International Students Town Hall FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers from the April 7 International Students Town Hall

Full Course of Study Requirements and Online Learning

1. Many F-1 students may choose to travel home and continue their classes remotely. Can they continue a full course of study and maintain F-1 status and SEVIS record while studying online?

Under current conditions, if an active F-1 student leaves the United States and continue their full course of study online during an approved period by the school and SEVP, their SEVIS record should remain in Active status and will not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study.

For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision (8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4)) will not apply to students who remain in Active status. SEVP will allow F-1 students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study even if they have left the United States and are taking the online classes elsewhere.

Please be advised that this is a temporary provision due to COVID-19. Touro College is currently evaluating when we can resume classes on campus. As of now, a decision has been made to finish the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester online.

Electronic Form I-20 issuance

2. Can DSOs electronically send signed Forms I-20 to students instead of physically mailing the forms?

Yes, due to COVID-19, DSOs may electronically send Forms I-20 to student email addresses listed in SEVIS. Students may use an electronically signed I-20 for travel and visa application purposes.

Travel & Return to the United States

3. Will the five-month rule apply to my F-1 visa if I go back home and stay away from Touro College until the Fall semester?

The five-month temporary absence provision (8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4)) will not apply to students who remain in Active status. That means students who maintain full-time status may be out of the U.S. for more than 5 months due to COVID-19 without affecting their F-1 status.

Students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission into the United States. However, because of rapidly changing travel restrictions, students should refer to the U.S. embassy’s website in their countries through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance. Also, please check the information about current travel restrictions to the United States at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) websites before you plan an international travel.

SEVP will allow F-1 students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study even if they have left the United States and are taking the online classes elsewhere.

However, when classes resume in person, students must return to campus in order to maintain F-1 status.

4. Will F-1 students be able to return to the United States if they are continuing their studies outside of the country as a result of COVID-19?

Students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission into the United States. However, because of rapidly changing travel restrictions, students should refer to the U.S. embassy’s website in their countries through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance. Also, please check the information about current travel restrictions to the United States at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) websites before you plan an international travel.

Please contact the Office of International and Veteran Student Affairs before you travel to discuss your visa options.

Employment

5. Due to COVID-19, are there any changes with OPT application procedures? Is there any chance that students would be able to apply for post-completion OPT from outside the United States?

Currently, there is no official changes with OPT application filing procedures. Students are required to be present in the U.S. when they file a I-765 to USCIS. The application window to apply for OPT also stays the same, within 90 days before the program end date and 60 days after.

According to Frequently Asked Questions for SEVP Stakeholders about COVID-19 issued by USCIS on March 28, 2020, DHS is evaluating issues with OPT applications due to COVID-19 and may issue additional guidance in the near future.

6. I was authorized for CPT/OPT employment during the Spring 2020 semester, but my employer has ended my employment as a result of COVID-19. Do I need to report my CPT/OPT end date to the DSO?

According to SEVIS regulations regarding CPT/OPT employment, students must report any changes with their employment (termination, changes in position, or changes in work location) to the International Student Office. A DSO will update your CPT/OPT employment information based on your report in your SEVIS record.

7. I am on active OPT but unable to find employment due to COVID-19, will the 90-days unemployment rule still apply?

Currently, there are no official changes with OPT regulations regarding unemployment. Students are required to work full-time (at least 21 hours) while on Optional Practical Training (OPT). All employment must be related to a student’s field of study.

In the event you are unable to find employment within 90 days, we recommend you work on a volunteer basis or as an unpaid intern. You should also contact the Office of International and Veteran Student Affairs for consultation if you are having issues with OPT employment.

8. How can I apply for Severe Economic Hardship off-campus work authorization by USCIS?

Severe economic hardship employment is off-campus employment authorization by USCIS for eligible F-1 students who have severe economic hardship that was caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control. If you are financially impacted COVID-19 and fulfill all application eligibilities, you may be eligible to apply for Severe Economic Hardship work authorization.

Please first review Severe Economic Hardship Employment filing instructions to confirm your eligibilities and prepare required documents. Please contact the Office of International and Veteran Student Affairs if you have any questions. We will provide you detailed information and guide you through the process.

9. What services are provided by Touro to address my concerns and the anxiety that is created by COVID-19?

Touro College offers students mental health resources and a person to contact. Student can find the mental health resources at their school’s website or may contact Dr. Erica Weissman, Director of Student Mental Health Services at erica.weissman2@touro.edu or 646-565-6115.

The Health Advocate Student Assistance Program helpline is available 24/7 at 855-384-1800 and is free to students. The Health Advocate website includes a wealth of informational pages and webinars, including a new webinar on coping with the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: https://members.healthadvocate.com/Account/OrganizationSearch - enter "Touro" in the dialog box, and choose "Touro College - Student Assistance Program" from the drop-down menu.

Students: Requirements and Best Practices

Maintain status & Communicate with the International Student Office

It is important that F and M students maintain their nonimmigrant student status, even during emergency events. This means you must continue to take all the necessary actions to remain in status including taking a full course of study and communicating with a designated school official (DSO) about any changes including your address

Items to Keep Safe

F students should keep the following items in a safe, secure place so that they are easily accessible in the event of an emergency:

• Passport and visa. • Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status."

• DSO contact information.

• Contact information for SEVP. (Tel: 1-800-892-4829; Email: sevp@ice.dhs.gov)

• Social Security card and Form I-766, "Employment Authorization Document," if applicable.

• Financial records.

• Cash.

• Travel-related documents like boarding passes and plane tickets, if applicable.

Preparing for Emergencies

Touro College Official Coronavirus

Check Touro College’s Official Coronavirus Updates at Touro website frequently.

Touro College Emergency Alert

Sign up for Touro College campus emergency alerts and local information on the TouroOne Portal so you can remain informed about what to do while situations unfold and stay updated on the operational status of your school.

Touro College Mental Health Resources

Each school has a page with student mental health resources and a person to contact. Please reach out to them! Or you can contact Dr. Erica Weissman, Director of Student Mental Health Services at erica.weissman2@touro.edu or 646-565-6115.

The Health Advocate Student Assistance Program helpline is available 24/7 at 855-384-1800 and is free to students. The Health Advocate website includes a wealth of informational pages and webinars, including a new webinar on coping with the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: enter "Touro" in the dialog box, and choose "Touro College - Student Assistance Program" from the drop-down menu.

Communicate with employers

If you are participating in practical training, work with your employer to maintain practical training agreements. If changes have been made to your workplace environment, SEVP encourages you to consult with your employer to seek alternative ways to maintain training agreements, such as teleworking or other arrangements.

Be cautious traveling

Before you plan your international travel, please refer to guidance from the CDC, U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for specific port-of-entry screening processes, as well as any travel restrictions.

COVID-19: Additional Resources for International Students

Touro College

Touro College Coronavirus Updates

Office of International and Veteran Student Affairs

Study in the State

SEVP Adaptations in Response to COVID-19

Maintain F and M Status in Emergency Events

Don’t Miss New and Updated COVID-19 Resources

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICE guidance on COVID-19

Frequently Asked Questions for SEVP Stakeholders about COVID-19

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

COVID-19 information

Travel Information and Restrictions

U.S. Department of State

Current Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019