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U.S. Entry Restriction for China Travelers, Academic Program FAQ

  1. To whom does the entry restriction apply?

The Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus became effective on Sunday, February 2 at 5 pm. It restricts entry to the U.S. for foreign nationals who traveled from, or were physically present, in China within 14 days prior to the U.S. arrival.  Certain foreign national travelers are exempt from this restriction, such as permanent residents, spouses of U.S. citizens, or parents of U.S. citizen children (although these travelers will face quarantine upon arrival). The Secretary of State will determine how the proclamation will be implemented as it relates to visa issuance, and the Secretary of Homeland Security will determine how to implement these terms to entry/arrival procedures. Please note that this is not a restriction based on Chinese nationality – it applies to any foreign national who was present in China during the 14 days before arrival. A student from China could travel from the U.S. to Mexico, and should not be prevented from return under this entry restriction, unless they had also been in China during the 14 days prior to U.S. entry.

Other countries have also implemented travel restrictions –  this article lists an overview of international restrictions (ISSS cannot vouch for its accuracy).

  1. When will the entry restriction be lifted?

The proclamation will be reviewed/renewed in 15-day increments and will remain in effect until terminated by the President.

  1. Are U.S. airlines even flying to China?

American Airlines has suspended flights to China until March 27, United Airlines has suspended flights until March 28, and Delta has suspended flights until April 30. Worldwide, many other airlines have also suspended flights, making travel to China very difficult.

Some Chinese airlines, such as China Air, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines are still flying between the U.S. and China – students/scholars should check the websites for the latest flight updates.

  1. How does this restriction impact a UConn student’s F-1 or J-1 visa?

International students on academic visas must enroll in coursework on a full time basis and make normal progress toward completing their degree. If a student is in China and unable to meet these requirements, ISSS must update the student’s SEVIS record to reflect that the student is not currently eligible for F-1/J-1 status. When the student is able to resume full time study, we can reactivate their prior Form I-20/DS-2019 for travel or issue a new Form I-20 for the next available term of full time study.

Students may not maintain an active student visa through distance learning, although it may be possible to maintain the student’s SEVIS record when engaged in full time research.

If a student’s program of study is interrupted in their final semester, this will likely affect their eligibility for the post-completion OPT work benefit.

  1. What options are available for an undergraduate student if they are unable to return to the U.S. from China?

Undergraduate students who have been unable to return for Spring 2020 semester have been advised to cancel their enrollment for this term through the Dean of Students office. If they had enrolled in an online course, they could continue this course and maintain active student status while in China, instead of completely cancelling their enrollment. With both options, ISSS must terminate the student’s SEVIS record/I-20 and work with them to get a new I-20 for return. Even if the travel restriction is lifted before the semester ends, they will not be able to return to the U.S. until they can resume a full course of study (12 credits).

  1. What options does a graduate student have if they are unable to return to the U.S. from China?

Graduate students who are enrolled in coursework must cancel their enrollment for the Spring 2020 semester, unless enrolled in an online or other distance learning course. With either option, ISSS will cancel the SEVIS record/I-20 and ISSS will work with the student to obtain a new I-20 for return. The student will not be able to return until they can resume a full course of study (9 credits, or 6 credits with GA) which may mean waiting until Fall semester to return.

Graduate students who are pursuing full time research may have the option to continue their research while away, if approved by OVPR to conduct the research in another country under export control regulations. In addition, the students should complete with their academic advisor the ISSS Off-Site Activity Form. However, ISSS can only maintain an active SEVIS record for that student if they are enrolled in full time research credits.

  1. My advisee recently graduated and was planning to return home to China. They are now having difficulties finding a flight home. What options do they have?

If the student completed their degree within the last 60 days they may be able to apply for Optional Practical Training authorization, transfer to a new U.S. University, or apply to change to a different visa status. Some Chinese airlines are also still flying between U.S. and China. You should refer them to ISSS to explore these options as soon as possible – we can also help connect students to the Chinese consulate in New York for further guidance on returning to China.

  1. I have a visiting scholar in my department whose end date is approaching, and they may be unable to get a flight home. What can I do?

The Department of State is allowing all program sponsors to extend the DS-2019 end date of visiting scholars who will soon expire to April 1, 2020. However, the exchange visitor must still be able to conduct their exchange visitor activity during this time – therefore as a hosting department, the best way to support your visitor is to extend their current appointment at UConn until at least April 1.

  1. My department is hosting a visiting scholar from China who was supposed to arrive in the near future. What do I do?

First, confirm with your visiting scholar that they are physically present in China. If yes, please amend your exchange visitor’s offer letter, and submit a request to ISSS to amend the program start date listed on the Form DS-2019. You must select a date after April 1.

  1. What resources are available to my students who are here, but have arrived late and missed classes?

This entry restriction has hit U.S. universities at a particularly difficult time, following the winter break period. To complicate matters further, many students had decided to stay home one extra week to be with family during the important Lunar New Year holiday, thinking it would not be too harmful to miss the first week of classes. When the virus began disrupting flight schedules and travel within China, students found themselves unable to return as planned. Many students were still able to return within the second week of classes, but they are now academically vulnerable and may need extra support.

Please check in frequently with your advisee if they have missed significant coursework. They may be afraid or feel like they are inconveniencing you to ask for help.  If they have been ill, ISSS may be able to authorize a Reduced Course Load for medical reasons, which would allow them to enroll on a part time basis. We also recommend that you contact Pam Fischl (pamela.fischl@uconn.edu), who is a Retention Specialist with FYP/Learning Communities whose work focuses on international students – she may be able to help the student access resources at the Academic Achievement Center. It is very helpful if all faculty can report midterm grades so that ISSS and other offices may identify students who are especially at risk for failure. If students fall out of status during the entry ban period, they risk accruing time in the U.S. without legal status because they cannot return home.

Please notify ISSS if you have a student who is supposed to be in your class, but has not attended. We are trying our best to identify international students who may be unable to return.

  1. What financial resources may be available to students?

If an international student’s financial situation is impacted by coronavirus (e.g. parents are unable to work, unexpected expenses, etc.) the student may be able to apply for an off-campus work permit authorized for economic hardship purposes. Please refer the student to ISSS for more information.

Short-term emergency loans may also be available through Graduate Student Senate and Dean of Students office.

The IIE Emergency Student Fund is accepting applications from institutions for grants to support students from China who are impacted by the current coronavirus outbreak. Grants are also available for students from Australia impacted by the brushfires, students from Luzon, Philippines who are impacted by the Taal Volcano, and students from Elazig and Malatya provinces in Turkey who were impacted by the earthquake that struck January 24. Applications are due February 19. Contact ISSS if you think a student is in need of a student emergency grant.

  1. What else can I do to help?

If your advisee is in China currently, please tell them to check their UConn email daily for important updates. Let them know that the University is doing what they can to get them back as soon as possible and resume their studies.

If your advisee is here in the U.S. also advise them to check their UConn email daily, but also let them know that Student Health and Wellness is willing to give free, personalized health screenings to students at the Storrs campus who returned from China within the last 14 days. There is also a coronavirus hotline that all UConn Storrs and Regional campus students may call during business hours – (860) 486-8987. If students have concerns or questions, you can refer them to this number. If students are wearing masks in your class, this does not mean they are sick – they may be trying to protect themselves from others who could be ill.  Students are very concerned about disease transmission, and may be self-isolating to prevent getting sick. Please contact ISSS if you have concerns about any individual international students.

 

Tax Filing Season is here!

This is the time of year when people in the United States are required to file an income tax return for income earned during 2019. Some international students and scholars are also required to file a tax Form 8843, even when they did not earn income. Please see more information below.

 

This week,  the University will hold two tax information sessions at the Storrs campus for international students and scholars.  During these sessions, a School of Business faculty member, who also coordinates UConn’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, will present an overview of the  income tax rules that apply to international students and visitors, and resources to help you file your taxes.

 

The first session will be offered Thursday, February 6, from 6 to 7:30 pm and the second session will be held on Friday February 7, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Location: School of Business, Room 106. Prior sign up is encouraged, but not required. To sign up, please visit icworkshops.uconn.edu > View Available Events > Tax Information Workshop.

 

The following topics and frequently asked questions will be discussed at the information sessions:

 

  • Nonresident vs. Resident Alien tax status
  • What is considered taxable income?
  • What is an income tax treaty and how can I benefit from it?
  • Who needs to file a 2019 federal and/or state income tax return?
  • What documents do I need to prepare and file my income tax returns?
  • Who needs to file Form 8843?
  • UConn’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (“VITA”) program – freetax return preparation assistance provided to UConn’s international community

 

If you received taxable income (e.g. wages, taxable scholarships or fellowships) in the United States during the 2019 calendar year, you must file a 2019 federal income tax return (and possibly a state income tax return) and pay any unpaid taxes by April 15, 2020. Even if you had no taxable income in 2019, you may need to file Form 8843 with the Internal Revenue Service.  Form 8843 allows you to maintain your Nonresident Alien tax status while you’re in the U.S. for a certain number of years, depending on your visa type.

 

We understand that income taxes can be very confusing.  Therefore, UConn’s VITA program provides free personalized tax counseling and tax return preparation services for our international community at UConn.  Visit vita.business.uconn.edu for more information, and to schedule your appointment for free tax return preparation.  You will need to complete a brief questionnaire first, to ensure that you are eligible for the tax preparation service. 

 

UConn provides students and scholars who are unable to attend an in-person VITA program session free access to Sprintax tax preparation software, which prepares nonresident alien tax returns and the Form 8843. Contact ISSS at international@uconn.edu to request your access code to use Sprintax for free. Sprintax also prepares State Tax returns, for an extra fee.

 

Please note that if you arrived here as a new student or scholar in 2020, you do not need to file a tax return or Form 8843 at this time.

 

Students and scholars who are unable to attend one of the Tax Information Sessions should consult the following University resources:

ISSS Tax Resources for International Students

UConn VITA Program Tax FAQ: Tax Assistance for Foreign Students and Scholars

UConn Tax & Compliance Office Nonresident Tax FAQs

 

Message on Coronavirus

Dear International Students and Scholars,

 

ISSS understands that you may be worried about the emerging coronavirus situation, and that you may have been personally impacted through travel delays. If you are in China, or have family in China, we wish you and your family good health, and we hope that life will soon return to normal. Please let us know how we can support you.

 

We would like to share with you important updates and information:

 

Travel from China to U.S.

As you may know, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation on January 31st that bars entry to the U.S. of foreign nationals who have recently (within the past 14 days) been present in, or traveled from, the People’s Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau). The restriction started Sunday, February 2nd at 5 pm, and its end date is unknown.  Some categories of foreign nationals, including lawful permanent residents of the U.S., spouses of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and parents of U.S. citizen children, are exempt from this restriction.  However, exempt individuals may still be subject to testing and quarantine upon arrival to the U.S.

 

If you are a student, a visiting scholar, or an OPT participant who is in China, and unable to return due to the travel restriction, please notify ISSS if you have not already done so.

 

Spring Break Travel to China

At this time, ISSS suggests that students who are in the U.S. not plan unnecessary travel to China during the Spring break, until we know when the reentry restriction will be lifted. If students are required to travel due to an emergency or otherwise cannot stay here, please discuss your plans with your ISSS advisor so we can help you understand your options for return.

 

Maintaining  Your Visa Status

With the entry restriction in place, It is especially important that enrolled students make every effort to maintain your visa status by attending all classes, on a full time basis (unless you are already approved for a Reduced Course Load).

 

Also, do not work in the U.S. unless you have ISSS or USCIS authorization. The F-1 visa allows enrolled students to work up to 20 hours per week on campus, without special authorization. All other employment requires explicit ISSS or USCIS authorization. J-1 visa students require written ISSS authorization for all types of employment.

 

Visiting scholars are not required to study to maintain status, and  may only work in a position at UConn that forms the basis of your exchange program.  Please contact ISSS with further questions.

 

Health Information and Services

UConn Student Health and Wellness (SHaW) maintains up to date information related to coronavirus and flu on their webpage. They also have  a phone number dedicated to novel coronavirus –  if you have questions or concerns related to the virus, you may call (860) 486-8987 during business hours, or the after hours on-call nurse (860-486-4700) outside of business hours. If you are feeling ill, please seek medical treatment at Student Health and Wellness at the Storrs campus (for enrolled Storrs campus students) or through your local medical provider, if at a regional campus. SHaW would like to remind all students that they should get a flu shot, if they have not already done so. These are provided at SHaW, your local medical provider, and at many pharmacies.

 

Academic Support

We know that many students had to return to campus later than planned, or may have been ill and missed a number of classes. It is very important that you communicate with your professors if you miss class to find out how or if you can make up any missed work. The ISSS webpage on Academic Support lists a number of on-campus resources that can help you if you are struggling to keep up with your coursework. If you have missed significant class time due to an illness, and you have medical documentation, you may be eligible to take a Reduced Course Load for the semester and withdraw from the course, if necessary.

 

Please ask for help if you are  struggling. UConn campuses have resources and staff who are willing to help, but you must seek out that assistance.

 

Travel Advising

If you are unsure how the new entry ban will impact your travel or your family/friend’s travel, please consult with your ISSS advisor. You can make an appointment or visit during drop in hours.

 

Bias Incident Reporting

We would like to remind students how they can report bias incidents that occur on campus. From the Dean of Students webpage on Bias Incident Reporting:

A bias-related incident is an incident that negatively targets, intimidates, or threatens an individual or group due to race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, physical, mental, and intellectual disabilities, as well as past/present history of mental disorders. This includes, but is not limited to, graffiti or images that harass or intimidate individuals or groups due to the above characteristics. ​  Because novel coronavirus is associated with a specific world region/country, we want students to know that if you feel you are negatively targeted, or witness other students being negatively targeted, due to an association between someone’s race, ethnicity, or national origin and the novel coronavirus, you may report such incidents through this form.

Thank you and best wishes for the rest of the semester.

Email from Wellfleet Student

International students and scholars who were enrolled in the UConn Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) at any point during 2019 may have received an email from Wellfleet Student with the subject line Important Student Health Insurance 1095-B Information. Wellfleet is the company that provides your insurance coverage under the UConn SHIP. This email is not spam or a scam. Many international students have reported receiving this email, and they have been confused by the message content.

If you received this message from Wellfleet, it means they don’t have your current Social Security Number information, and they would like to have this number to issue your tax form 1095-B (since the SSN is a tax ID number). The 1095-B is issued by the insurance company to document your health insurance coverage. When you file a U.S. tax return, you may or may not be required to demonstrate that you had health insurance using this form.

You may provide your SSN to the health insurance company by completing the W-9 tax form and mailing it to the address in the email. If you do not have a Social Security Number, or if you choose to not provide this to Wellfleet, the tax form 1095-B will still be mailed to you. If you are filing a U.S. tax return because you had taxable income in 2019, then save the 1095-B form for your tax records. If you are not filing a U.S. tax return because you did not have taxable income in 2019, we still advise you to save this form for your records.

Watch #YouAreWelcomeHere video!

ISSS worked with our campus partners across campus to create a video for the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign! This is a national campaign to let international students know that despite the message being sent by the government through recent visa restrictions and immigration policy updates, we welcome you to the United States and to our campus!

Video: UConn ISSS Tips for Chinese Name Pronunciation

Check out our new video featuring ISSS advisor Sarah Manning and student worker Ruixin Zheng! As the number of UConn students from China has increased, ISSS recognized that pronouncing Chinese names may be difficult for non-Chinese speakers. We hope that this video will help you feel more confident pronouncing sounds commonly found in Chinese names.  Credits to ISSS student staff Shi Pu for the basic script/concept and Eve Lenson for filming. We hope you enjoy the video!