Page last updated: May 20, 2020
Indiana University is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation. This page lists information specific for international students and scholars based on the most recent guidance from IU.
We understand this is a difficult time. Your safety and well-being remain our top priority. We hope these answers help you make decisions regarding travel, but please contact us if you have any questions.
There is a lot of information available on social networks. Remember that our office should be the first place you ask questions about your immigration status. The situation your friend is in may not be exactly the same as yours, and an answer provided to your friend may not apply to your situation.
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- History of updates
- May 20, 2020
- Added a FAQ in Visa and immigration about things to know if you want to enter the U.S.
- May 11, 2020
- Updated the FAQ in Visa and immigration about the ability to email I-20s
- April 24, 2020
- Updated the FAQ in Visa and immigration about the signed executive order about the temporary pause of green card issuance
- April 22, 2020
- Added a new FAQ in Visa and immigration about the pending executive order about the temporary pause of green card issuance
- April 9, 2020
- Added a new resource for admitted students under the Summer and fall semester plans section
- April 7, 2020
- Added an FAQ in Visa and immigration for Satisfactory/Fail grading option
- Updated resources in the requesting emergency financial assistance FAQ
- April 6, 2020
- Added an FAQ in Visa and immigration for assistance in finding flights homes
- Added an FAQ in Visa and immigration for requesting emergency financial assistance
- Added additional details in the information for admitted students
- April 3, 2020
- Added an FAQ in Visa and immigration about electronic I-20s
- May 20, 2020
Suspension of routine visa services
The U.S. suspended routine visa services on March 18. Read more in the "What if my visa is expired and I need a new visa?" section below.
Review the entry restrictions
Make sure you review the entry restrictions the U.S. has imposed related to COVID-19. These restrictions may remain in place indefinitely, so you should plan your fall travel with this in mind.
Visa and immigration
Our office is your primary resource on campus for immigration- and visa-related questions. We are dedicated to assisting you with these types of questions.
- Will my immigration status be impacted if I leave the U.S.?
No. On March 13, 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. This temporary provision is in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.
- 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 online classes for spring 2020, you are considered in valid status.
- Do I have to leave the U.S. or Bloomington?
No, you are not required to leave the U.S. or Bloomington.
Anyone who chooses to stay in the United States now may find it difficult to return home, or to travel elsewhere internationally, for an indeterminate period of time. As recent events have made clear, more and more governments are implementing entry restrictions, and other restrictions on air travel must be expected. These measures are often put in place with little or no advance warning.
If you live in IU housing
Students who do not have another residence, or cannot return there due to travel or other restrictions, will be permitted to petition to remain in IU housing. Review the information from Residential Programs and Services.
- Should I leave the U.S. or Bloomington?
We strongly advise students (with a couple of exceptions) return to their permanent residence, or if preferable, to a location elsewhere in the U.S. where you have family support.
If you want to apply for OPT
Federal regulations require you to apply for OPT from within the U.S. and to do so shortly after graduation. Because of this, if you want to apply for OPT, you should remain in the U.S.
If you are a graduate student
If you are a graduate student involved in on-going research or teaching assistantships or specialized activities requiring physical presence on campus, you should be in touch with your academic department for advisement. While such situations present unique considerations, every attempt should be made to ensure you are able to return to your permanent residence or to socially distance in off-campus housing as soon as possible. We urge graduate students to contact their program advisors for guidance.
- I'm graduating in May, what should I know?
If you are in F-1 status, your grace period (the time you're allowed to remain in the U.S. after your I-20 expires) ends on July 7, 2020.
You will need to leave the U.S. by July 7 unless you do one of the following by that date:
- Apply for Optional Practical Training
- Apply for a Change of Status
- Transfer to a new school
- Receive a new I-20 to start a new program at IU
- If I leave the U.S., what documents do I need to take with me?
- I-20, DS-2019, or I-797 forms
- Print and keep a copy of your most recent I-94
- Save evidence of your departure from the U.S. (boarding passes, copies of stamps in your passport)
- 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 you to 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 when they re-open for visa issuance.
On March 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of State announced it is suspending routine visa services in most countries worldwide. Department of State did not provide a date when services would return to normal. Check the website for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to see its current status.
If the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country is not currently issuing visa stamps, please continue to monitor their website for changes.
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.
- 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 created since our office closed to in-person traffic (on March 13) or for any I-20 we create over the next couple of months. 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. The significantly increased number of document requests received by OIS during this time is impacting processing times. Please be advised that processing of your request may be delayed due to this, but we are working diligently to respond as quickly as possible.
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, both can be provided. 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, will I be able to travel back to the U.S.?
Contact our office to discuss taking a semester off. There are multiple things to consider, and we can help you work through that process.
- If I am approved for reduced course load, can I remain in status by taking online classes?
If spring 2020 is your final semester, and 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 university moving to online instruction does not change your permission to complete your studies in the spring semester 2020. 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 or attend work, what should I do?
If you are ill for several days and unable to work (scholars) or participate in online class (students), contact us to discuss the immigration options you have. International students 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 have a financial emergency, what should I do?
The Division of Student Affairs has a process to request emergency funding.
- I want to return home, but I'm having problems making arrangements; what can I do?
We suggest you contact your nearest embassy/consulate in the U.S. They may have information to help you find a way back home, even if you cannot find a commercial flight.
- If I take a class with the Satisfactory/Fail option, will that impact my immigration status?
No, if a class is graded on a Satisfactory/Fail scale, this will have no impact on your immigration status.
Follow the information from Provost Lauren Robel or your academic department about the option for S/F grading.
- I heard the U.S. is going to pause all immigration; does this impact me?
The U.S. president signed an executive order on April 22, 2020, putting a 60-day pause (although it can be extended) on those wishing to permanently immigrate to the U.S. This impacts individuals who are currently outside the U.S., who are seeking to apply for immigrant status (i.e., permanent residence or green card), and who do not currently have a valid non-immigrant visa (e.g., H-1B, F-1, J-1, etc.) or have not previously been granted permanent resident status to enter the U.S.
Because of these specific guidelines, the executive order does not impact:
- Non-immigrant visa issuance (e.g., H-1B, F-1, J-1, etc.)
- Please note, however, that routine visa services remain closed at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide because of COVID-19; only visas for medical personnel providing medical care to COVID-19 patients or conducting research on the virus are being issued at this time.
- Non-immigrants who remain in legal status in the U.S.
- Individuals who have already been granted permanent resident status (regardless of whether you're inside or outside the U.S.)
- Applications that are currently being filed with or processed by USCIS (OPT applications, H-1B applications, I-485 petitions)
- Non-immigrant visa issuance (e.g., H-1B, F-1, J-1, etc.)
- I want to enter the U.S.; what do I need to know?
Review entry restrictions
The U.S. has entry restrictions if you are traveling from or have visited certain countries in the 14 days prior to your entry to the U.S.
Documents to carry with you
You will need to carry certain documents with you (i.e., do not put these in checked luggage) when you enter the U.S.
- Signed I-20 (F-1 students), DS-2019 (J-1 students or scholars), or I-797 form (H-1B, E-3, TN, or O-1 employee)
- Passport (valid for at least six months from the date you plan to enter the U.S.)
- Valid visa stamp
Additional information for current students or scholars
You need to submit a Travel Signature Request form in Atlas if one of these are true for you:
- Your most recent travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 is going to be older than 12 months from the date you plan to reenter the U.S. in the same program of study
- You are an undergraduate student with a new major
- I live in IU housing; what do I need to know?
Residential Programs and Services has the information you need about petitioning to stay in IU housing, moving out, storing items, etc.
- Do I have to break my lease in my non-IU housing?
No, you are not required to leave the U.S. or Bloomington, and thus, not required to break your lease with a non-IU housing provider.
- I need a storage or moving company, can you help?
We've put together a short list of storage and moving companies, some of which have provided a discount for IU students. See the list.
Note: IU and OIS do not endorse or recommend any specific storage or moving company. You are welcome to use one from the list or another one you find yourself.
Academics and classroom
Many questions about academics will need to be addressed by your professors, academic department, or IU Bloomington generally. We've provided some information, but always look to guidance from these other sources.
- I'm concerned about access if I return to my home country, what should I do?
Provost Lauren Robel has sent a survey to all students about internet connection. Follow any guidance you receive from IU or your academic department.
- Can IU provide a VPN?
Yes, all IU students have access to the IU VPN.
Depending on your country, you are able to access many campus resources (Canvas, One.IU, etc.) without a VPN. Zoom has some restrictions in China, but there is a workaround so you can access Zoom from China. Further, all professors will be recording their classes, so you will be able to watch them later in Canvas, Kaltura, etc. If you have questions or concerns, contact your professors for further assistance.
- Will professors record lectures for those in other time zones?
Professors have been encouraged to record all lectures and share them with their classes so you can watch it anytime. However, make sure you follow all guidelines from your professors regarding "attendance" and what that means in online classes.
Your professor will be sharing information with you before classes resume.
Summer and fall semester plans
- Will summer or fall classes be offered online?
IU decided to host all summer classes online. Look to your academic units for more information on the details.
At this time no decision has been made for the fall semester. When a decision has been made, that will be communicated to all students.
- I'm an admitted student; what do I need to know?
First-year freshmen students
There are several important changes to our process and deadlines for the fall 2020 semester.
If you are admitted for the summer semester, do not plan to travel to the United States for classes. All IU classes will be taught remotely for the summer. You can choose to defer to the fall or begin your classes online.
You should contact your academic department for any changes they may implement related to COVID-19.
Definition of common terms
We think it's useful to review some common terms to help you better understand the language we use.
- F-1 visa stamp
The F-1 visa stamp in your passport is just a stamp that you show at the U.S. border to ask to enter the U.S. in F-1 status. It has no purpose again unless you choose to travel outside the U.S. and want to apply again to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status. It is not required to be valid to remain inside the U.S. in F-1 status; you do need a valid F-1 visa stamp to enter the U.S.
Please note some U.S. embassy and consulates around the world may be closed or offering limited services as the COVID-19 challenges are global and not limited to the U.S., and an F-1 visa stamp can only be obtained at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside of the U.S.
- F-1 status
Your F-1 status is what allows you to remain legally inside the U.S. and continue to remain in the U.S. even with an expired F-1 visa stamp. Your F-1 status is shown by your I-94 that indicates you’ve been granted F-1 status and you are admitted in F-1 status for “D/S”. “D/S” means duration of status. That means you can continue to remain inside the U.S. in F-1 status for as long as you have a valid I-20 and you are continuing to meet all of the F-1 status requirements.
Otherwise, your F-1 status stay in the U.S. only ends once you’ve completed your study for the degree listed on your I-20 or until your OPT authorization ends. As you are on OPT, your F-1 status would remain valid as long as you continue to meet the F-1 status OPT requirements including working full-time in your field of study and reporting that employment.
- SEVIS record
This is a record in the U.S. government’s SEVIS database. To maintain the SEVIS record, an F-1 student has to be maintaining all of the U.S. government’s F-1 status requirements, including the enrollment requirements.
Please note the F-1 status requirements are not the requirements of the OIS or of Indiana University. They are the requirements of the U.S. government directly to each F-1 student in the U.S. If the F-1 status requirements cannot be maintained, this is a SEVIS violation and the SEVIS record has to be ended.
If the SEVIS record is ended while an F-1 student is inside the U.S., this reflects that there is a problem with the student’s F-1 status in the U.S. If the SEVIS record is ended while the student is outside the U.S., a new SEVIS record has to be created before the student can return to the U.S. again in F-1 student status.
The document created by the university’s Designated School Officials in the U.S. government’s SEVIS database. A valid I-20 is required to: apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate for an F-1 visa stamp; enter the U.S.; and to maintain F-1 status while inside the U.S.
The I-20 is issued for a specific program of study for a specific length of time for study in that program. If a student is maintaining F-1 status requirements, the I-20 ends on the date the student completes the final academic requirements for the degree program listed on the I-20, even if that is earlier than the estimated program end date printed on the I-20. If a SEVIS record is ended, that also ends the validity of the I-20.