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International Student and Scholar Services Operations in Response to COVID-19

Please review the information provided on the Texas State University Fall 2020 Roadmap to Return website.

July 29, 2020

Read the Update for Students from Dean of Students

July 30, 2020

All international students returning to campus must follow these guidelines:

  • Quarantine: Students must quarantine for 14 days before arriving on Texas State campuses.
    • If you are enrolled in a course requiring in-person attendance during your quarantine period, please contact your professor as soon as possible.
  • Wear a face covering! Know respect, show respect. Wear your mask to slow the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses. Visit the Face Covering & Mask page for more info on quality, effective face masks
  • Follow the Ten Health and Safety Measures: Including face coverings, social distancing, hygiene practices, cleaning and disinfecting, and more. View Ten Health and Safety Measures
  • Take the Bobcat Pledge: Each member of our community must take steps to protect themselves and others. Pledge to respect yourself and others by making healthy choices.
  • Review your current fall 2020 semester schedule and meet with your academic advisor as soon as possible if you have any concerns.


International Student and Scholar Services

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SEVIS Updates

  • The Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) issues guidance to SEVIS F-1 students. SEVP publishes updates regularly.

    On this site SEVIS Updates review the "Nonimmigrant Students and SEVP-Certified Schools" section.

    1. Guidance Documents - see broadcast messages for F-1 students
    2. Frequently Asked Questions - download the latest PDF

     

  • Follow these tips to ensure you are able to maintain your F-1 status, continue practical training and/or travel safely.

    • Maintain status: It is important that F-1 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, to the extent possible under the circumstances. You must also communicate with your designated school official (DSO) about the emergency plans on your campus, including any changes to your address.
    • Be cautious traveling: Refer to guidance from the CDC, U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for specific port-of-entry screening processes, as well as any travel restrictions.
  • Please refer to the below websites of other agencies involved in the international student life cycle to learn more about COVID-19 and stay informed.

  • SEVP Broadcast Message: COVID-19 and Fall 2020 - RESCINDED on July 14, 2020

    • Broadcast Message: COVID-19 and Fall 2020

      To: All SEVIS Users

      Date: July 6, 2020

      Number: 2007-01


      General Information

      Temporary procedural adaptations related to online courses permitted by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) during the height of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) crisis will be modified for the fall 2020 semester. There will still be accommodations to provide flexibility to schools and nonimmigrant students, but as many institutions across the country reopen, there is a concordant need to resume the carefully balanced protections implemented by federal regulations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to publish the procedures and responsibilities described in the below Broadcast Message in the near future as a Temporary Final Rule in the Federal Register. This message is intended to provide additional time to facilitate the implementation of these procedures.

      Due to COVID-19, SEVP instituted a temporary exemption regarding the online study policy for the spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted F and M students to take more online courses than normally allowed for purposes of maintaining a full course of study to maintain their F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant status during the COVID-19 emergency.

      Temporary Exemptions for the Fall 2020 Semester

      For the fall 2020 semester, SEVP is modifying these temporary exemptions. In summary, temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester provide that:

      1. Students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status or potentially face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.
      2. Students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online (see 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G)).
      3. Students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. The above exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses (see 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v))).

      Forms I-20 Requirements and Maintaining Student Records for the Fall 2020 Semester

      For all students attending schools in the United States this fall 2020, designated school officials (DSOs) must issue new Forms I-20 to each student certifying that the school is not operating entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the fall 2020 semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. DSOs must indicate this information in the Form I-20 Remarks field in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

      Schools must update and reissue all Forms I-20 to reflect these changes in program enrollment and student information within 21 business days of publication of this Broadcast Message (by Aug. 4, 2020.) When issuing new Forms I-20, please prioritize students who require new visas and are outside of the country.

      For the fall 2020 semester, continuing F and M students who are already in the United States may remain in Active status in SEVIS if they make normal progress in a program of study, or are engaged in approved practical training, either as part of a program of study or following completion of a program of study. If a school changes its operational stance mid-semester, and as a result a nonimmigrant student switches to only online classes, or a nonimmigrant student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an entirely online course load, schools are reminded that nonimmigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. If nonimmigrant students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as transfer to a school with in-person instruction.

      For the fall 2020 semester, continuing F and M students outside of the United States, whose schools of enrollment are only offering online classes, may remain in Active status in SEVIS if they are taking online courses and are able to meet the normal full course of study requirements or the requirements for a reduced course of study. Only students enrolled at a school that is only offering online coursework can engage in remote learning from their home country. In this case, DSOs should annotate the student’s record to make it clear that the student is outside the US but taking full time online courses as that is the only choice offered by the school.

      SEVP will continue to develop and provide resources to stakeholders on ICE.gov, including answers to frequently asked questions, to clarify and expand upon information in this Broadcast Message.

      • Is Texas State resuming face-to-face classes for fall 2020?
        • Yes, we are planning for a return to campus with a Hybrid Plan of both in-person and remote classes, and services in fall 2020. Learn more about the Return to Campus Strategy.
      • What does the Broadcast Message say about a Hybrid Plan?
        • F-1 students will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online.
      • What does this mean for F-1 international students at Texas State?
        • F-1 students are required to maintain a full course of study in fall 2020 (12-hours for undergraduate and 9 hours for graduate students). Review the  F-1 Regulations Overview for more details. In summary with a Fall 2020 Hybrid Plan:
          • F-1 students may take more than one online course to count towards the full-time course requirement as long as students are enrolled in at least 1 face-to-face or hybrid course.
          • Courses designated as hybrid are considered face-to-face and not fully online for immigration purposes.
      • What do I do if all of my available fall 2020 classes are only offered fully online?
      • What should F-1 students do if they are unable to enroll full-time?
        • Regulations require F-1 students to enroll full-time unless otherwise authorized by a DSO to be less than full-time.
        • Students unable to maintain a full-course of study will have their SEVIS records terminated for failure to enroll full-time or failure to maintain a full-course of study.
        • Review eligibility for a Reduced Course Load (RCL) and Concurrent Enrollment. Contact a DSO for more information.
      • What if I am graduating in Fall 2020 and I only have 1 course remaining?
        • Current RCL regulations have not changed. If you are in your final semester and are eligible to graduate, submit a Final Semester Reduced Course Load (RCL). The Final Semester RCL allows you to enroll in only your final remaining courses.
        • The final course cannot be an online only courses.
        • If you are unsure if your final courses is online only or not, consult with your professor or academic department.
      • What if my final course is an internship (or equivalent), does this count as an online course?
        • No, if your final course is an internship, or equivalent, you must apply for CPT. Internship courses are considered hybrid.
      • What if I qualify for a medical - academic modification to take my classes remotely?
      • Will ISSS issue me a new I-20 for fall 2020?
        • Yes, per the Broadcast Message, DSOs must issue new Forms I-20 to each student certifying the following: 1) school is not operating entirely online, 2) the student is not taking an entirely online course load for fall 2020 semester, and 3) the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.
        • ISSS will issue all continuing students new I-20s in accordance with SEVP's published deadline. Students are asked to please not contact ISSS requesting a new I-20. Students will be contacted at a later time when new I-20s are ready. *Students do not need a new I-20 to exit the US. If traveling abroad, ISSS will mail new I-20s to students abroad.
      • What if Texas State starts fully online for fall 2020?
        • Per the July 6th SEVP Guidance, F-1 students must depart the US country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. See more about SEVIS Transfer Out.
        • Students who do not exit the US can potentially face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.
          • At this time, the broadcast message does not address this topic. Referring to previous SEVP - COVID-19 guidance, a DSO will add notes in the student's SEVIS record notating the inability to depart. Per the current broadcast message, students are still expected to depart.
      • What if Texas State starts with a hybrid plan then moves fully online mid-semester?
        • If a school changes its operational stance mid-semester to entirely online course load, F-1 students in the US are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. F-1 students must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as transfer to a school with in-person instruction.
          • At this time, SEVP has not issued a statement on how long students could remain in the US after the institution switches to online only courses.
      • If Texas States moves to fully online for Fall 2020, how will this impact my F-1 status and F-1 visa?
        • Per the SEVP Guidance, continuing F students outside of the US attending schools offering only online classes, may remain in Active SEVIS status if they are taking online courses and are able to meet the normal full course of study requirements or the requirements for a reduced course of study. This means, if you enroll full-time abroad, or have an approved RCL, your SEVIS record will remain active.
        • Continuing students' F-1 visa should not be impacted. The Department of State's policy states, “a student does not need to apply for a new F-1 visa if the student’s current visa is still valid, regardless of length of time outside the United States." If you have a valid visa you will be permitted to use the visa to reenter the US at a later time.
          • Should your SEVIS record become terminated, you must request a new I-20 from ISSS and pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee before using a valid F-1 visa to reenter the US. If the visa is expired by the time you plan to renter the US, you must use the new I-20 to apply for a new F-1 visa.
    • Yes, on July 14, 2020 the July 6 SEVP Policy Guidance affecting international students in Fall 2020 was rescinded. Further guidance from SEVP regarding international students and enrollment in Fall 2020 will be published later.

      For now, international students should continue to pursue a full course of study or seek a reduced course load if not enrolling full-time.

    • Dear Bobcat Community,

      We join with you in celebrating the rollback of the July 6, 2020, announcement from the Department of Homeland Security’s Student Visitor and Exchange Visitor System detailing guidance for fall 2020 enrollment for F-1 international students. While the requirements in the July 6 guidance no longer apply, it is important to expect further updates from SEVP. Texas State F-1 international students should monitor the ISSS COVID-19 Response page for updates and proceed with fall 2020 enrollment plans in expectation of the conditions outlined in the Roadmap to Return.

      We recognize that many questions need to be addressed in the coming weeks. As with all SEVIS Broadcast Messages and guidance, the office of International Affairs (OIA) and International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) continually reviews the guidance as it relates to internal plans made by our university administration. We will be providing updated guidance to students with interpretations and analysis of impacts and continue to advise as the days unfold in advance of the fall 2020 semester.

      We are looking forward to seeing you this fall! Questions and concerns may be addressed to international@txstate.edu.

      International Student and Scholar Services

      Updated July 14, 2020

  • SEVP Broadcast Message: COVID-19 and Fall 2020 - July 24, 2020 Updates

    • Broadcast Message: COVID-19 and Fall 2020

      To: All SEVIS Users

      Date: July 24, 2020

      Number: 2007-02


      General Information

      Active F and M students, as well as schools certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) should abide by SEVP guidance originally issued in March 2020. The guidance enables schools and students to engage in distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19. The March 2020 guidance applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, and are otherwise complying with the terms of their nonimmigrant status, whether from inside the United States or abroad. SEVP will not issue a temporary final rule impacting F and M students for the fall school term.

      Summary of March 2020 Guidance for Continuing Students

      As stated in the March 2020 guidance, Active F and M students will be permitted to temporarily count online classes towards a full course of study in excess of the regulatory limits stated in 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(m)(9)(v). The March 2020 guidance applies to continuing F and M nonimmigrant students who were in valid F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status on March 9, 2020, including those previously enrolled in entirely online classes who are outside of the United States and seeking to re-enter the country this fall. Students actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, who subsequently took courses online while outside of the country can re-enter the United States, even if their school is engaged solely in distance learning.

      Summary of March 2020 Guidance for Initial Students

      In accordance with March 2020 guidance, F and M students in new or initial status after March 9, 2020, will not be able to enter the United States to enroll in a U.S. school as a nonimmigrant student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online. Also consistent with the SEVP Broadcast Message dated March 9, 2020, designated school officials should not issue a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” for a student in new or initial status who is outside of the United States and plans to take classes at an SEVP-certified educational institution that is operating 100 percent online.

      Additional Information

      Stakeholders can refer to SEVP’s current policy guidance and frequently asked questions at ICE.gov/Coronavirus, under the Nonimmigrant Students and SEVP-certified Schools header:

      SEVP recently updated its frequently asked questions with information to clarify the application of the March 2020 guidance to the fall 2020 semester and will continue to update these resources with the latest information and guidance for stakeholders. The program will continue to provide updates to the academic community through our communication channels, including Broadcast Messages, SEVP field representatives, Study in the States blog posts and social media.

      Stakeholders should continue to refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of State and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the latest COVID-19 information, specific port-of-entry screening processes, as well as any travel restrictions.

      Disclaimer

      This Broadcast Message is not a substitute for applicable legal requirements, nor is it itself a rule or a final action by SEVP. It is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by any party in any administrative, civil or criminal matter.

    • Fall 2020 Hybrid Model
      • Is Texas State resuming face-to-face classes for fall 2020?
        • Yes, Texas State University will return to campus with a Hybrid Plan of both in-person and online classes, and services in fall 2020. Learn more about the Return to Campus Strategy.
          • Choice and Flexibility - The university will be offering four different instructional formats:

          • Online classes: instruction is delivered online.
          • Hybrid classes: instruction is delivered primarily online, with some face-to-face instruction. 
          • “Flexible” face-to-face classes: instruction is delivered primarily in-person, with some online delivery.
          • Traditional face-to-face classes: instruction is delivered in-person. 
      • How does a hybrid or fully online model impact my F-1 status and F-1 visa?
        • Per the July 24th SEVP Guidance, F-1 students may remain in the US and maintain an active SEVIS status under both a hybrid or fully online model.
        • Continuing and new students' F-1 visas should not be impacted. The Department of State's policy states, “a student does not need to apply for a new F-1 visa if the student’s current visa is still valid, regardless of the length of time outside the United States." If you have a valid visa you will be permitted to use the visa to reenter the US at a later time.
          • Should your SEVIS record become terminated, you must request a new I-20 from ISSS and pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee before using a valid F-1 visa to reenter the US. If the visa is expired by the time you plan to renter the US, you must use the new I-20 to apply for a new F-1 visa.
      Full Course of Study
      • What are the requirements to maintain full-time enrollment in a hybrid model?
        • F-1 students are required to maintain a full course of study in fall 2020 (12-hours for undergraduate and 9 hours for graduate students). Review the F-1 Regulations Overview for more details. In summary with a Fall 2020 Hybrid Plan:
          • Students in the US are strongly encouraged to enroll in at least one face-to-face or hybrid course. F-1 students will not face enforcement action or loss of their nonimmigrant status based on engaging in hybrid programs. DSOs are not tasked with taking a negative action against a student's status if the student is unable to enroll in a hybrid or face-to-face course. Due to COVID-19 students may take courses fully online.
          • F-1 students may take more than one online course to count towards the full-time course requirement.
          • Courses designated as hybrid are considered face-to-face and not fully online for immigration purposes.
      • What should I do if all of my available fall 2020 classes are only offered fully online?
      • What should F-1 students do if they are unable to enroll full-time?
        • SEVP regulations require F-1 students to enroll full-time unless otherwise authorized by a DSO to be less than full-time.
        • Students unable to maintain a full-course of study will have their SEVIS records terminated for failure to enroll full-time or failure to maintain a full-course of study.
        • Review eligibility for a Reduced Course Load (RCL) and Concurrent Enrollment, or Contact a DSO for more information.
      • What if I am graduating in Fall 2020 and I only have one course remaining?
        • Current RCL regulations have not changed. If you are in your final semester and are eligible to graduate, submit a Final Semester Reduced Course Load (RCL). The Final Semester RCL allows you to enroll in only your final remaining course(s).
        • Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in a final course that is face-to-face or hybrid. If no face-to-face or hybrid course is available, due to COVID-19, students may take an online course as their final course of study.
        • If you are unsure if your final course is online only or not, consult with your professor or academic department.
      • What if my final course is an internship (or equivalent), does this count as an online course?
        • No, if your final course is an internship or equivalent, you must apply for CPT. Internship courses are considered hybrid.
      • What if I qualify for a medical - academic modification to take my classes remotely?
      Form I-20
      • Will ISSS issue me a new I-20 for fall 2020?
        • No, per the July 24th Broadcast Message, DSOs are not required to issue new I-20s.
        • Students already issued a new I-20 based on the July 6th SEVP Broadcast Message will not be issued a new I-20. The previously issued I-20 is still valid and can be used for entry to the US.
        • Continuing students returning from abroad can request a travel support letter by emailing international@txstate.edu.
      Continuing Students Outside the US
      • Can continuing students remain active in SEVIS if they cannot or will not return to the US?
        • Yes, continuing students who cannot return to the US will remain active in SEVIS as long as the student enrolls full-time.
        • Continuing students outside the US who are unable to enroll full-time can submit an Academic Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Contact a DSO for more information.
      • Can a continuing student outside the US enroll fully online and return to the US mid-semester?
        • Yes, students outside the US engaged in 100 percent online coursework will be able to maintain their status and are not subject to loss of F-1 status.
        • Continuing students may enroll fully online while maintaining an active SEVIS record.
        • Students are reminded to ensure they are in possession of a valid F-1 visa before reentering the US. Students planning to return to the US mid-semester should contact ISSS.
      New and Transfer Students in "Initial" Status
      • Can F-1 students outside the US obtain a visa to study if the program is fully online?
        • DSOs are instructed to not issue a Form I-20 for a student in new or initial status who is outside the US and plans to take classes that are fully online.
          • The five-month rule related to SEVIS transfer students will not apply to students affected by COVID-19. DSOs will work with transfer students to adjust their SEVIS record for a future semester start date if needed.
        • As a result, new and initial students who intend to pursue a full course of study that will be conducted completely online will likely not be able to obtain an F-1 visa to study in the US.
      • Can F-1 students outside the US obtain a visa to study if the program is hybrid?
        • Yes, new and initial students are strongly advised to pursue a full-time course of study that includes both face-to-face and online courses.
      • Can new or transfer students who cannot or will not come to campus in Fall 2020 enroll remotely?
        • New students - Yes, work with your academic department to ensure online courses are available. New SEVIS records can be adjusted by the DSO to start for a future semester preserving the I-901 fee, if already paid.
          • Graduate students unable to enroll online may need to contact their academic department and the Graduate College for a program deferral, if possible.
          • Undergraduate students unable to enroll online will need to reapply for a future semester.
          • Transfer students - Yes, work with your academic department to ensure online courses are available.
            • The five-month rule related to SEVIS transfer students will not apply to students affected by COVID-19. DSOs will work with a transfer student to adjust their SEVIS record for a future semester start date.
      If Texas State Moves Fully Online for Fall 2020
      • What if Texas State starts with a hybrid plan then moves fully online mid-semester?
        • Per the July 24th SEVP Guidance, F-1 students may remain in the US and maintain active in SEVIS if Texas State moves fully online.
        • Students are reminded to enroll full-time.
      • What if Texas State starts fully online for fall 2020?
        • Per the July 24th SEVP Guidance, continuing F-1 students may remain in the US and maintain active in SEVIS if Texas State moves fully online.
        • New F-1 students may not receive a new initial I-20 and have difficulty obtaining an F-1 visa if Texas State is fully online in Fall 2020.
        • New students are encouraged to contact ISSS for deferral information.
        • Students are reminded to enroll full-time.
    • Dear Texas State International Students,

      International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) has reviewed the latest July 24, 2020, Broadcast Message from SEVP detailing guidance for fall 2020 enrollment for F-1 international students, and has posted updates to the website: International Student and Scholar Services Operations in Response to COVID-19. The FAQ section provides guidance with interpretations and analysis of the broadcast message as it relates to our international students. See new enrollment information for Fall 2020 under the “SEVIS Updates” section.

      International students are a vital part of the Bobcat community and ISSS will continue to provide support and consultancy for our international students. As always, we will continue to monitor SEVP for any changes to policies to keep our international students informed and updated.

      Questions and concerns may be addressed to international@txstate.edu.

      Thank you,

      International Student and Scholar Services

      July 24, 2020

International Travel

  • Students will need to complete our International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) Request Form and email the completed form to international@txstate.edu 

    1. ISSS will print a new I-20, provide a travel signature, and inform the student the request is complete. 
    2. The student can pick up the new I-20 from the Thornton House or request a shipping label for the I-20 to be mailed.
    3. Please request a shipping label through this link: https://study.eshipglobal.com/  Select the "International Office" as the shipping department. 

    Note: You may leave the country without a travel signature.

  • Review the Department of State's list of country-specific COVID-19 information in relation to:

    1. Global Health Advisories
    2. Entry and Exit Requirements
    3. Quarantine Information
    4. Local Resources

    COVID-19 Country Specific Information

  • If you are traveling abroad please review Department of State - Travel Advisories and Alerts.

    Contact ISSS if you are planning to depart the US and travel abroad.

  • On March 20, 2020 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published a regulation restricting non-essential cross-border traffic from Mexico and Canada. This restriction has been extended to August 20, 2020. Further extensions are possible depending on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Admission to the US is permitted only for travelers engaged in “essential travel.” CBP defined “essential travel” to include international students by stating, "Individuals traveling to attend educational institution" and "Individuals traveling to work in the US" for students on OPT or STEM-OPT.

    Many CBP officers are inquiring as to the essential nature of the student's study or work in the US. Students are therefore cautioned to be prepared to explain the essential nature of their study and return to campus and/or work. Students are advised to be prepared to be refused entry if they are not able to demonstrate such to the satisfaction of CBP, even if they are in possession of valid entry documentation and work authorization in the US, and they are returning to the US to study or work.


    If you are at the border and need to reach a DSO, call Texas State University International Student and Scholar Services at 512-245-7966 or the University Police Department after hours (5pm CST M-F and weekends) at 512-245-2805. A DSO can sometimes advocate to CBP to grant you admission to the US.

  • Please refer to the CDC's website for a list of Travelers Prohibited from Entry to the United States

Personal Well-being

  • Be aware that criminals are attempting to exploit COVID-19 worldwide through a variety of scams. The Department of Justice reports the following:

    • Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
    • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    • Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
    • Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
    • See more examples of COVID-19-related fraud.

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers the following tips to help you protect yourself from coronavirus scams:

    • Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
    • Never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.
    • Be cautious if you’re being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
    • Scammers often spoof phone numbers to trick you into answering or responding.  Remember that government agencies will never call you to ask for personal information or money.
    • Do not click any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren't hacked.
    • Always check on a charity (for example, by calling or looking at its actual website) before donating. (Learn more about charity scams.)

    If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home though a number of platforms. Go to:

  • As the world faces the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s important to embrace healthy habits to help maintain your overall well-being. If you are an international student in the US or if you have returned home, here are some tips and tricks by ISI to get through this uncertain time.

    https://www.internationalstudentinsurance.com/explained/mental-health/emotional-wellness-during-covid-19-outbreak/

  • Review the Health Insurance website for COVID-19 resources provided by Academic HealthPlans: https://www.international.txstate.edu/current/Health-insurance-.html.

  • The Student Health Center (SHC) is open and asks that students always call first. You will be instructed on what type of health service you will need, e.g. self-care at home, telehealth visit, SHC appointment, etc.

    Testing for COVID-19 is available at the main Student Health Center for persons who meet our testing criteria. If you would like to be evaluated for testing, for COVID-19 at the Student Health Center, call the Student Health Center at 512.245.2161.

    You may be scheduled with a provider for a Telehealth visit to determine if you meet our criteria.

    For more information visit the Student Health Center website:
    https://www.healthcenter.txstate.edu/covid-19/#SICK

  • ISSS has partnered with Sprintax to assist F-1 international students and J-1 scholars who are nonresidents for tax purposes. If you are not using Sprintax – make sure you understand if you are a resident or non-resident for tax purposes and that you are not filing incorrectly.
    Below are resources concerning the economic impact payments and COVID-19 Tax Relief.

    1. Recorded Webinar: Sprintax Webinar Recording on the Stimulus Payment and Amended Returns
    2. Blog on navigating the stimulus payment
    3. Blog on Amended Returns 

    1. Summary of those eligible for the Economic Impact Payment:

    1. US Residents for tax purposes
    2. Adjusted Gross Income between $75,000 and $99,000 (increasing for head of household and married filing jointly)
    3. Valid social security number
    4. Not claimed as dependent on someone else’s return

    For more information, visit the IRS Economic Impact Payment pages:

    2. Key area of confusion for international students and scholars: Resident v Nonresident for tax purposes

    A. Based on IRS Substantial Presence Rule – Most international students and scholars in the US are nonresidents in the US for tax purposes

    https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/substantial-presence-test)

    B. Small number may be here long enough to be considered tax residents by IRS

    3. Misfiling and filing as a resident by mistake

    A. Significant number of international students and scholars make the mistake as filing as a resident for tax purposes

    B. Most tax services (Turbotax, H&R Block, Tax Act, local CPA’s etc – are designed to help residents – not nonresidents – not international students and scholars)

    C. Filing incorrectly means you are claiming benefits and deductions you are not entitled to

    D. TurboTax specifically say they cannot help nonresidents

    DO NOT USE A RESIDENT TAX RETURN PREPARATION SERVICE UNLESS YOU ARE CERTAIN THAT YOU ARE A RESIDENT FOR TAX PURPOSES

    4. Recommended next steps:

    A. If you have received the Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check)

    i. Check what tax return you prepared in 2018 or 2019

    ii. Was it a 1040 (for residents) or a 1040NR (for nonresidents)?

    B. If it was a 1040 you filed as a resident for that year.

    i. Log in to Sprintax

    ii. Sprintax will guide you through the substantial presence test and confirm if you were a resident or nonresident for that tax year

    Complete the Substantial Presence Test for free with Sprintax

    C. If you filed as a resident and Sprintax confirms you are a resident – no further action required at this moment

    D. HOWEVER – If Sprintax finds that you are a nonresident then you should have filed as a nonresident – you need to prepare and send an amended tax return (1040X) to the IRS to correct this

    E. Sprintax will help you prepare your amended return, for any year

    i. We recommend you do this as quickly as possible

    ii. Once you have your Sprintax amended return, mail this to the IRS.

    iii. Separate to your amended return – return the stimulus payment. The IRS provide instructions here: https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc161

    5. Future possible implications:

    A. Filing an incorrect tax return may cause fees and penalties to accrue with the IRS.

    B. Incorrect tax filing will also impact a change of visa status or a future visa application – so please ensure now that you have prepared your taxes correctly for 2020 and previous years.

OPT & STEM OPT

  • ISSS will no longer conduct 1-on-1 in person appointments for OPT.

    Students are expected to submit all required documents online for a DSO to review. The DSO will create the recommendation in SEVIS and mail the new OPT requested I-20 to the student.

    Students are expected to mail all required documents directly to USCIS. ISSS will no longer mail OPT applications to USCIS on behalf of students.

    Please review the new process for applying for OPT here: https://www.international.txstate.edu/Work-Authorization/opt.html.

  • What happens to my OPT/STEM OPT unemployment limit if I am laid off or placed on temporary leave and can no longer work due to COVID-19?

    There is a distinct difference between being laid off or placed on temporary leave when your employer is suspending service or closed.

    • Being laid off - you are no longer employed with your employer with no option to return to work.
      • You must update the SEVP Portal to report your employment end date. This update must be done within 10 days from being laid off. You will begin to accrue unemployment days from the day you are laid off.
    • Temporary leave - your workplace is temporarily closed, but you will keep your position once your employer reopens.
      • Although you are not working, you are not required to update the SEVP Portal with an employment end date. Days not working do not count as unemployment days.

    Both SEVP and USCIS have yet to offer guidance on the unemployment day limit during COVID-19. Continue to monitor the Department of Homeland Security's Study in the States website for updates from these federal agencies.

    If you are uncertain your number of unemployment days accrued, email Dr. Jonathan Tyner.


    In the absence of new information, we must operate with existing regulations. Please understand the current regulations regarding unemployment day limits and maintaining your F-1 status while on OPT/STEM OPT.

    DHS defines the Periods of Unemployment During OPT by stating:

    During post-completion OPT, F-1 status is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 90 days of unemployment during any post-completion OPT period described in 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B). Students granted a 24-month OPT extension under paragraph (f)(10)(ii)(C)(2) of this section may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during a total OPT period, including any post-completion OPT period described in 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(3)(i)(B) and any subsequent 24-month extension period.

    Students are reminded of the following options to maintain status if approaching the maximum number of unemployment days allowed:

    1. Depart the US and complete the SEVIS Record Completion Request. *Be mindful of any current travel restrictions. Consult with an immigration attorney if you are stranded in the US due to travel restrictions. Or consult with your embassy in the US regarding emergency evacuation.
    2. Be admitted to a new program at Texas State and apply for a Change of Level I-20
    3. Apply for a Change of Status to a different visa classification
    4. Apply for SEVIS Transfer to a new institution

    Alternative Employment

    Both of the following will stop the unemployment clock for students on OPT. These options are not available to students on STEM OPT.

    1. Self-Employment
    2. Volunteering

    Students are required to still adhere to the conditions of OPT such as 1) engaging in work that is directly related to your major, and 2) work at least 20 hours per week. Both are acceptable and must be reported in the SEVP Portal in order to stop the unemployment clock.

  • Many students have expressed concern regarding USCIS office closures. Please review the USCIS website for updates.

    On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended routine in-person services to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS plans to begin reopening our offices on May 4, unless the public closures are extended further. USCIS staff are continuing to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public.

    OPT and STEM OPT applications are still being processed. If this changes, you will see updates on the USCIS website.

    To see current Form I-765 work authorization for OPT/STEM processing time, refer to the USCIS Check Processing Time.

  • If you are planning to complete your program in Spring or Summer 2020 and apply for OPT, be advised that USCIS has not changed the regulation requiring students to apply for OPT while inside the US. The Form I-765, page 4: part 3 states,"You must file Form I-765 while in the United States."

    Please review the following:

    1. If you already applied for OPT, you can depart the US while your OPT application is pending. USCIS will mail your OPT documents to the mailing address you entered on the Form I-765. If you used the ISSS address, ISSS will continue to update you as mail is received.
    2. If you are planning to apply for OPT, please apply before departing the US. 
    3. If this is your final semester and you have already departed the US without applying for OPT, at this time, you have two options:
      1. Return to the US before your program end date (May 16 for Spring graduates and August 8 for Summer graduates) and apply for OPT. Given the current travel restrictions, this might not be possible.
      2. Apply for OPT while outside the US. If your OPT is denied by USCIS this means you will be forfeiting your OPT and there is no appeal.
  • 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, you should consult with your employer to seek alternative ways to maintain training agreements, such as teleworking, remote working, or other arrangements.

    At this time SEVIS has not announced any changes to current OPT/STEM OPT regulations; no extensions in unemployment days or authorized employment periods.

USCIS

  • You may have seen posts on social media suggesting special opportunities for off-campus work authorizations for F-1 students due to COVID-19.

    The USCIS page in question was created on October 25, 2019. Please know none of the mentioned situations are new and specific to COVID-19. F-1 student eligibility for some of these programs are extremely limited.

    See the USCIS website here: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/special-situations.

    Here is the list of situations mentioned by USCIS:

    1. Extension and Changes of Status
      • See the section on Extension of Stay on ISSS - COVID-19 page.
      • Consult an immigration attorney to apply for a change of status.
    2. Employment Authorization - Severe Economic Hardship
    3. Special Student Relief - Off-campus employment authorization
      • Only for citizens of a country specified in a Federal Register Notice.
      • Currently there are no countries specified in the Federal Register Notice for COVID-19 relief.
  • On April 13, 2020, USCIS published a website that discusses nonimmigrants being eligible to apply for an Extension of Stay (EOS).

    See here: https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/covid-19-delays-extensionchange-status-filings.

    Unfortunately, this information is misleading as F-1 students are not eligible for an extension of stay. As an F-1 student your I-94 admit until date shows D/S, duration of status. This means you may remain in the US as long as you have a valid I-20. The EOS application is to extend an international person with a date-specific I-94. 

    F-1 students nearing their I-20 end date and have not applied for OPT have the following options to extend their F-1 status:
    1. Apply for a I-20 Program Extension
    2. Apply for OPT
    F-1 students on OPT or STEM OPT have the following options to extend their legal stay in the US:
    1. Apply for STEM OPT (for OPT students)
    2. Be admitted to a new program of study at Texas State and apply for a Change of Level I-20.
    3. Be admitted to a new program of study outside Texas State and apply for a SEVIS Transfer.
    4. Timely file for a change or adjustment of status. If approved, update your immigration status using the Immigration Status Update Portal.

    Currently, DHS has not issued any changes to regulations governing OPT and STEM OPT. There are no changes to work authorization periods or leniency for exceeding unemployment day limits. There is no option for a student on OPT or STEM OPT to extend work authorization beyond the EAD end date.

    An F-1 student who does not utilize one of the options mentioned above must depart the US no later than 60-days from the I-20 or OPT/STEM-OPT end date. If you are unable to depart the US due to travel restrictions or other extenuating circumstances, please schedule an appointment with a DSO.

    For more information on SEVP regulations see here: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/schools/reg

  • USCIS Offices are open and adjudicators continue to process OPT or STEM OPT applications. Please review the USCIS website for updates.

    On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended routine in-person services to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS plans to begin reopening our offices on May 4, unless the public closures are extended further. USCIS staff are continuing to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public.

    OPT and STEM OPT applications are still being processed. If this changes, you will see updates on the USCIS website.

  • OPT and STEM OPT applications cannot be expedited.

    If you have concerns about your applications, contact a DSO.

    To see current Form I-765 work authorization for OPT/STEM processing time, refer to the USCIS Check Processing Time.

  • US Citizenship and Immigration Services: USCIS Response to the 2019 Coronavirus