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FAQs: COVID-19 Immigration Implications
 

Last Updated 5/5/2021

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.
 

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 noncitizens 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 noncitizens who have been physically present in Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

On January 25, 2021, President Biden signed a Presidential Proclamation titled Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease to include all noncitizens who were physically present within the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), the Republic of Ireland, the Federative Republic of Brazil, and the Republic of South Africa during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

On April 30, 2021, President Biden signed a Presidential Proclamation titled Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019 to include all noncitizens who were physically present within the Republic of India 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?

According to the CDC:
All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States.

How does the coronavirus travel restriction apply to foreign nationals?

The current countries impacted by the COVID travel restrictions may be viewed here.

Effective 5 p.m. EST on Sunday, February 2, 2020 the proclamation suspended entry into the United States of all noncitizens (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 noncitizen who is:

1. a lawful permanent resident of the United States;

2. any noncitizen national of the United States;

3. a spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;

4. 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;

5. a sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;

6. 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;

7. traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;

8. C (transit) or D (air or sea crewmember) nonimmigrants;

9. 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);

10. any noncitizen whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement;

11. a noncitizen 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. a noncitizen 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.

Effective 5 p.m. EST on Monday, March 2, 2020, the Presidential Proclamation 9992 (relating to Iran) suspended entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all noncitizens 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 noncitizen who is listed under the above-numbered exclusions.

Effective 12:01 a.m. EST on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, the Presidential Proclamation (relating to Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Brazil) suspended entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all noncitizens who were physically present within the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Brazil 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 noncitizen who is listed under the above-numbered exclusions.

Effective 12:01 a.m. EST on Saturday, January 30, 2021, the Presidential Proclamation (relating to South Africa) suspended entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all noncitizens who were physically present within South Africa 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 noncitizen who is listed under the above-numbered exclusions.

Effective 12:01 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, the Presidential Proclamation (relating to India) suspended entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all noncitizens who were physically present within India 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 noncitizen who is listed under the above-numbered exclusions.

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, the Schengen Area, China, Iran, Brazil and South Africa is provided on the Department of State website.  An explanation of the NIE under the Proclamation for travelers from India is also available on the Department of State website.  If an individual 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.  Please see the question below for more information about NIEs for students traveling from travel-restricted countries.

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.

I am a student currently in a country subject to travel restrictions. Will I be able to receive a National Interest Exception (NIE) so that I don’t need to fulfill the requirements of the travel restrictions?

On April 26, 2021, Department of State announced a national interest determination for certain categories of travelers, including students, who may now qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE). Department of State issued an additional announcement to include students from India on April 30, 2021. If you qualify for an NIE, you do not need to spend 14 days outside the travel-restricted country before entering the U.S. Please note that the announcement does not address all situations in detail. In cases where it does not address your situation specifically, we recommend that you reach out to your local U.S. consulate for guidance.

What we know from the announcement:

  • F-1 students from the named countries may qualify for an NIE if their academic program begins or continues on August 1, 2021 or later.
  • F-1 students with a valid F-1 visa who will begin or continue their academic program on August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact a U.S. consulate to obtain an individual NIE prior to travel.
  • F-1 students who are applying for a visa will automatically be considered for an NIE.
  • J-1 students who have a valid J-1 visa and will begin their program on August 1, 2021 or later must contact their U.S. consulate to obtain an individual NIE for travel.

Questions that the announcement does not answer:

  • Can continuing students qualify for an NIE if they plan to enter the U.S. sooner than 30 days before their next term’s start date?
  • Are F-1 students on OPT eligible for an NIE and, if so, are there any conditions on when they can enter the U.S.
  • Do students whose programs begin prior to August 1, 2021 need to request an NIE from their U.S. consulate, and if so, will they be issued an NIE to enter the U.S.?
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

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) COVID-19 Guidance

On April 26, 2021 SEVP announced that they will continue their March 2020 guidance for the duration of the 2021-22 academic year which allows certain flexibilities for F-1 students attending schools that are not operating under normal conditions. Most schools and programs at JHU do not plan to return to fully normal operating conditions for fall 2021. What this means for continuing JHU students:

  • Students who were in F-1 status on March 9, 2020 and have maintained their status continuously may continue to take any combination of online, hybrid or in-person courses including a fully online course load either from within or outside the U.S. as made available by their school or program
  • Students who began their JHU program from abroad can only enter the U.S. in F-1 status if their program is not 100% online and if they are able to take at least one in-person course.
  • Students who entered the U.S. in F-1 status to begin their program after March 9, 2020 should continue to take at least one in-person course per term while this guidance is in effect.
I am a student in F-1 status. Can I continue to take courses remotely in spring 2021?

SEVP issued a continuation of their fall 2020 guidance through the 2021-22 academic year. This means that students who were in F-1 status on March 9, 2020 and have continued to maintain their status will be able to continue taking courses remotely for spring 2021 providing their schools/programs offer this accommodation. Students who entered the U.S. with an initial I-20 for summer 2020 or later should continue to take at least one in-person course per term while the guidance is in effect.

I started my JHU program from outside the U.S. in fall 2020. Can I enter the U.S. to take classes at JHU for fall 2021?

SEVP has announced that their fall 2020 guidance will continue for the 2021-22 academic year. This means that students who began their JHU program outside the U.S. can enter the U.S. in F-1 status to begin a program at JHU IF their program is not 100% online AND they are able to take at least one in-person course. Students should check with their JHU program to make sure they will be able to take at least one in-person course. These students should plan to take at least one in-person course per term as long as the current SEVP guidance continues. Individual programs may require you to take more in-person courses than the one-course minimum.

If you do not already have an I-20 with a fall 2021 start date, you will need to request one by completing the New International Student form in iHopkins. We recommend that you request your I-20 at least 90 days before the start date of your first term on campus.

Please also make sure to review the “General” section of the FAQs for information about current travel restrictions.

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

There continue to be obstacles related to international travel including travel restrictions, flight availability, visa renewal delays and quarantine and testing requirements. Therefore, we recommend that students limit or forego unnecessary international travel. Students who are considering departing the U.S. should consult in advance with their JHU program to determine whether travel or unforeseen delays abroad will have an impact on their ability to continue in the program.

Students who were in the U.S. in F-1 status as of March 9, 2020 can continue to take a fully online course load through the 2021-22 academic year so long as the University does not return to normal operations and their program offers remote study accommodations. OIS will not take any negative action with regard to your F-1 SEVIS program status as a result of this travel choice as long as you continue to be enrolled full-time while you are abroad.

Students who entered the U.S. with an initial I-20 for summer 2020 or later should continue to take at least one in-person course per term while the current SEVP guidance is in effect. If you choose to travel outside the U.S. and are unable to fulfill this requirement, OIS may need to end your F-1 SEVIS record. It is important that you consult an OIS advisor in advance of travel if you anticipate this scenario.

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 inside the U.S. 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 ultimately 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 guidance allows students who were in F-1 status on March 9, 2020 to engage in remote instruction either within the U.S. or abroad as long as the university does not return to normal operations. SEVP has continued that guidance through the 2021-22 academic year. As long as SEVP guidance continues, these students can remain abroad engaging in full-time remote instruction (if offered by your school or program) 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 or cannot 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 immigration benefits such as 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.

Students who entered the U.S. with an initial I-20 for summer 2020 or later should continue to meet the SEVP guidance requirement of one in-person course per term.

As such, these students would need to remain in the U.S. during regular academic terms in order to maintain their F-1 status.

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

This question is addressed in the “Newly Admitted Students” section of the FAQs.

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 fall and fall 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 summer or fall 2021 and I learned that the internship will now be remote. Is that ok?

SEVP guidance allows students to engage in CPT remotely from within the U.S. as long as the employer permits it and has a way to assess your engagement and attainment of CPT learning objectives remotely, or outside the U.S. as long as the employer permits it and 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 starting a new program after completion of the current program, 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.

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, 2020. 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 will complete my degree program in spring 2021 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?

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 or J-1 record in a timely manner.  Students transferring their F-1 status must be able to begin their new program no later than 5 months after their last day of enrollment at their current school or last day of OPT. 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.

More specific details regarding requirements for students beginning a second degree program at JHU or transferring their F-1 record to JHU are available in the "Newly Admitted Students" section of the FAQs.

    

NEWLY ADMITTED STUDENTS (ADMITTED TO BEGIN A NEW PROGRAM AT JHU IN SUMMER OR FALL 2021)

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) COVID-19 Guidance

On April 26, 2021 SEVP announced that they will continue their March 2020 guidance for the duration of the 2021-22 academic year which allows certain flexibilities for F-1 students attending schools that are not operating under fully normal conditions. Most schools and programs at JHU do not plan to return to fully normal operating conditions for fall 2021. What this means for new students:

  • Students can only enter the U.S. in F-1 status to begin a program at JHU (or to continue one started online while abroad) if their program is not 100% online and if they are able to take at least one in-person course.
  • Students transferring their F-1 record to JHU or beginning a second degree program at JHU:

o Students who were in F-1 status as of March 9,2020 and have continuously maintained their F-1 status while remaining in the U.S. may transfer their F-1 record to JHU or enter a second degree program at JHU and take online courses in excess of regulatory limits including a full course load of online courses as made available by their school or program. If you are in this situation and plan to travel abroad prior to beginning your new program at JHU, it is very important that you review the response to the question in this FAQ below “Should students currently in the U.S. who plan to transfer their F-1 status to JHU or begin a second degree program at JHU in summer or fall 2021 travel abroad before their program start date?”

o Students who entered the U.S. in F-1 status to begin their program after March 9, 2020 and who have remained in the U.S. should continue to take at least one in-person course per term while this guidance is in effect.

OIS is currently issuing I-20s for summer and fall 2021 to students who request them via iHopkins. However, if a JHU school or program determines that all courses will be online for summer or fall 2021, OIS will stop issuing I-20s for students outside the U.S. to begin their program at JHU in either term. Students outside the U.S. who already have an I-20 for those schools/programs should not use them to enter the U.S. to begin a term that is 100% online. Students will need to inquire with OIS about getting an updated I-20 for arrival in a future term. OIS typically will not issue an immigration document more than five months before the start of any term.

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

SEVP will continue their fall 2020 guidance for the 2021-22 academic year 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 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 their first term before they enter the U.S.  Students will need to continue to meet the SEVP guidance requirement of one in-person course per term for future terms so long as SEVP guidance remains in place and JHU has not resumed normal operations. 

Students who are in F-1 status and are currently outside the U.S. can transfer their F-1 record to JHU only if their program is not 100% online and if they are able to take at least one in-person course for their first term. 

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 fall 2021?

SEVP will continue their fall 2020 guidance for the 2021-22 academic year which means that newly admitted students who are already in F-1 status inside the U.S. and who were enrolled at a U.S. institution as of March 9, 2020, have continued to maintain their F-1 status and are transferring their F-1 record to JHU may remain in the U.S. for fall 2021 and take any combination of online or hybrid courses per SEVP guidance as made available by their school or program.

Admitted students remaining inside the U.S. in F-1 status who initially entered the U.S. to begin a program in summer 2020 or later and who will transfer their F-1 status to JHU or begin a second program at JHU should continue to take at least one in-person course per term so long as SEVP guidance remains in place.

If you choose to travel outside the U.S. before the start of fall term, you may not be able to return as planned.  Please refer to the question in this FAQ below “Should students currently in the U.S. who plan to transfer and start a new program at JHU in summer or fall 2021 travel abroad before their program start date?”

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

No. If you are outside the U.S. and will begin the first term of your program 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 based on 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.  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.  OIS typically will not issue an immigration document more than five months before the start of any term.

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 inside 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 exception to this requirement is for students who were in F-1 status on March 9, 2020 and who have continuously maintained their F-1 status. 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.  Note that students must be inside the U.S. in order to apply for and OPT.

*There are limited exceptions for transfer students, second degree 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 from fall 2020, which will be continued for the 2021-22 academic year, states that F-1 transfers should be handled differently depending on whether the student is inside or outside the U.S. 

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

Students who are currently in the U.S. and eligible to transfer their F-1 record to JHU can complete the transfer and begin their JHU program in summer or fall 2021. Students who were in F-1 status as of March 9, 2020 and have maintained their F-1 status are permitted to continue taking any combination of in-person, online or hybrid courses. Students who entered the U.S. with an initial I-20 after spring 2020, should continue to meet the SEVP guidance requirement of at least one in-person course per term while the guidance is in effect.

If you have plans to depart the U.S. prior to the start of fall term, it is critical that you read the question in this FAQ below “Should students currently in the U.S. who plan to transfer their F-1 status to JHU or begin a second degree program at JHU in summer or fall 2021 travel abroad before their program start date?”

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

SEVP guidance categorizes students who are transferring their F-1 record from one U.S. institution to another or who are beginning a second degree program at the same institution and who are outside the U.S. as new students.  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 you should not enter the U.S. to begin your program in that term.  

If you previously transferred your F-1 record to JHU for fall 2020 or spring 2021 and were issued an I-20, your F-1 record automatically ended if you did not come to campus for that term. Please read the following two options carefully:

  • It may be possible to reactivate your previous F-1 record if you plan to come to campus for a future term by requesting a Data Fix from SEVP with the assistance of OIS. However, OIS cannot submit a Data Fix request to SEVP until 60 days before the start date of the term in which you will be studying on campus.  If you would like to attempt a Data Fix, you should submit the I-20 Data Fix Request eForm under the ‘Admissions’ tab in iHopkins once you’re within the 60-day timeframe. Approval is at the discretion of SEVP and you may be required to provide flight details for your return as part of this request.  SEVP guidance does not address whether transfer and change of level students outside the U.S. who obtain an approved data fix will be able to count previous full-time enrollment at a U.S. college or university towards CPT and OPT eligibility.  We are seeking clarification from SEVP.
     
  • If you do not want to attempt a reactivation, we can create a new F-1 record for you instead. You can request a new F-1 record for summer or fall 2021 at any time by completing the New International Student Form in iHopkins.  Having a new SEVIS ID will reset the eligibility for CPT/OPT – you will need to be in F-1 status for one academic year again before you are eligible. This option allows you to obtain your new I-20 earlier (we can issue it now with no time constraint). For students whose F-1 visa has expired or will expire before the start of the term, this option is more advantageous because you will need to allow time to renew your visa before you return to the U.S. and you can schedule a visa appointment upon receipt of the new I-20.
Should students currently in the U.S. who plan to transfer their F-1 status to JHU or begin a second degree program at JHU in summer or fall 2021 travel abroad before their program start date?

Whether to travel abroad before fall 2021 is a personal decision but it is important that you understand that traveling comes with certain risks.  There continue to be obstacles related to international travel including travel restrictions, flight availability, visa renewal delays and possible quarantine and testing requirements depending on which countries you visit or transit.  Therefore, we recommend that students limit or forego unnecessary international travel.   SEVP’s fall 2020 guidance will remain in place for the 2021-22 academic year.  Based on that guidance, if you choose to travel you may only re-enter the U.S. to start a new program if your program is not 100% online and you are able to take at least one in-person course for fall 2021. If your F-1 visa stamp is expired, you will need to obtain a new stamp prior to your return.  You must be able to re-enter the U.S. no later than 30 days after 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 or begin a new second degree program at JHU. 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.

Please also review the “General” section of these FAQs for current travel restrictions.

I am JHU student who transferred my F-1 record to JHU for a previous term but was unable to enter the U.S. What steps should I take to obtain an I-20 for summer or fall 2021?

If you were previously issued an I-20 with a fall 2020 or spring 2021 start date, your F-1 record automatically ended when you did not enter the U.S. for that term.  To enter the U.S. for fall 2021, you will need a new I-20.  Please carefully review the options below.    

  • It may be possible to reactivate your previous F-1 record if you plan to come to campus for a future term by requesting a Data Fix from SEVP with the assistance of OIS. However, OIS cannot submit a Data Fix request to SEVP until 60 days before the start date of the term in which you will be studying on campus.  If you would like to attempt a Data Fix, you should submit the I-20 Data Fix Request eForm under the ‘Admissions’ tab in iHopkins once you’re close to the 60-day timeframe. Approval is at the discretion of SEVP and you may be required to provide flight details for your return as part of this request.  SEVP guidance does not address whether transfer and change of level students outside the U.S. who obtain  an approved Data Fix will be able to count previous full-time enrollment at a U.S. college or university towards CPT and OPT eligibility.  We are seeking clarification from SEVP.
     
  • If you do not want to attempt a reactivation, we can create a new F-1 record for you instead. You can request a new F-1 record for fall 2021 at any time by completing the New International Student Form in iHopkins.  Having a new SEVIS ID will reset the eligibility for CPT/OPT – you will need to be in F-1 status for one academic year again before you are eligible. This option allows you to obtain your new I-20 earlier (we can issue it now with no time constraint). For students whose F-1 visa has expired or will expire before the start of the term, this option is more advantageous because you will need to allow time to renew your visa before you return to the U.S. and you can schedule a visa appointment upon receipt of the new I-20.
I am a JHU student who will begin a second degree program at JHU in fall 2021 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 treats all students with initial I-20s as new students if they are outside the U.S. This guidance 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. Students whose JHU schools will offer some in-person instruction should consult with their program to determine whether it is possible to take at least one in-person course for summer or fall 2021. If it is possible, those students can enter the U.S. for summer or fall (with all required documentation).  These students should continue to take at least one in-person course per term while the SEVP guidance is in effect. 

If your JHU school/program announces that all courses for summer or fall will be online and your I-20 has a summer or fall start date, you should not enter the U.S. with that I-20.  Students will need to inquire with OIS about getting an updated I-20 for arrival in a future term.  OIS typically will not issue an immigration document more than five months before the start of any term.

I am a continuing JHU student who is entering a second degree program at JHU in summer or fall 2021 and am inside the U.S. How does the SEVP 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 summer or fall 2021. It is important that you request your change of level I-20 in a timely manner.

OIS will be able to register their F-1 records and can keep them active for fall as long as they enroll full-time. Students who were in F-1 status on March 9, 2020 and have continued to maintain their status can take any combination of online, hybrid or in-person courses as made available by their school or program. Students who entered the U.S. to begin a program in summer 2020 or later should continue to take at least one in-person course per term while SEVP guidance is in effect.  

If you have plans to depart the U.S. prior to the start of fall term, it is critical that you read the question in this FAQ above “Should students currently in the U.S. who plan to transfer their F-1 status to JHU or begin a second degree program at JHU in summer or fall 2021 travel abroad before their program start date?”

I have a valid F-1 visa stamp from a prior degree program at another school. Can I use that to enter the U.S. along with my JHU I-20?
Yes, typically an F-1 visa stamp is valid for entry to the U.S. until the expiration date.  An unexpired F-1 visa can be used for re-entry to the U.S. even if the SEVIS ID listed on the visa does not match the information on the student’s new I-20.  However, you must pay the SEVIS fee again for your new F-1 record/SEVIS ID.
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. Students requesting a new or updated I-20 have the option of receiving their I-20 from OIS electronically.  It is not possible to request both an electronic and paper I-20 so students will need to choose which format they prefer.  If obtaining the I-20 as soon as possible is important, we recommend choosing the electronic I-20.

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 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. On April 6, 2021, U.S. Department of State announced that they are working to reduce the backlog of visa applicants waiting for an interview and confirmed that 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 summer or fall 2021 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.  OIS typically will not issue an immigration document more than five months before the start of any term.

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 get an F-1 visa stamp now, how long will it remain valid?

Typically an F-1 visa stamp is valid for entry to the U.S. until it expires, though some visas may be restricted to use for just one or two entries rather than unrestricted multiple entries (check your visa in your passport!). Therefore, if you get an F-1 visa now, 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.

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 rather than electronically through email, 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?

SEVP guidance confirms 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. 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 (China): 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

https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspension-entry-immigrants-nonimmigrants-persons-pose-risk-transmitting-2019-novel-coronavirus/

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

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

Presidential Proclamation (Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa): Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/25/proclamation-on-the-suspension-of-entry-as-immigrants-and-non-immigrants-of-certain-additional-persons-who-pose-a-risk-of-transmitting-coronavirus-disease/

Presidential Proclamation (India):

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/04/30/a-proclamation-on-the-suspension-of-entry-as-nonimmigrants-of-certain-additional-persons-who-pose-a-risk-of-transmitting-coronavirus-disease-2019/

SEVP Enrollment Guidance and FAQ (April 26, 2021):

https://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/bcm2104-05.pdf

https://www.ice.gov/doclib/coronavirus/covid19faq.pdf

Department of State National Interest Exceptions (April 26, 2021):

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/national-interest-exceptions-for-certain-travelers-from-china-Iran-brazil-south-africa-schengen-area-united-kingdom-and-ireland.html

CDC Travel Information and FAQ:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/faqs.html

NAFSA Coronavirus Critical Resources

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

University Communications and Resources

https://covidinfo.jhu.edu/

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/

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

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