- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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.
- 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.
- 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.