Maintaining F-1 and J-1 Status
How does the university’s change to online or hybrid (online and face-to-face) courses affect my enrollment requirements?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Department of Homeland Security published a new broadcast message and FAQ page regarding the Fall 2020 semester on July 24, 2020. SEVP reverted back to the March 9 guidance and provided additional information, clarifying how to handle new and initial international students versus continuing international students.
Because Colorado State University will operate a hybrid model of part online and part face-to-face or classroom courses, new and continuing students may travel to the United States to take classes on campus. Continuing students who wish to remain outside of the United States and study may do so. These students must continue to take a full course load, which is a minimum of nine credits for graduate students or twelve credits for undergraduate students. By taking a full course load, students may keep their immigration (SEVIS) status active. This is beneficial to maintain eligibility for employment (OPT) benefits. 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 COVID Recovery website under the FAQ section, question #2.
If in doubt, please contact the course instructor or your academic advisor to ensure that the course has a face-to-face component. As some course offerings continue to evolve with their instructional method, make sure to monitor your planned coursework to make sure nothing has changed.
If I am outside of the U.S. for longer than five months, will that violate my immigration status requirements?
The Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program continues to issue updated guidance (scroll down to the section titled “Nonimmigrant Student and SEVP-Certified Schools” and the FAQs there.) At this time, they are confirming that international students maintaining active status will not be subject to the five-month temporary absence rule. This means we will be able to keep your SEVIS record active if you remain outside the U.S. for more than five months while you continue to make normal progress on your degree program.
Please remember that this is an evolving situation that is subject to change. CSU will continue to monitor the situation and provide updated guidance.
How will the rule that international students should not be outside of the U.S. for longer than five months apply to student transfers?
The five-month rule related to student transfers will not apply to students affected by COVID-19. For transfer students that exceed the five-month period, international advisors can contact the Student & Visitors Exchange Program (SEVP) Response Center for a data fix.
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?
Summer is an optional term for international students so you are not expected to enroll during that time unless it is your first or final semester. However, if you wish to take off the Fall semester, 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 while you take off for the Fall Semester. That way, you won’t have to re-apply to CSU when you return.
If students wish to drop courses due to dissatisfaction with the level of instruction being offered remotely, can a school submit a procedural change plan that allows this and keep the students’ SEVIS records active?
No, students should maintain a full course of study to the extent possible. If a student is unwilling to take courses being offered remotely or participate in other alternate forms of study as provided in the school’s procedural adaptation plan to SEVP, they should request a temporary absence and be terminated for Authorized Early Withdrawal.
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 OPT (Optional Practical Training for F-1 students and Academic Training for J-1 students). F-1 students are able to apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training) 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 send an email to email@example.com and we can get a new I-20 with travel signature out to you in the mail. Travel signatures are valid for up to one year, 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 possible 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 for Summer or even Fall 2020 semesters. Please check travel.state.gov 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.
Are U.S. consulates and embassies issuing visas?
In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State is temporarily suspending routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates. Embassies and consulates canceled all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. Overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible, but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.
Is it advisable to travel at all right now, including back to my home country, if I want to return in the next few months?
Due to the worldwide situation, travel right now is extremely risky for health reasons and because new travel restrictions may be put in place that would impact your ability to return to the U.S. in the near future. Unfortunately, because travel restrictions are dictated by the spread of the virus, it’s impossible for us to forecast what restrictions may be put in place, when, and for how long. You will need to weigh the risks with your personal situation to evaluate what is best for you.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or sign into a remote advising session to discuss your options with an ISSS advisor.
I‘m planning to apply for post-completion OPT (Optional Practical Training) 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. We do not have information at this time that there will be delays in the processing timeline.
Am I able to work remotely on CPT (Curricular Practical Trainining) or OPT (Optional Practical Training)? If so, do I need to report that to the ISSS office?
Yes, it is okay to work remotely on approved CPT (Curricular Practical Training) or OPT Optional Practical Training authorization.
If you are working on OPT (Optional Practical Training, however, you must report your remote work due to COVID-19 through this reporting form https://international.colostate.edu/isss/opt-porting/. If you are now working remotely on OPT (Optional Practical Training) or will be in the future, please submit a new OPT (Optional Practical Training reporting eForm (all three pages) to update the address of your employer in the Employer Information page to your home address or the address from where you are working.
If you are working remotely on CPT (Curricular Practical Training), please send an email to email@example.com to provide the address from where you are working.
Can I still do OPT (Optional Practical Training) if I go back to my home country?
As long as you are maintaining your legal F-1 immigration status by remaining enrolled full-time at CSU, and as long as you return to continue your full-time studies on-campus once courses resume to an in-person format, you should be able to apply for OPT (Optional Practical Trainnig). Approval will require you to return to the U.S. to be employed. This could be tricky though. Travel while your OPT (Optional Practical Training) application is pending is always discouraged and we don’t recommend trying to return to the U.S. until you have your Employment Authorization Card and a job offer letter. With this in mind, it is probably best for you to return to the U.S. before your program ends to apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training) while in the U.S.
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 Optional Practical Training (OPT) opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT.
I am hoping to apply for or already have an F-1, J-1, or H-1B visa. Am I impacted by the June 22, 2020 Presidential Proclamation?
Most likely, you are not. Read more information here (click on International Student and Scholar Services).
How do I know if I can return to the U.S.?
There are currently restrictions on the entry of travelers into the United States who have been present in certain countries in the last 14 days. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website keeps an updated list.
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?
No, unfortunately, the stimulus payments are not available for international students.
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. While the exact calculation of residency is a rather complex application of the substantial presence test, students and scholars that used GLACIER Tax Prep would have gone through a series of questions 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:
We are aware that 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 do 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 or 1040NR-EZ) prior to being in the U.S. for more than five years. Individuals that incorrectly filed a resident return are likely to receive a stimulus payment by mistake. It is to these individuals that the following instructions are addressed.
There are two issues that will require action for individuals that mistakenly filed a resident return for 2018 or 2019 and erroneously receive a stimulus payment:
- 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. Information about how to amend the incorrectly filed 2018 and/or 2019 tax return may be found in GLACIER Tax Prep by selecting “FAQ” from the menu.
GLACIER Tax Prep can be accessed through your GLACIER Online Tax Compliance account if you maintain one through the CSU Tax Office. Otherwise, GLACIER Tax Prep is accessed by visiting the website. Login and entering your user ID and password from last year or creating a new account. If you are new to GLACIER Tax Prep, you will be prompted to enter the CSU common access code: DWP9J2R8MP. (Please do not share this code with individuals not associated with Colorado State University.)
After accessing the system, you will create your own unique user ID and password. Individuals should use the common access code only once. In order to access the system again later, individuals should use their own user ID and password.
Individuals needing to prepare an amended return may also contact the local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Email messages can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 are encouraged to seek the advice of a competent expert in the field.
I have financial concerns, for example, paying my tuition and/or rent. What resources are available for me?
CSU is currently exploring options to support students who have lost their employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students will be receiving information from CSU soon.
Student Case Management is working with students who need utility and rent and other kinds of assistance. Here’s a link to that info and 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.
I am completing my degree this Spring semester. Since Spring commencement was postponed until December, how does this affect my status? How can I attend commencement?
If you are finishing your degree program this Spring semester, and you do not have plans to stay in the U.S. either for OPT (Optional Practical Training) or to pursue a new degree level or study program, then your student immigration record will end on the last day of regular class/exams (May 15). You will have 60 days from that date to leave the U.S. if you are in F-1 status, or 30 days if you are in J-1 status. In order to return for commencement in December, you will need to apply for a tourist (B-1/B-2) visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the U.S. and arrange travel plans accordingly. You will still be considered a graduate of CSU and receive your diploma, even if you cannot attend the commencement ceremony.
If I am a new incoming international student, what are my options?
At this time, we are still preparing I-20s and DS-2019s for new students to begin Fall 2020. You will need to make a visa appointment as soon as the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest you begins issuing visas again. If travel restrictions are still in effect and visas are not being issued by the time Fall semester is starting, there may be an option to begin online classes from your home country. We will update with more information as that becomes available.
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! While our offices at Laurel Hall are currently closed, we are offering remote advising, Monday – Friday, 10 to 11 a.m. and 1 – 3 p.m. 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, please email your questions to email@example.com.