Our office is your primary resource for these questions. The advice we provide one student doesn't always apply to the next student. So you need to contact us if you have questions about your situation instead of following advice from a friend or something you found on social media.
- Do I have to remain in Bloomington or the U.S. while I'm taking classes?
This answer depends on what your status is for spring 2021.
If you are a new student in the U.S. for spring 2021
You need to remain in Bloomington and participate in at least one in-person class (coded as P, HY, IN, or IS on your class schedule).
If you are NOT a new student in the U.S. for spring 2021
This means you were enrolled at IU or another school in the U.S. for spring 2020 OR you started your degree program in-person on the Bloomington campus in fall 2020.
You do not have to remain in Bloomington or the U.S., provided it works with your class schedule (that is, if you are in an in-person class, you need to make sure you are in Bloomington for the in-person portion). You can participate in your classes from anywhere inside or outside the U.S.
On March 13, 2020, the U.S. government announced that as long as you maintain full-time enrollment online during the COVID-19 emergency, there will be no negative impact on your immigration status, even if you depart the United States and take your IU classes online from elsewhere.
- What about the "5-month rule"?
The 5-month rule does not apply in this situation. As long as you maintain full time enrollment with your IU classes, you are considered in valid status.
- What if my visa is expired and I need a new visa?
Look to be sure that your visa stamp is truly expired. This is the sticker in your passport, given to you by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It is only possible to get a new visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S. If you are outside of the U.S., and your visa stamp is expired, you will need to apply for a new visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
You do not need to leave the U.S. if your visa stamp is expired. The visa stamp in your passport only needs to be valid to seek re-entry to the U.S. If you are in the U.S. and remain in the U.S. with an expired visa stamp, you do not need to take any action to get a new visa. You may do so on a future trip outside of the U.S.
- Can I extend my F-1 or J-1 student status?
You may have heard that you can file Form I-539 to extend your stay in the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1 student, but that is generally not true for F-1 and J-1 students at Indiana University. It is always best to contact our office with any questions related to your immigration status instead of relying on information you’ve heard from others.
Generally speaking, your F-1 or J-1 student status is valid (as long as you follow applicable rules for F-1 students and J-1 students) until you complete your program end date (plus the additional time for your grace period, which is 60 days for F-1 students and 30 days for J-1 students). If you wish to extend your stay in the U.S. beyond the end of your grace period, you only have a few options (learn more for F-1 students and J-1 students).
The U.S. government has not provided any additional grace period benefits because of COVID-19. If you are unable to leave the U.S. or extend your stay through employment authorization or further academic study by the end of your grace period, you need to speak to an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your options. An attorney may be able to identify a non-student immigration status that you can apply for. You can find an immigration lawyer through the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Our office cannot assist you with an application to change to a non-student status.
- I heard that you can send my I-20 or DS-2019 by email now; is that true?
Yes, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has stated that it is possible for schools to email the scanned I-20s to students.
We have introduced this as an option for any I-20s we create. It is likely this will be a short-term option from SEVP. We will continuously evaluate any guidance we receive from SEVP, and adjust our processes accordingly.
Students eligible for this option will receive a link from our office so they can request their electronic I-20.
Note: Because the use of electronic I-20 forms are new processes for both the Department of State and Customs and Border Patrol, you may consider requesting the physical I-20 be shipped to you for use at consular appointments or entry into the United States. If you would like both an electronic and physical copy of your I-20, we can provide both. Shipping costs for the physical I-20 form apply.
Additionally, this is not a possibility for students who receive J-1 documentation, as the Department of State's Exchange Visitor Program, which governs the J-1 program, has stated that an electronic Form DS-2019 is not permissible.
- If I choose to take a semester off, what should I know?
Contact our office to discuss taking a semester off. There are multiple things to consider, and we can help you work through that process.
Review our leave of absence website for F-1 students and J-1 students.
If you choose to not enroll in classes for a semester, we would need to end your current SEVIS record, which has some important consequences.
- You would have to leave the U.S. (if you are in the country).
- You would not be able to reenter the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1 student until you have a new I-20 or DS-2019 and have paid the SEVIS fee (currently $350 USD for F-1 students and $220 USD for J-1 students) again.
- You would not be eligible for off-campus work authorization (CPT or OPT) until you have completed a full academic year in the U.S.
- For example, if you returned in fall 2021, you would not be able to hold an off-campus internship until the fall 2022 semester.
- If you only need one semester to complete your program, you would not be eligible for CPT or OPT for that degree program.
If you choose to do so, complete the Student Exit form in Atlas before the first day of classes. Then, you need to contact us at least three months before the semester you plan to return to IU.
- If I am approved for reduced course load, can I remain in status by taking online classes?
If you have already been approved for a Reduced Course Load, you are considered to be a full-time student—even if you are enrolled in fewer courses than is typically considered full-time. The update to the academic calendar does not change your approval.
If you have concerns about your enrollment, please contact your academic advisor and the OIS.
- If I become ill and am unable to participate in class, what should I do?
If you are ill for several days and unable to participate in online class, contact us to discuss the immigration options you have. You may have an option to withdraw for a medical reason, and we would be able to assist you with that process.
If you are on an IU-sponsored medical insurance plan, you will not have to pay any out-of-pocket expenses for the focused test used to diagnose COVID-19. Any treatment related to the illness would have the same coverage that is currently available for any emergency or non-emergency illness (subject to the normal deductible, copay, or out-of-pocket amounts associated with your medical plan). Review the Anthem plan details for specific information or contact the IU Student Health Insurance Coordinator if you have questions about your coverage.
- I can't return to Bloomington; what should I do?
If you are a continuing student and you are unable to return to Bloomington, IU will help you continue your degree online to the greatest extent possible—some exceptions may include courses with clinical, studio, or performance components.
In all cases, you should work with your academic unit for guidance on how to continue making progress toward your degree.
The U.S. government has indicated that as long as you enroll in a full course of study, your SEVIS record will remain in active status.
- Do I need to take an in-person class if I have an approved "New Degree Program" e-form?
If all the following are true, you are not required to take an in-person class for spring 2021.
- The U.S. government doesn't change their guidance from what it currently is
- You were actively enrolled as a full-time student at IU on March 9, 2020
- You are starting a new degree program at IU (including F-1 students with a Change of Level I-20)
- You are otherwise complying with the terms of your status
However, we encourage all Hoosiers to continue to build their campus and community networks in Bloomington, even if they may be enrolled in only online courses.