COVID-19 FAQs for International Students and Scholars
Please see the questions and answers below related to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have additional questions, please reach out to us for advising. We offer remote and in-person advising, Monday – Thursday from 10 – 11 a.m. and 1 – 3 p.m. In person advising takes place in Laurel Hall. Find the link to join a Zoom advising session on our website.
If you can’t attend a remote advising session because of time zone or technical issues, you can also email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are U.S. consulates and embassies issuing visas?
In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State suspended routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates from March 20-July 15, 2020. As resources and safety allows, embassies and consulates will resume routine visa services as well as continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services.
Maintaining F-1 and J-1 Status
How do online and hybrid (online/face-to-face combination) courses affect my enrollment requirements?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Department of Homeland Security published a broadcast message and FAQ page regarding the Fall 2020 semester on July 24, 2020. SEVP reverted back to the March 9, 2020, guidance and provided additional information, clarifying how to handle new and initial international students versus continuing international students. SEVP confirmed this guidance will continue through Spring 2023.
Because Colorado State University will operate a hybrid model of part online and part face-to-face courses, F-1 students at CSU will continue to be able to register in more than one online course to count toward full-time study for Spring 2023. However, full-time online study is not permitted. If you have individual questions, please email ISSS@colostate.edu.
Additional updates will be made available at www.ice.gov/coronavirus. Please keep checking the ICE site for new details.
How will I know if my classes are all online, hybrid, or a mix of online and face-to-face instruction?
You can find more information about how to read a course schedule on the Registrar’s website.
If in doubt, please contact the course instructor or your academic advisor to determine if the course has a face-to-face component. As some course offerings continue to evolve with their instructional method, monitor your coursework to see if anything changes.
If I am outside of the U.S. for longer than five months, will that violate my immigration status requirements?
In order to keep your SEVIS record active during the Spring 2023 semesters, you must be enrolled full-time (or have an approved Reduced Credit Load) and you cannot take all of your classes online. This means that if you study outside the U.S. one or both of these semesters, your SEVIS record will be terminated, and you will need a new I-20 in order to return to the U.S. to continue your studies.
Please remember that this is an evolving situation that is subject to change. CSU will continue to monitor the situation and provide updated guidance.
What are my options if I want to take a semester off and wait for the situation to subside? Can I do this from my home country?
If you wish to take the semester off, your SEVIS record will be terminated and you will need to depart the U.S. right away. You will need to demonstrate sufficient proof of funding so that we can create a new I-20 for you (you will also need to pay the $350 SEVIS fee again) before you will be able to return to the U.S. to continue your studies.
If you are an undergraduate student, consider applying for planned leave. If you are a graduate student, you can enroll in continuous registration to keep your student record at CSU active. That way, you won’t have to re-apply to CSU when you return.
What if my program ends and I am not able to return to my home country because of travel bans/health risks?
Remember that F-1 students have a 60-day grace period and J-1 students have a 30-day grace period at the end of their program. If you do not believe you will be able to leave the U.S. by the end of your grace period, you can consider applying for post-completion employment (Optional Practical Training for F-1 students and Academic Training for J-1 students). F-1 students are able to apply for OPT before they have a job offer. However, J-1 students cannot apply for Academic Training without a job offer in place.
If you do not wish to apply for employment authorization, you can also file a Change of Status to another visa status such as B-1/B-2 (tourist).
Can I remain in the U.S. if my visa is expired? What documentation do I need to keep active in order to stay here legally?
Yes, you can remain in the U.S. after your F-1 or J-1 visa has expired, as long as your passport and I-20 or DS-2019 remain valid.
How can I get an updated travel signature on my immigration document?
Please submit the Travel Signature Request eForm and we can email you a new I-20 with a travel signature. J-1 students and scholars still need an original DS-2019 for travel, so plan to come to Laurel Hall to pick up your DS-2019 from the front desk before you leave. Travel signatures are valid for up to one year for active students and 6 months for students on OPT, so check to be sure that you don’t already have a valid travel signature.
If I leave the U.S., will I have any problems returning for future semesters?
Due to ongoing travel restrictions, halting of U.S. visa issuance, and other COVID-19 related travel issues, it is possible that students may not be able to return to the university as planned. Please check this website for up-to-date information regarding travel restrictions to the U.S.
If I do not want to return home now, am I allowed to remain in the U.S.?
As long as you maintain your student status by making normal progress toward your degree, you can remain in the U.S. If you change addresses, please let us know by updating your address in RamWeb.
Is there a time frame for when students are expected to return to the United States once the COVID-19 pandemic is over and schools have resumed normal operations?
Depending on their school’s return to normal operations and any continuing travel restrictions, students should seek to return to the United States within 30 days of the next available session start date. SEVP also anticipates providing additional guidance after the COVID-19 pandemic ends regarding a school’s return to normal operations.
What should I know about COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and quarantine before arriving at CSU?
As of November 8, 2021, there is a requirement for foreign nationals to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to board a flight to the U.S. As of December 30, 2022, a negative COVID-19 test is a requirement for some international travelers.
CSU currently requires proof of the following immunizations: Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) for all plus Meningococcal (ACWY) for students living on campus. The COVID-19 vaccine is required for CSU staff, faculty, and students (more information can be found here). As of April 2, 2021, all adults in Colorado are eligible to receive the vaccine. It is free for all adults at any location, even if you do not have health insurance or citizenship documents.
Currently CSU students are not being required to quarantine unless they test positive for COVID-19. To see the latest updates, answers to frequently asked questions, and current COVID-19 case numbers at CSU, please visit: https://covid.colostate.edu.
Employment Authorization (OPT and CPT)
I am currently on post-completion OPT (Optional Practical Training). Are there any accommodations if I am not able to work and exceed the 90-day unemployment limit?
The Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program has recognized that the spread of COVID-19 may impact students engaging in Optional Practical Training. Changes to workplace requirements may impact international students engaging in practical training. SEVP encourages such students to consult with their employer to seek alternative ways to maintain employment, such as teleworking or other arrangements.
At this time, there is no indication from SEVP that the 90-day unemployment limit will be waived or extended. If you are approaching your 90-day unemployment limit and fear you will not be able to start working due to the COVID-19 situation, please contact email@example.com or sign into a remote advising session to discuss your options with an ISSS advisor.
I‘m planning to apply for post-completion OPT in the near future. Is USCIS still processing applications and, if so, will there be delays in their processing timeline? Is the process still the same?
ISSS is continuing to review requests for Optional Practical Training, and USCIS is still accepting applications. Students who applied between October 26, 2020, and January 8, 2021, reported delays in their checks being cashed and receiving an electronic notification or receipt notice, despite proof of delivery of their OPT application to USCIS. However, processing times seem to have returned to normal (about 90 days).
On April 12, 2021, USCIS formally announced the availability to file the I-765 online for students applying for pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, and the OPT STEM extension. You can find more information here: https://www.uscis.gov/file-online.
Am I able to work remotely on CPT (Curricular Practical Training) or OPT? If so, do I need to report that to the ISSS office?
Yes, it is okay to work remotely on approved CPT or OPT authorization.
Can I still do OPT if I go back to my home country?
You cannot be enrolled fully online in your final semester, so you should remain in the U.S. until you have completed all program requirements. Travel while your OPT application is pending is always discouraged and we don’t recommend trying to return to the U.S. until you have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a job offer letter.
We highly recommend you review current global public health advisories and keep track of any travel restrictions in place. Please also consider your ability to access online learning, factor in travel limitations, and remember that this is an evolving situation that is subject to change. Please review current travel advisories at travel.state.gov.
I have been furloughed or had my hours reduced during COVID-19. Am I accruing unemployment days?
For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT.
How do I know if I can return to the U.S.?
For students on OPT, you will need the following documents with you to return to the U.S.:
- I-20 with travel signature no more than 6 months old
- Passport valid at least 6 months into the future
- Unexpired visa
- EAD Card
- Proof of COVID-19 vaccination
- Proof of negative COVID-19 test for certain travelers
Other Employment and Financial Concerns
What are my options for employment?
The regulations regarding student employment authorization remain the same. Students must apply and be approved for off-campus employment authorization (CPT/OPT). See more information on our website.
Am I eligible for the federal stimulus payment?
We have received questions from international students and scholars in regard to the CARES Act and the economic stimulus payments being issued by the federal government. To the extent we are able to determine, the stimulus payments are being sent to individuals with a social security number that filed a “resident” federal tax return for tax years 2018 and/or 2019. Individuals that are determined to be “residents” for tax purposes are eligible to receive a stimulus payment. Individuals that are “nonresidents” for tax purposes are ineligible to receive a stimulus payment.
It is important to understand that the terms “resident” and “nonresident” are used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in a way that is very different than the way those terms are used for immigration purposes. For tax purposes, an individual can become a resident simply by being in the U.S. long enough. For example, F-1 students generally become tax residents after they have been in the U.S. more than five years. To further complicate matters, an individual can revert back to being a nonresident after having been a tax resident if they leave the U.S. for a significant amount of time. This may affect individuals who spent a significant amount of time outside the U.S. in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID-19. While the exact calculation of residency is a rather complex application of the substantial presence test, students and scholars can use Sprintax to determine the proper tax filing status.
Additional information for determining tax filing status and the substantial presence test can be found on the following IRS webpages:
There may be a small number of international students and scholars that erroneously filed a resident tax return while their status was actually nonresident. This can easily happen by using widely available tax preparation software that does not perform a calculation of tax residency status. For example, an F-1 student may have accidentally filed a resident return (Form 1040 rather than Form 1040NR) prior to being in the U.S. for more than five years. Individuals that incorrectly filed a resident return or whose tax residency status reverted to nonresident in 2020 may receive a stimulus payment by mistake. These payments should be returned to the IRS.
- Return of Stimulus Payment:
Individuals who know they are a nonresident alien for tax purposes should not spend an erroneously received stimulus payment. The IRS provides guidelines for an incorrectly issued tax refund. Detailed instructions can be found here.
- Amendment of Incorrectly Filed 2018 and/or 2019 Federal Income Tax Return:
Individuals who inadvertently filed a tax return as tax resident when their status was actually nonresident should file an amended tax return.
Sprintax is accessed by visiting the website and entering your user ID and password from last year or creating a new account. After completing your tax return, you can enter the CSU common access code at checkout so you will not have to pay for the preparation of your federal income tax return. The ISSS Office at CSU emailed the common access code to all students in February. (Please do not share this code with individuals not associated with Colorado State University.)
While tax issues are beyond the scope of our expertise, it is important to note that failure to file a correct federal income tax return and/or filing a fraudulent federal income tax return are violations of U.S. tax law and may potentially impact current or future immigration status.
Lastly, please note that Colorado State University does not provide personal income tax advice or assistance. Information contained in this resource is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. Anyone with specific tax-related questions is encouraged to seek the advice of a competent expert in the field.
Learn more about filing your US taxes.
I have financial concerns, for example, paying my tuition and/or rent. What resources are available for me?
Student Case Management is working with students who need utility and rent and other kinds of assistance. Students can request an appointment with Student Case Management via their website:
Student Legal Services might be able to help students who have questions about breaking their lease or having trouble getting a landlord to work with them on a payment plan or waiving late fees. They have a guide on their website for students struggling with their current lease obligations and thinking of breaking the lease.
The COVID-19 situation does not give legal grounds to get out of the lease, but several things should be considered: go to https://sls.colostate.edu and click on the resource next to “current lease.” Students wanting appointments with Student Legal Services can click on the request an appointment at this same homepage.
Where can I find information about commencement?
No formal indoor commencement ceremonies were held in 2020 due to COVID-19. Videos from virtual and outdoor celebrations and upcoming commencement information can be found here.
You will still be considered a graduate of CSU and receive your diploma regardless of whether you participated in any graduation events.
I am experiencing mental or physical health issues, what should I do?
CSU’s Health Center is providing phone and online counseling services for students experiencing mental health concerns. For other health issues, including COVID-19 related concerns, please see the Health Center’s website for information.
Is CSU still offering Open Advising for international students?
Yes! We are offering in-person and remote advising, Monday – Thursday from 10 – 11 a.m. and 1 – 3 p.m. In person advising takes place in Laurel Hall. Find the link to join a Zoom advising session on our website.
If you can’t attend a remote advising session because of time zone or technical issues, you can also email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.