange Visitor must maintain valid health insurance as required by J-1 regulations;
  • The Exchange Visitor must make every effort to return to the U.S. to resume their J-1 program as soon as they are able;
  • The host School must immediately alert the OIS when the J-1 Exchange Visitor returns to the U.S.;
  • If the Exchange Visitor was placed on an unpaid LOA, the host School must immediately return the J-1 Exchange Visitor to payroll effective the date of their admission to the U.S.

After carefully reviewing these conditions, both the Exchange Visitor and the host School must notify OIS by email and confirm their understanding of these conditions and explicitly state that they will comply with these requirements. Failure to comply, including any lapse in health insurance, will result in termination of the J-1 record. OIS reserves the right to revisit this accommodation pending the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak and upon the occurrence of other unforeseen circumstances.

I am a current JHU H-1B or O-1 temporary worker who is currently in a travel restricted country and cannot return due to the travel restrictions. What does that mean for me?

Under limited circumstances and with prior approvals from the appropriate JHU offices and individuals (OIS, HR, Export Controls, Divisional representatives, etc.), it may be possible to go on a leave of absence (LOA) or continue working from abroad. Please note that the continuation of benefits during an LOA can vary by employment type and eligibility. Please contact the Office of Benefits and Worklife at benefits@jhu.edu for further details.

How does a leave of absence work for H-1B or O-1 temporary workers?

OIS must review and approve all LOA requests for H-1B and O-1 temporary workers in advance to ensure compliance with immigration regulations.

I am an H-1B or E-3 temporary worker and as a result of COVID-19, my worksite has changed. What do I need to do?

Such a change normally requires advance notice and approval before commencing employment at a new worksite; however, due to the rapid response required by employers to address the current health crisis, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is allowing employers up to 30 days from the date the employee moves to the new worksite to comply with notice requirements. The OIS is in the process of contacting all H-1B employees by e-mail with instructions on submitting worksite details. If you did not receive this communication, please immediately e-mail H1B-Employment@jhmi.edu . JHU provides electronic notice wherever possible.

There is not sufficient work for me to do, and my employer would like to reduce my effort or has already placed me on unpaid leave.

Your H-1B petition was filed for full-time employment, with a certified Labor Condition Application [LCA]. An employer is responsible for paying the wage stated on the LCA to the H-1B employee at all times during the LCA validity period, and as specified on the LCA and Form I-129. Even if an employee is "benched," i.e., placed in a non-productive status for reasons such as training, lack of license, lack of assigned work, or any other job-related reasonthe employer must still pay the employee the required wage as listed on the LCA and on the I-129 petition (plus any increases since petition filing). Furthermore, if the LCA carries a designation of full-time employment, as all JHU LCAs do, the employer must continue to pay the full amount listed on the LCA even if the employee works less than full time.

 

SUPPORT

We recognize that the situation with COVID-19 may be stressful for members of our community, especially those with family and friends affected in other areas of the world. The Johns Hopkins community is here to support you. Students can find resources at wellness.jhu.edu or get in contact with their school’s student affairs office. A special web page with information specifically-geared toward international students is available here. Faculty and staff can use the mySupport program.

RESOURCES

Presidential Proclamation 9984: Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus and Other Appropriate Measures To Address This Risk

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/02/05/2020-02424/suspension-of-entry-as-immigrants-and-nonimmigrants-of-persons-who-pose-a-risk-of-transmitting-2019

Presidential Proclamation 9992: Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspension-entry-immigrants-nonimmigrants-certain-additional-persons-pose-risk-transmitting-coronavirus/

Presidential Proclamation 9993—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspension-entry-immigrants-nonimmigrants-certain-additional-persons-pose-risk-transmitting-2019-novel-coronavirus/

Presidential Proclamation—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspension-entry-immigrants-nonimmigrants-certain-additional-persons-pose-risk-transmitting-coronavirus-2/

Presidential Proclamation – Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspension-entry-immigrants-nonimmigrants-certain-additional-persons-pose-risk-transmitting-novel-coronavirus/

NAFSA Coronavirus Critical Resources

https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/coronavirus-critical-resources

University Communications and Resources

https://hub.jhu.edu/novel-coronavirus-information/

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/

Fragomen: Summary of Latest COVID-19 Immigration Impacts Listed by Country

https://www.fragomen.com/about/news/immigration-update-coronavirus