FAQs for International F1 Students

Last updated : May 11, 2020

What are the latest guidelines for international travel related to re-opening Institutions of Higher Education from the American College Health Associations? Although not all of these guidelines are relevant to Stetson we will be following these to help us re-0pen international travel and support services for all students, faculty, or staff who have been traveling internationally and are planning to re-enter the campus environment:
• Should be encouraged or required to communicate their intentions with identified contacts at their institutions in order to receive critical relevant information well in advance of their anticipated return.
• Must follow state, tribal, territorial, and local health department recommendations and requirements.
 At this time, this includes quarantine at home for 14 days, checking temperature twice a day, monitoring for onset of symptoms of COVID19, and maintaining contact with the appropriate health department as directed.
 Directories of local (and tribal) health departments https://www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/healthdirectories/healthdepartments.html
 CDC returning traveler guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019ncov/travelers/after-travel-precautions.html
Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era/page 18 International Students, Faculty (Including Visiting Faculty), and Staff Who Are
Incoming to or Present on Campus. There are many complex variables at play for our
international students and colleagues planning travel in the ever-evolving global COVID-19 situation.
• It is crucial to inform our international students and colleagues of relevant, reliable, and current travel health and safety resources and to encourage the serious consideration of current recommendations prior to travel.
• Every international student, faculty, and staff member is in a unique situation, which warrants individually tailored recommendations.

• All new or returning international travelers should refer to CDC returning travelers guidelines and review CDC’s “Travelers Prohibited from Entry to the U.S.” (available at
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html).
• Existing international students, faculty, and staff currently at an IHE in the U.S. who are considering travel to their home countries should review global travel restrictions as noted by the U.S. State Department and CDC (see above and in Resources).
• Faculty and staff contemplating travel with subsequent return to the U.S. to continue IHE studies or work must seriously consider:
 Current COVID-19 travel health risks and the possibility of significant unexpected changes in risks during their travels.
 Potential for abrupt disruption, cancellation, or other serious complications of the planned return to the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 Rapidly changeable re-entry restrictions (including at any intermediate points in
itinerary).
International travel is an evolving situation. Most IHEs in the U.S. have canceled or prohibited international travel for any university-related reasons through August 2020.
Fall study abroad programs and research-based travel are being scrutinized at an individual institutional level, and many have thus far postponed making definitive decisions.
Incoming international students, faculty, and staff are faced with a multitude of uncertainties as well, and challenges and uncertainties abound in both host and
home institutions and countries. Considering the multitude of unknown factors involved with this pandemic, knowledge and resources to inform new international travel guidelines will emerge in the coming months, and ACHA will offer updates as appropriate.

My I-20 was signed before September 1, 2019.  Should I request a signature? YES. Everyone who has an I-20 with a signature on the travel page (2nd page) that is older than September 1, 2019 needs to get a new signature before leaving the US. If you have already left reach out to your DSO today.

If I leave the United States, do I have to return within the next 5 months or else my visa will expire?  As of March 23, 2020, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) temporarily waived the five month limit that an international student can be away from the US for students who remain in active status in sevis and in good standing.

I am worried my Visa will expire before the Covid-19 virus has passed and the borders reopen world wide. Has USCIS and Homeland Security made any adjustments to the way that will be handled? As of this time (April 8, 2020) there have been no changes in deadlines and expiration dates as associated with VISAs. Throughout the world wide health event the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (Nafsa) has been pushing for accommodations appropriate to the situation as has been enacted in other countries. As time has passed and there has been movement on this issue American Immigration Lawyers have made the decision to sue USCIS and Homeland Security to force them to suspend relevant deadlines and expiration dates. We will continue to share news as it comes in. Read the article at this link for more information. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/immigration-lawyers-sue-to-freeze-visa-deadlines-in-pandemic

How will I keep in compliance if I am not attending classes? You will be attending classes, just in a different way.  Do not allow yourself to fall behind.  Your teachers are responsible for helping you learn how to use the learning management systems they have set up for their instruction.  Be sure you understand.   Ask questions using the assigned formats.

What else should I take care of before I leave the United States? We have distributed a tracking form to help you keep your SEVIS record in compliance.  SEVIS is the U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. We use the tracking form to report your physical address and other data  required by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). As an F1 student, UCSIS must have updated records of your address throughout your study experience.  Please watch your Stetson email for the form.

Do I have to fill out the tracking form if I am staying in the area?  YES

What do I do if I switch addresses before Stetson allows us to return?  Please alert your DSO (designated school official) that you are moving and need to re-file the WORLD Evacuation Form.   You will be sent a re-homing link to provide a new address.  DO NOT use the initial evacuation form; if you do, the 2nd Address Change may be overlooked.  Again, it is REQUIRED that we have the correct address on your SEVIS record.

My visa is expiring soon but I have applied for OPT?  Can I work OPT if it is approved on an expired visa?  YES.  The visa allows entry into the country. The 1-20 keeps your record up to date while you are here and allows USCIS to track you. As long as you do not cross an international border you can use your OPT to work. Please work with your DSO to keep your I-20 updated.

What do I do if I am witness to or I am subjected to discriminatory actions or comments? Please share your experience with the Dean of Students, Lynn Schoenberg, at lschoenb@stetson.edu. Our intent is to be very clear. There is no place at Stetson University for discriminatory behavior. 

Can I come to the WORLD Center if I need help?  No. As of the third week of March 2020 Stetson University has sent all non essential employees home. That means the World Office is closed until further notice. Staff from world are all working on line from 8-430 M-F to assist you and answer your questions.

How can I get help from someone at WORLD ? You have several options.  You can call the WORLD Center at 386-822-8165 during the hours of 8:00 am-4:30 pm M-F.  Or you can send any one of us an email or make an appointment at calendly.com:

Phentz@stetson.edu or Calendly.com/Phentz

Rlewis1@stetson.edu or Calendly.com/rlewis1-world

Wviggiano@stetson.edu or Calendly.com/wviggiano

How can I get advising for next fall while we are effected by the school evacuation? You can reach out to your faculty advisor, you can make an appointment with one of the WORLD Staff or Academic Advising will provide supplemental support to our Stetson community virtually. Our website, www.stetson.edu/academic-advising includes helpful content and resources for faculty, current students and prospective students. For specific inquiries you can reach us directly by contacting academic.advising@stetson.edu or the Academic Success department main line (ext. 7345).  Students in the Discovery Program are required to meet with their Secondary Advisor, Miguel Ortiz-Burgos, Coordinator for First-Year Advising. Discovery students were sent communication regarding their requirement to meet with our area to their Stetson email. Please contact Miguel Ortiz-Burgos at mortizbu@stetson.edu for any questions. 

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. In the case of a minor students, the email address may belong to their parent or legal guardian. Schools do not need to request permission from SEVP or report their plans to electronically send Forms I-20 as part of their COVID-19 procedural changes.

 I want to sign up for OPT starting this summer but I am not in the US. Can I apply from my home? No. At this time USCIS has not changed any of the laws impacting OPT. We anticipate there may be changes as we get closer to graduation but as of now you must be in the US to apply for OPT.