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FAQs: COVID-19 Immigration Implications

Last Updated 07/08/2020

 

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.

 

GENERAL
STUDENTS AND ACADEMIC/FACULTY ADVISORS
STUDENTS ON OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT)

FACULTY, SCHOLARS, AND EMPLOYEES
ADMISSIONS
SUPPORT
RESOURCES

 

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.

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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.
  1. 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.
     
  2. 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?

Yes, DHS has directed "all operators of aircraft to ensure that all flights carrying persons who have recently traveled from, or were otherwise present within, [any named travel-restricted country] only land at one of the following airports":

  1. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  2. Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
  3. San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
  4. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
  5. Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
  6. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), California
  7. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
  8. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
  9. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
  10. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
  11. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), Michigan
  12. Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
  13. Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida

Effective 5 p.m. EST on Monday, March 2, 2020, DHS guidance expanded this to individuals returning from travels to Iran.

Effective 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 13, 2020, travelers should expect DHS guidance to be expanded to individuals returning from travels to Schengen Area countries.

Effective 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 16, 2020, travelers should expect DHS guidance to be expanded to individuals returning from travels to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Effective 11:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 28, 2020, travelers should expect DHS guidance to be expanded to individuals returning from travels to Brazil.

 

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.

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.

 

STUDENTS AND ACADEMIC/FACULTY ADVISORS

The following FAQs will be updated soon based on Fall 2020 guidance issued by SEVP on July 6, 2020.  At this time, please refer to the OIS communication that was sent to all F-1 students on July 7 for more information.  

Has OIS guidance for students considering travel changed?

Now that the University has decided to continue remote instruction through June 30, OIS has revised our guidance on travel. We are no longer recommending that ALL students avoid travel. Instead, we recommend that students 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 factors to consider. OIS advisors will help you understand the potential impact of either choice on your immigration status.

 

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

Because the situation is developing rapidly and restrictions on global mobility continue to increase, 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, 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 continue your courses remotely from abroad through June 30. OIS will not take any negative action with regard to your F-1 or J-1 visa status as a result of this travel choice and will continue to monitor for clearer regulatory guidance from the government.

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 this summer, are you ok with cancelling those plans in case you can’t 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.

 

Can I continue to take courses remotely in fall 2020?

On June 4, SEVP stated that they will issue guidance for F-1 students for fall 2020.  They have not issued the guidance yet nor have they indicated when they will issue it.  We cannot say whether it is ok for you to continue courses remotely in fall 2020 until we have guidance from SEVP. 

 

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

As long as your F-1 SEVIS record remains active and you continue to make full-time progress towards your degree program while abroad, the “five-month rule” will not affect you.

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, we have confirmation from SEVP that students are allowed to engage in remote instruction either within the U.S. or abroad as long as in-person classes have not resumed for spring and summer 2020. Therefore, if you are abroad and engaging in full-time remote instruction per the university’s message, that time abroad does 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. 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.

 

I am a current JHU student who is currently in a travel-restricted country but this 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, 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.

 

What if I am currently in the U.S. but am self-quarantined at home?

International students may submit a request to OIS for consideration of a Medical Reduced Course Load exception to normal full-time enrollment requirements if they are unable to maintain their full-time studies for a medical reason.

 

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

SEVP has confirmed that students can engage in CPT remotely from within or outside the U.S. as long as the employer has an office outside the U.S. or has a way to assess your engagement and attainment of 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 the end of 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 International Services Advisor in OIS well before your program’s expiration date.

 

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. No guidance has been issued for J-1 students with end dates beyond May 31. DOS is maintaining a list of embassies who are trying to assist their exchange visitors.

 

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

Generally, no. F-1 and J-1 degree-seeking students are generally permitted to remain in the U.S. during the summer break period, including the summer between completion of one program and the start of a new program. Doing so is not a violation of nonimmigrant status (e.g., F-1). As long as there is no international travel during this time, no new visa stamp is needed from the U.S. consulate in such case 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 developing rapidly and restrictions on global mobility continue to increase, 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.

 

I must travel to a travel-restricted country and/or do not have the option to remain in the U.S. over the summer. 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 and may not be able to return in the fall 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.

 

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.

 

STUDENTS ON OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT)
 

I saw USCIS is closed. Will they review my OPT or STEM extension application?

USCIS is in the process of reopening certain field offices and has 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.

 

Can I go to the post office or FedEx with the Stay at Home order?

Yes, the U.S. Post Office and other shipping businesses are considered essential so they are still open to customers during this time.

 

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?

SEVP confirmed that working remotely during OPT or STEM OPT is allowed as long as the employer has an office outside the U.S. 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. 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. 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 reason, the 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.

 

ADMISSIONS

The following FAQs will be updated soon based on Fall 2020 guidance issued by SEVP on July 6, 2020.  At this time, please refer to the OIS communication that was sent to all F-1 students on July 7 for more information.  

 

Will admissions continue while travel restrictions are in place?

Yes, schools will continue to admit qualified students according to their admissions standards. We are evaluating a range of potential scenarios and how to best address related impacts.
 

Will OIS continue issuing immigration documentation to newly admitted students?

Yes, OIS will continue to issue documentation to every fully admitted student who requests it. 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.

Note that deferrals to a later term will require document reissuance and shipping (additional shipping costs are borne by the student).

 

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 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. Do I need to request an I-20 now?

Maybe. We can only issue an I-20 for the portion of your program that you will complete full-time and on campus in the U.S. while taking courses in a face-to-face format. If you plan to 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. If you do not plan to come to campus until next spring, you can wait until late summer or early fall to request your I-20. It is important to note that OIS will only send you emails with I-20 request instructions at the time of admission to your program. If you cannot request an I-20 at that time, you must save those instructions and submit the I-20 request at a later date, but at least 90 days before the term you plan to enter the U.S.

 

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 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?

 

If you have been maintaining your F-1 status we will accept a transfer of your F-1 record from your current school and issue an I-20 for your first term at JHU. Recent guidance from SEVP on May 14 states that F-1 transfers should be handled differently depending on whether the student is inside or outside the U.S. 

 

At this time, JHU has not made a decision about the mode of instruction for fall courses.  In addition, SEVP has not issued updated guidance for schools related to temporary instructional adjustments for fall courses. 

 

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 fall 2020.  We are still waiting for updated guidance from SEVP for fall 2020 so at this time it is not clear whether regulatory relief that applied in spring and summer 2020 will continue for fall.

 

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

OIS can issue your “transfer pending” I-20 but based on SEVP guidance, you should remain abroad until a term in which it is possible for you to enter the U.S. to attend in-person classes at JHU.  SEVP has confirmed that the 5-month rule for transferring an F-1 record does not apply during this time.

 

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

Because the situation is developing rapidly and restrictions on global mobility continue to increase, discuss your personal circumstances with an advisor from OIS to weigh the pros and cons for your specific situation. If you do choose to travel, we cannot guarantee that you will be able to return to the U.S. in time to begin your program.  If your program will only be offered in a remote format for fall, you will need to remain abroad until a term in which it is possible for you to attend in-person classes at JHU.

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.

After admission to the program, OIS will advise this population upon receipt of a request for immigration documentation.

 

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?

We recommend requesting your I-20 now so that you have it in your possession and are ready to attend a visa interview as soon as possible when the consulates re-open. 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.

 

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.

 

If I request an I-20 now and am unable to attend my program in-person on the planned start date, what should I do?

For F-1 purposes, you must arrive and enroll within the first 30 days of classes. However, most programs require students to enroll sooner than that. If you think you will be able to arrive within the first 30 days, then contact your JHU program to determine the latest date they will allow you to begin classes. Next, assess your situation and figure out whether you will be able to arrive by that date.

If you will not be able to arrive by the date specified by your program, discuss options with your JHU program for deferring to another term or a future academic year. Also notify the OIS if you are going to defer your attendance to a future term or academic year. If you will start the following term, we can defer your I-20 start date to that term. If you are deferring to the following academic year, we will cancel your F-1 record and you will need to request a new I-20 next year. In this situation, it is typically possible to transfer the SEVIS fee from your previous F-1 record to the new one.

To notify OIS, complete the New Student Deferral eForm in iHopkins under the “Admissions” tab.  You will be required to upload funding documentation that is no less than 90 days old as of the date you submit the eForm.  OIS will issue an updated I-20 based on the information you provide in the eForm.

 

If I get an F-1 visa stamp now can I use that visa stamp to enter the U.S. in spring 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 summer or fall, you should be able to use that visa to enter the U.S. at a later time as long as it’s unexpired on the date you enter.

 

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

I-20 shipping costs – 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.

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.

 

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. 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/