ISSS COVID-19 FAQ

General Questions

1. Am I required to report any information to ISSS about my plans for Fall semester?

Current Students:

  1. Fall 2020 Check In Form (All Active Students) All current active students need to tell ISSS where you will study during Fall 2020 using the Fall 2020 Check In Form. If you will be traveling mid-semester (starting abroad and returning to the U.S., or starting in the U.S. and returning home) then report to us where you will be at the start of Fall semester. Then report to us again when your situation changes.

 

New Students - Complete these forms Before Arrival:

  1. Complete this form, only if you plan to travel to UConn for Fall semester: Fall 2020 Check In Form (All Active Students)
  2. Complete this form, if you received a Form I-20/DS-2019 for Fall semester, but you will delay your arrival to UConn to a later term:  SEVIS Defer - Request to Change I-20/DS-2019 Start Date  ISSS will issue an updated Form I-20 or DS-2019 for you with your new expected arrival date.

Students on OPT and Visiting Scholars:

You do not need to report to ISSS your plans for fall - instead please follow instructions to update your address to report any changes in your U.S. or home country residence to ISSS.  Federal visa regulations require you to report any address changes to ISSS within 10 days after moving.

2. Will ISSS be open in the fall?

 ISSS in Storrs plans to reopen on a limited basis for Fall 2020 semester, starting August 17. We plan to be open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 am-12 pm, and 1 pm-4 pm.  Even after we reopen, most advising services will be conducted remotely. You will still need to meet with your advisor through video-chat. We will still answer questions in the afternoons through our chat service. Our front desk will be open for document pick-up and procedural questions, and other staff will also be on hand to help resolve immediate issues.

Until then, we are operating only remotely, and will continue to offer the same remote services even after opening.

Students, scholars, and academic departments can email international@uconn.edu or your assigned ISSS Advisor for help. You can also make video-chat appointments with advisors, and get answers to quick questions through chat advising.

You can request most immigration updates through the ISSS website. The government is still allowing schools to issue I-20 documents with electronic signatures, and we plan to continue issuing most documents electronically. We are still issuing paper forms for documents that accompany applications reviewed by USCIS, like I-20s for OPT, Change of Status, or Reinstatement applications, and all J-1 DS-2019 forms.  These forms are mailed to students, or can be picked up when we reopen.

3. I have left the U.S. or will depart the U.S. How do I get a travel signature to return?

Current Students: You do not need to request a travel signature through the normal procedure, unless you are departing after August 31, 2020. As soon as your fall study plans are confirmed, submit the Fall 2020 Check In Form (All Active Students). Tell us whether you will study in the United States, online from your home country, or study abroad in your home country.

ISSS will review your form, and if you will study outside the U.S. during Fall semester, we will issue an updated I-20 form with travel signature for your return to the U.S. You will receive this at some point in July, August or September. If you report that you will study in the U.S. , and we see that you are currently outside the U.S., we will issue a new I-20 with travel signature for your return.

If you will depart after August 31, submit a Travel Information Record to ISSS to request your travel signature and report your international travel.

OPT Participants: Submit a Travel Information Record to ISSS with your planned departure and return dates. 

You do not need to submit a current Full Time Enrollment Verification with the request. Depart the U.S. with your current I-20/DS-2019, even if it does NOT have a travel signature on it valid for your return.

Visiting Scholars: Submit a Travel Signature request through the Scholar/Employee Portal. Login with your email address and password (do not use your NetID to login). More information here

Your I-20 with travel signature will be issued to you electronically - when processed it will be available for you to download, print and sign from the ISSS Portal. We will send you instructions for how to find your document in the portal, when ready.

Form DS-2019s will still be issued as paper documents with wet signatures, and will be mailed to you in the U.S. or abroad within 1-2 weeks after issuance.

4. What documents will I need to come back to the U.S.?

You need a Form I-20 (F visa holders), or a Form DS-2019 (J visa holders), with a valid travel signature. A travel signature must have been issued on your form by an ISSS staff member within the 12 months before your return to the U.S. For example, if you are returning to the U.S. on August 1, 2020, your travel signature must have been issued no earlier than August 2, 2019. If you are on post-completion OPT, your travel signature should not be older than 6 months old when you return.

You also need an unexpired F or J visa (unless you are from Canada) and a passport valid at least 6 months into the future. 

Your SEVIS record must be in ACTIVE status to return. You will receive an email from ISSS if your SEVIS record is not in active status. If you are following all visa rules and studying on a full time basis (even online), your SEVIS status should remain active.

In addition, you may not have been present in any of the countries subject to current entry restrictions to the U.S. in the 14 days prior to arriving in the U.S. These include Brazil, China, Iran, UK and Ireland, and Schengen area countries of Europe.

5. Can I get my I-20 or DS-2019 before I leave?

Effective May 14, ISSS is issuing travel signatures electronically. The government has provided guidance that travel with an electronically signed Form I-20 is allowed during the emergency period, and the electronic travel signature is valid for 12 months. You will receive an email when your electronic travel signature has been processed, and a second email when your electronically signed I-20 is ready to view in the ISSS Portal. From the ISSS Portal, you can download, print and sign page 1 of the form for your return. This will be considered a valid I-20 and will not be reprinted until you have an update that requires reprinting.   

Form DS-2019s will still be issued as paper documents with wet signatures, and will be mailed to you in the U.S. or abroad within 1-2 weeks after issuance.

6. My visa will expire before I return to the U.S. Will I be able to renew it?

At this time, visa services are very limited. The U.S. Department of State has announced a phased reopening of visa services.  

If it is not clear from the website whether visas are being processed, you can email or call the embassy/consulate, or you might try to set up an appointment after completing your DS-160 visa application form (beware-even if you schedule an appointment, it may be cancelled in the future). 

You can find U.S. visa processing information by country in the website https://www.ustraveldocs.com/ , or by visiting the website for the embassy/consulate nearest you: https://www.usembassy.gov/ .

7. How can I file my U.S. and state tax return?

The deadline to file your U.S. federal tax return and CT state tax return on income earned in 2019 was July 15. If you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes, you can request an access code to use the web based Sprintax software to prepare your federal tax return for free. Email international@uconn.edu to request your tax code. Please wait at least one week to receive your code. You can also use Sprintax to prepare any required state tax forms, at a cost. 

Visit the ISSS webpage on tax resources  to learn more about your tax forms and filing options.  

8. How can I get text message alerts from ISSS?

F and J visa students (not scholars) who would like to receive text alerts from ISSS on their U.S. phone number should update the SMS Text Number field in your ISSS Portal profile. We do not have this option for visiting scholars at this time.

 Visit https://isssportal.uconn.edu/

Click “Login” in the upper right corner

Select “F-1/J-1 NetID Login” and Login with your NetID and PW.

On your User Homepage, Click on the “Edit Profile” button in the Profile Section with your SEVIS ID and Photo.

Enter “SMS (mobile text) Phone Number” and select mobile carrier. 

Click “Update”

9. How can I get food or groceries delivered to my room/apartment?

Many restaurants are offering home delivery of food. The Hartford Courant maintains a searchable list of restaurants that are now offering takeout and delivery. In the UConn Storrs area, this webpage lists dining to go/delivery options from downtown Storrs.

Some grocery stores also offer delivery options, either through their own delivery service such as Stop n Shop Peapod, or by partnering with Instacart. Students and scholars can also create an Instacart account for grocery delivery through any of the partnering stores.

10. How can I talk to an ISSS advisor?

By email: Send your questions to international@uconn.edu and they will be routed to your ISSS advisor for response.  

By appointment: Advisors are available to meet with their assigned students/scholars by video-chat or phone appointments. Schedule your appointment by following these instructions.

By Chat/Messenger: ISSS advisors are available Monday - Friday afternoons, EST between 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm.  Visit isss.uconn.edu and click on the blue and yellow "Let's Chat" icon in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.    The "Let's Chat" icon will only be available during ISSS Chat Advising hours. 

11. How can I review my scanned immigration documents in the ISSS Portal?

F-1/J-1 Students: Visit isssportal.uconn.edu and click "Log In".  Students should log in with your NetID and password. 

 

From your user home page, click on your "Academic Objective" on the left-hand side.  

 

Scroll down to "Attached Documents". You can see copies of all the documents issued by ISSS in your academic objective within 1-2 weeks after we have processed your update.

 

J-1 Visiting Scholars: Visit the UConn Scholar/Employee Portal.  

Log in with your email and Scholar Portal password (NOT your UConn NetID).  

 

Click on the "Documents" tab on the top of the page. Click on "Other" on the left hand side.

 

You can see copies of all the documents issued by ISSS in the SEVIS Profile within 1-2 weeks after we have processed your update. 

12. Are international students and scholars eligible for a stimulus check through the CARES Act?

Some international students and scholars may be eligible to receive the payment. It depends on your tax filing status - whether you are a resident alien for tax purposes, or a nonresident alien.  UConn has a resource to determine your tax filing status, here.

The IRS has published guidance on who is eligible to receive the stimulus check, and what to do if you received it in error. According to the IRS, resident aliens for tax purposes may receive the stimulus payment.

Q. Does someone who is a resident alien qualify for the payment? (Added May 6,2020)

A person who is a non-resident alien in 2020 is not eligible for the Payment. A person who is a qualifying resident alien with a valid SSN is eligible for the Payment only if he or she is a qualifying resident alien in 2020 and could not be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer for 2020. Aliens who received a Payment but are not qualifying resident aliens for 2020 should return the Payment to the IRS.

If you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes, you are not eligible to receive the stimulus check, and you should follow the steps below to return the check or payment if you received it in error:

Q. What should I do to return an Economic Impact Payment (EIP)? (Added May 6, 2020)

You should return the payment as described below.

 

If the payment was a paper check:

1.       Write "Void" in the endorsement section on the back of the check.

2.       Mail the voided Treasury check immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.

3.       Don't staple, bend, or paper clip the check.

4.       Include a note stating the reason for returning the check. 

 

If the payment was a paper check and you have cashed it, or if the payment was a direct deposit:

1.       Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.

2.       Write on the check/money order made payable to “U.S. Treasury” and write 2020EIP, and the taxpayer identification number (social security number, or individual taxpayer identification number) of the recipient of the check.

3.       Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the EIP.

Addresses for mailing the paper check can be found on this website, under the question about returning the payment. 

More information can also be found on the Sprintax blog.

13. Why do fewer people in the United States wear face masks when protect themselves from getting sick or spreading illness?

You may have noticed that it is not very common in the U.S. for people to wear a face mask in public. This has changed significantly since COVID-19 emerged here, and mask-wearing became the rule in many public settings. Some in U.S. culture though are still resistant to mask-wearing, for a variety of reasons.

One reason for this is the U.S. government has not promoted face masks to the general public as a way to reduce the spread of illness. Face masks have traditionally been worn only within the medical environment, in part to ensure hospitals have adequate supply, or by those who are ill. Different countries worldwide have very different cultural approaches to public health, and although it may not be common here, it is very common in other countries. If you want to wear a mask to protect yourself from illness, please know that you have every right to wear one, and try not to let social or cultural pressure prevent you from doing so.

14. I’m traveling to Connecticut from another U.S. state, or internationally. What are my quarantine requirements? What should I expect at the airport?

If you are traveling to Connecticut from one of the designated high infectious U.S. states you must complete a State of Connecticut Health Travel Health Form prior to arrival. The expectations for your 14 day quarantine after arrival are listed in the form, an d include the following provisions:

  •  I will self-quarantine and remain in my designated self-quarantine location for a period of 14 days from the time of last contact with such Affected State, for any portion of such 14 day period I spend in Connecticut, or for the duration of my stay in Connecticut, whichever is shorter. (Does not apply to Affected Travelers unable to self-quarantine who tested negative or who are Essential Workers).
  • I will not enter any public places, including, but not limited to, restaurants, pools, meeting rooms, or gatherings, during my mandatory period of self-quarantine. (Does not apply to Affected Travelers unable to self-quarantine who tested negative or who are Essential Workers).
  • Per Connecticut requirements, I will wear a face covering when in public and when a six-foot distance from others is unavoidable, unless I have a medical condition that prevents me from wearing one.
  • I understand that if I have any COVID-19 symptoms, which include, but are not limited to, fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, and muscle or body aches, it is recommended that I consult with a medical professional and get tested.

If you are traveling to Connecticut from an international location, upon arrival to Connecticut, you should follow the Center for Disease Control guidelines for international travelers. Unless specifically mandated to quarantine in your arrival state, we suggest that you travel on to Connecticut directly from your airport before starting your quarantine, if arriving at an airport out-of-state.

Information for Continuing Students

1. Can I take only online classes for fall if I’m in the United States?

Yes, most students can be in all online classes, or a mixture of in-person and online classes, and maintain your F-1 visa status, as long as you are a full-time student. UCAELI students however must take the full in-person UCAELI curriculum, if you are in the United States. Also, if you are funded by a non-UConn scholarship, you should check with your scholarship provider if there is a limit on how many online courses they will pay for.

Full time for undergraduate students is at least 12 credits.

Full time for graduate students is at least 9 credits (or 6 credits if you have a Graduate Assistantship).

Full time for JD students is at least 12 credits.

If you are approved by ISSS to take a Reduced Course Load, you can be a part-time student.

  

2. Can I take all online courses from my home country this fall?

Yes, if the courses you want to take are offered online, this option is possible.  If you need to make changes to your schedule, you can do so starting July 27.

Classes listed as Online as the instruction mode are offered asynchronous, meaning you can participate at any time of day. Courses listed as Distance Learning are online, but require real-time participation in the course. This could be more challenging, depending on your time zone.

ISSS will keep your I-20 active during Fall semester as long as you enroll on a full time basis. If you prefer to study part-time during fall, we will end your SEVIS record and you will need to request a new I-20 with a new program start date and new SEVIS number to return. If you will study part-time and you qualify for Reduced Course Load authorization, ISSS can give you authorization to study on a part-time basis, AND keep your SEVIS record active.

 

3. I will finish my program from my home country. How will this impact my visa?

ISSS plans to keep your SEVIS record active if fall is your last semester, and you will study outside the U.S. This will give you more flexibility in case you need to extend your I-20, in case you don't finish as planned, or transfer your SEVIS record if you will begin a new program at a U.S. school after graduating.

Even though ISSS will keep your SEVIS record active, you may not return to the U.S. with your I-20 after you have met all your program requirements. You will also not be able to return to the U.S. after completing to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), and you cannot apply for OPT from outside the U.S.

 

 

4. Can international students take classes on a pass/fail basis?

Yes, there is no restriction on taking P/F courses for international students.

5. Who do I contact with financial questions?

For questions about your fee bill, contact bursar@uconn.edu.

6. I’m an international student and will study abroad in my home country through a UConn partner institution for Fall 2020. Will my I-20 stay active?

Yes, ISSS will keep your SEVIS record active, which means you can use your current I-20 to return, with an unexpired visa. ISSS will issue new I-20 forms for all current students who are approved for home country study abroad. This will be sent to you in August/September. It will have a travel signature for your return to the U.S.

 

 

7. Will I have problems returning to the U.S. if I leave for more than 5 months? (5 month rule)

At this time, the "5 month rule" does not apply to students who are outside the U.S. for more than 5 months and continue to study full time each semester.  If you left in Spring or Summer, you may return using an I-20 form associated with your current SEVIS number as long as you continue to enroll full-time in fall,  and make normal progress toward degree completion.  You may use your same visa to return, as long as you return before it expires.

9. Where can I store my belongings for the summer?

The UConn Off Campus and Commuter Student Services office website lists local storage facilities where you can rent storage space. 

 

10. I’m a graduate student working only on my dissertation. Can I return to my home country to complete my degree? Do I need to maintain my full time enrollment?

When international graduate students elect to complete their degree from the home country, they are generally not bound to student visa requirements to maintain full time enrollment status.  Your SEVIS record is terminated for the reason of "Authorized Early Withdrawal", meaning you are ending your F-1 visa program early, although your are still an active student.

Because you are no longer maintaining your student visa status, you will lose your U.S. OPT benefit. Also, if you need to return to campus for any academic activity tied to your UConn degree, you will need to come on a student visa. ISSS will work with you and your academic program to secure the necessary documentation for this travel.

 

 

11. I departed the U.S. in Spring or Summer. What are my options if I can’t return for fall semester due to travel restrictions?

Students who are unable to return for fall semester may enroll in online courses offered by UConn.  Some undergraduate students have the opportunity to pursue home country study abroad at a UConn partner institution (contact the Education Abroad office at abroad@uconn.edu). 

If taking courses online is not a good option for you,  you may also request to take a leave of absence from your program (a temporary break). ISSS will likely not be able to keep your SEVIS record active during a Leave of Absence term. You will need to request a Returning Student Form I-20 or DS-2019 a few months before you will return. Undergraduate students should work with the Dean of Students office to request a temporary leave of absence, and graduate students should work with the Graduate School to request a temporary Leave of Absence. Graduate students may also have the option to enroll in a continuous registration course to maintain your active academic status, but again, ISSS cannot keep your SEVIS record active for this option.  

 

12. I have an on-campus job that is authorized under F-1 On Campus Employment Authorization. Am I allowed to work from home during the pandemic? This is not “on-campus”.

Yes. The current guidelines for international students on F-1 visas permit international students who would normally work on-campus in their school employment to perform this work remotely, instead of on-campus, during the pandemic. However, there are restrictions on student employment performed outside the United States. Contact ISSS if you have questions about this, and we will re-direct your concern to the proper office.

 

Information for New or Incoming Students and Exchange Visitors

1. I am a new student and I plan to study in the U.S. Can I enroll entirely online?

New students who will travel to the U.S. must enroll in at least one in-person or hybrid course to be considered for an F-1 student visa.  Even with at least one in-person course, it is still unclear whether new students will be granted visas or allowed entry for fall semester.

Students who have a fully online course load will not be eligible for a student visa to arrive in fall, and should not try to enter the U.S. with your F-1 visa. Instead, you may defer your admission or start your program online.

2. I have decided to start my program online in the fall, and I have not yet requested by I-20 yet. Should I request my I-20 for the Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 term?

If you have not yet requested your I-20, you should request it based on the term that you plan to arrive. If you will do online courses from your home country, or enroll in a UConn partner institution for fall, please request your I-20 for record term Spring 2021 when you log into the I-20/DS-2019 request form.

3. I have already received my I-20 with Fall 2020 start date, but I will delay my arrival to a later term. How do I request a new I-20?

Complete this form, if you received a Form I-20/DS-2019 for Fall semester, but you will delay your arrival to UConn to a later term:  SEVIS Defer - Request to Change I-20/DS-2019 Start Date 

ISSS will issue an updated Form I-20 or DS-2019 for you with your new expected arrival date.

You will need to provide updated funding documents with this request.  Be sure to bring the updated form to your visa appointment, when you have one.

If you are an undergraduate student, please complete this form by August 1. If you are a conditionally admitted undergraduate, you may wait until your fall plans are fully confirmed before you complete this form.

Graduate students- please complete this form no later than September 14.

It may take up to 1-2 months for you to receive your updated Form I-20. Please notify ISSS if you already have a visa appointment scheduled in August or September. Thank you for your patience.

 

 

4. Will I be able to arrive for my program start date?

At this time, only a few U.S. consular posts and embassies worldwide are processing routine U.S. visa appointments. Also, entry restrictions are still in place for F-1 and J-1 students who are traveling from China, Iran and Brazil. 

ISSS will do our best to support you by providing you with up to date information and advice for securing a visa appointment. It is important that you maintain communications about your plans with ISSS so that we can support you.

5. I was able to book a visa appointment, but it is scheduled too late to arrive on time for Fall semester. What can I do?

After you have scheduled a visa appointment, it may be possible to request an expedited appointment through the visa appointment scheduling website. The exact process is different for each consulate/embassy, so you must look at the information specific to your visa appointment webpages to learn the process. You will likely need to show proof that your visa appointment date is too late for you to arrive on time for your program (for example, show your I-20 or DS-2019 form or your offer letter, if you are a Graduate Assistant). 

If your expedited visa appointment request is denied, we advise you to check the visa appointment scheduling website daily, in case new appointments open that better fit your travel schedule. 

If the embassy where you will apply for your visa is not currently scheduling any visa appointments, you will likely need to defer your arrival to a later semester.

6. By when must I arrive for Fall semester?

New students are expected to arrive by the program start date listed on the Form I-20/DS-2019. You may also have other commitments that require you to arrive earlier than the program start date on your I-20, such as a Graduate Assistantship start date. 

Some graduate students who due to unforeseen circumstances cannot arrive by the start date on the I-20 may request approval to arrive late. These requests will be reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis. More information can be found on the Graduate School Covid-19 FAQ for admitted students

 

Students who cannot arrive on time, or do not get approval to arrive late, have the following options at this time: 

-Request to defer enrollment to a later start date (contact your admission office about this)

-If your program and course offerings permit, you may be able to start courses remotely from home, and arrive to begin in-person courses the next available term. 

7. If I start my program remotely from outside the U.S., will this term count toward meeting my one academic year requirement toward CPT/OPT eligility?

We do not know. ISSS is still awaiting government guidance on this question. 

8. Will I need to quarantine for 14 days after my arrival?

Yes, if Center for Disease Control guidelines are still in place, international travelers, as well as travelers from certain U.S. states, must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to the U.S. Please find our statement to international students on quarantine guidelines here

9. I’m a student who is transferring in from another U.S. school and will keep the same SEVIS number. Do I need to take at least one in person class? Can I live somewhere else in the United States and study fully online?

If you were present in the United States before March 9, 2020 and you have stayed in the U.S. , you are allowed to take a fully online course load even though you are a new student to UConn.

You still must take steps to report to the school by your I-20 session start date of August 31 - follow these steps to complete your reporting after you arrive to UConn. If you wish to live elsewhere in the U.S. and take a fully online course load, you still must report to the school by following these steps, and you must report your physical address to ISSS.

9. I’m a transfer-in student and I have decided to complete my first semester outside the United States. Do I need an updated Form I-20?

Yes, please submit the SEVIS Defer- Request Update to I-20/DS-2019 Start Date to request your new form.  If your current F-1 visa is still valid, you may use that visa to enter the United States.

10. How can I apply for a Social Security Number?

If you have on-campus employment, such as a Graduate Assistantship, and you do not yet have a Social Security Number, you will need to apply for one. At this time Social Security Administration offices are generally not open to the public. Some offices seem to be offering appointments for routine new application processing, while others are open for emergency appointments only.

Normally ISSS coordinates a Social Security application day at the beginning of each semester. We are still awaiting confirmation from SSA about how new international students who need SSNs best apply for their SSN, or for a denial letter, which is needed to apply for a Driver's License. Please await further information from ISSS before you try to apply for a SSN.

Normal SSN application procedures can be found here: https://isss.uconn.edu/social-security-itin-2/ 

 

 

Information for Graduating Students

1. I’m graduating, and not planning to stay in the U.S. for future work or study. What if I can’t depart the U.S. by the end of my grace period?

All F-1 students have a 60-day grace period to remain in the U.S. following completion of your program,  and J-1 students have a 30-day grace period following completion of your program.  During the grace period, you could take action to continue or change your nonimmigrant visa status. If you plan to begin study in a new U.S. degree program, we can transfer your SEVIS record to the new school if there is less than 5 months between your last date of study, and the first day at your new school. You can obtain an I-20 for your new program and maintain your F-1 status.

If you do not plan to continue your studies in the U.S., another option may be to file a Form I-539 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to request a change of status to a different visa status (for example, a visitor, or a dependent of a spouse who maintains another U.S. visa status).  More information can be found on the USCIS webpage.  ISSS cannot actively advise on this process. We recommend that you work with an immigration attorney if you need assistance to file this application.

USCIS addresses this issue indirectly in a new statement on their webpage, issued April 13, 2020.  Please note that F-1 and J-1 visa holders cannot apply to USCIS for the extension of status presented in this statement, only a change of status. J-1 visa holders or past J-1 visa holders who are subject to 212(e) home residency requirement are not generally eligible to apply for a change of status.

If you do not file for a change of status or obtain a new I-20 for a new program, we recommend that you keep documentation that you tried to depart by the end of  your grace period, but you were unable to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you search for flights online, save print-outs that flights are either unavailable, or prohibitively expensive. Save websites that document any entry restrictions for transit or destination countries. This way you can demonstrate in the future that you made your best attempt to depart the U.S. before exceeding your grace period.

2. I’m finishing my program from outside the U.S. What do I need to do? What will happen to my SEVIS record?

Please submit the Fall 2020 Check In Form (All Active Students) to tell us where you will complete your academic work. ISSS will keep your SEVIS record active for the rest of the semester, which will make your process easier if you need a program extension or will transfer your SEVIS record to a new school.  However, you may not use your UConn I-20 to return to the United States after you have completed your program, and you may not apply for post-completion OPT while inside the U.S. Therefore if you hope to use the OPT benefit, you must return to the United States before you finish your program.   

If Fall 2020 is your final semester, and you will take fewer credits than full time, because this is all you need to graduate, you must complete a Last Semester Reduced Course Load application before August 31. Make sure that your academic advisor knows your plans to graduate, as they will be asked to confirm your credit load and graduation date as part of this application.

3. Can I apply for post-completion OPT?

You may apply for OPT that starts after you finish your program (post-completion OPT) in the 90  days before you complete, and in the 60 days after you complete. You must be physically present in the United States to apply for OPT. If you departed the U.S. already, and it is your final semester, you will likely not be eligible to apply for OPT. 

 

If you have not departed the U.S., you may still apply for OPT. Please read the ISSS OPT webpage for full application details. ISSS must issue for you a new Form I-20 for your OPT application, and you must mail the OPT I-20 to US Citizenship and Immigration Services along with other supporting documents. Because ISSS is not open, it may not be possible to mail you the paper I-20. However, we can issue you a scanned I-20 that you may print and sign and submit as part of your OPT package. USCIS is temporarily accepting scanned copies of wet signatures on documents that would normally require a signature. At this time, you must have access to a printer to be able to prepare the documents for your OPT packet. If you do not have access to a printer, you should tell ISSS to wait and process your OPT until you do have access. USCIS must receive your OPT application within 30 days after we process your OPT, so you must be able to mail it soon after we process the new Form I-20.

4. I plan to attend another school or program in the spring? What should I do?

If you are accepted to begin a new program in the United States for spring semester, then you can work with ISSS to get a new I-20 form for your new program. You must obtain the I-20 form for your new program no later than 60 days after the last semester ends at UConn. 

If you will start a new program at UConn in the fall at the same campus, request the new I-20 form no later than January 20 by completing the Change Education Level record. If you are starting a new program at UConn but that program is at a different UConn campus, submit an Internal Campus Transfer record no later than January 20.  

If you will start a new program at a different U.S. school, submit a Transfer Out record no later than January 20, along with a copy of your admission letter to the new school. J-1 students should use this transfer out form

You are not required to depart the U.S. between programs. You may work on-campus during the summer, provided you already have the new I-20 form for your new program, and you work for the new program school (if going to a different school), but not the old program school.

Remember, if you depart the U.S. between programs, you will  need a valid F-1 visa and passport for return, along with your new program Form I-20, AND any travel restrictions must have been lifted for countries you have traveled from.

5. If Commencement is held at a later date, can I return for it?

If the University decides to hold commencement at a date in the future, and you are no longer in the United States, you can apply for a visitor visa (a B-2 visa, or come through the Visa Waiver Program if you are from an eligible country).

Information for OPT Applicants/Participants

1. Is USCIS still processing OPT applications?

Yes,  USCIS is still processing applications. Up to now, OPT processing times do not seem negatively affected by the pandemic and work at home measures. Anticipated USCIS furloughs have been cancelled, for now. 

2. I already applied for post-completion OPT. What should I know? Can I leave the U.S.?

If you applied for OPT already, it is important that USCIS has your accurate mailing address so that documents related to your OPT application can be mailed to you. If you are remaining in the U.S. but have moved, or will move, you must update your mailing address on the USCIS website

 

If you have already filed for OPT, but would now like to depart the U.S. due to Covid-19, bring with you any documents that you have related to your OPT application, such as your receipt notice. You must identify a mailing address where you can receive your documents from USCIS, and if needed, update your mailing address on the USCIS website. You must have someone who can check that mailbox and send to you copies of any documents that you receive related to your OPT application. Because international travel is so difficult at this time, we do not recommend that you depart the U.S. if you wish to return for your OPT. 

 

If you are returning to the U.S. after your I-20 end date, it is important that you have at least your receipt notice with you, along with your I-20, passport and valid visa. If your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) has already been issued, you are supposed to have that with you as well (someone may need to mail it to you). If your visa has expired, you may need the approved EAD for your visa renewal. If you are unable to return for employment by 90 days after your OPT begins, then your OPT will no longer be valid and you must notify ISSS.  

3. I’m already working on OPT and my employer wants me to work from home. Is this OK?

Yes, the government has indicated that if employers move to remote work, it is OK for students on OPT and STEM OPT to work remotely as well. At this time, ISSS is NOT updating your SEVIS record to indicate your change in employment location, and you do not need to submit an updated I-983 or OPT Employment Update, if your work from home arrangement is temporary. 

4. What if I lose my job or change jobs during this time? What do I do?

You must report any job loss or change of job to ISSS by submitting the OPT Employment Update record. OPT participants are still subject to the normal 90 day/150 day unemployment rules for standard 12-month OPT and 24-month STEM OPT.

5. I have been furloughed by my employer. Does this count as unemployment time?

At this time, the government has not provided specific guidance to Designated School Officials (ISSS Staff) about whether furloughed time counts toward your 90/150 days of allowed unemployment, so we look to your active or inactive relationship with your employer to determine what to list in SEVIS as active employment. If you have been furloughed by your employer, yet still remain an employee of your company, ISSS will continue to report you as actively employed in your SEVIS record. If you do not remain an active employee of your company during your furlough period, then you should report this to ISSS as unemployment, and ISSS will report in your SEVIS record that you are not employed.

6. I submitted an OPT Employment Update to ISSS to report an employment change. Will you mail me my I-20?

ISSS will issue for you an electronically signed I-20 form. You will receive an email when this is ready to download from your ISSS Portal.   

7. My OPT will soon end. When do I need to leave the U.S.? What if I cannot leave due to the pandemic?

All F-1 students have a 60-day grace period to remain in the U.S. following completion of OPT, assuming you did not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment.  During this 60-day grace period, you could take action to continue or change your nonimmigrant visa status. If you plan to begin study in a new U.S. degree program, we can transfer your SEVIS record to the new school, if there is less than 5 months between your last date of employment, and the first day at your new school. You can then get an I-20 for your new program.

If you do not plan to continue your studies in the U.S., another option may be to file a Form I-539 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to request a change of status to a different visa status (for example, a visitor, or a dependent of a spouse who maintains another U.S. visa status).  More information can be found on the USCIS webpage.  ISSS cannot actively advise on this process. We recommend that you work with an immigration attorney if you need assistance to file this application.

USCIS addresses this issue indirectly in a statement on their webpage, issued April 13, 2020.  Please note that F-1 and J-1 visa holders cannot apply to USCIS for the extension of status presented in this statement, only a change of status. J-1 visa holders who are subject to 212(e) home residency requirement are not generally eligible to apply for a change of status, though it is unclear if this rule is still in effect during the pandemic.

If you do not file for a change of status or obtain a new I-20 for a new program, we recommend that you keep documentation that you tried to depart by the end of  your grace period, but you were unable to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you search for flights online, save print-outs that flights are either unavailable, or prohibitively expensive. Save websites that document any entry restrictions for transit or destination countries. This way you can demonstrate in the future that you made your best attempt to depart the U.S. before exceeding your grace period.

9. I am approaching 90 (or 150, if STEM) days of unemployment, but I can’t get a flight home. What do I do?

The government has not yet provided any sort of guidance or flexibility on this issue. ISSS does not terminate your SEVIS record for exceeding allowed unemployment days. Therefore, your SEVIS record will remain active beyond 90/150 days of unemployment. However, because the regulations say that you cannot exceed 90/150 days of unemployment, having unemployment days in excess of these limits could cause future problems.  Therefore, one option is to file a Change of Status application with the U.S. government to request a change of status to a different visa status (for example, a visitor).  More information can be found on the USCIS webpage. ISSS cannot actively advise on this process. We recommend that you work with an immigration attorney if you need assistance to file this application.

Or, if you are planning to begin study in a new degree program, we may be able to transfer your SEVIS record to the new school, if there is less than 5 months between your last date of employment, and the first day at your new school. You can then get an I-20 for your new program.

USCIS addresses this issue indirectly in a new statement on their webpage, issued April 13, 2020.  Please note that F-1 and J-1 visa holders cannot apply to USCIS for the extension of status presented in this statement, only a change of status. J-1 visa holders who are subject to 212(e) home residency requirement are not generally eligible to apply for a change of status.

If you do not file for a change of status or obtain a new I-20 for a new program, we recommend that you keep documentation that you tried to depart by your 91st (or 151st) day of unemployment, but you were unable to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you search for flights online, save print-outs that flights are either unavailable, or prohibitively expensive. Save websites that document any entry restrictions for transit or destination countries. This way you can demonstrate in the future that you made your best attempt to depart the U.S. before exceeding unemployment limits.

Information for Academic Training Applicants/Participants (J-1 Students)

1. My program is ending this spring, and I want to apply for Academic Training. What do I do?

You should reach out to your ISSS advisor to let them know you are planning to apply. To apply for post-completion Academic Training, you must have an internship in your field of study that will begin no later than 30 days after you complete your academic program, and we must approve it no later than your program end date on your DS-2019. 

Application instructions can be found on our Academic Training webpage. However, you should still write to your ISSS advisor so that we  anticipate your application.

Information for Visiting Scholars

1. My hosting department at UConn has moved to remote-only work. Is this OK for my J-1 visa?

Temporarily, yes.  However for new visiting scholars, we will require that your exchange program take place on-campus. 

2. I want to end my program at UConn early due to COVID-19 and return home. Is this OK? What do I need to do?

Submit an End Program request through the Scholar/Employee Portal. Login with your email address and password (do not use your NetID to login). Make sure that your UConn hosting department is also aware of your plans. 

3. I would like to return home temporarily due to COVID-19. Can I come back with my DS-2019 and J-1 visa?

If you travel home due to concerns over Covid-19, the U.S. Department of State has indicated that we may maintain an active SEVIS record for you while you are out of the country, provided you will return to resume your exchange program after the situation calms.

We will temporarily waive the 30-day travel rule for visiting scholars that would normally limit personal travel to 30 days or less. Submit a Travel Signature request through the Scholar/Employee Portal. Login with your email address and password (do not use your NetID to login). More information here.

4. My DS-2019 will soon expire, and I cannot return home due to Covid-19. What should I do?

In the best situation, your UConn hosting academic department can submit a request to ISSS to extend your current exchange program at UConn. They should follow the details outlined on this webpage to submit a scholar extension.  Remember, you are also allowed to stay in the U.S. for up to 30 days after your UConn program ends, during the time known as your grace period.