COVID19 FAQs for International Students

ISSS will continue to provide timely support to you throughout this period. Your health and safety-- as well as your immigration status-- continue to be our top priorities.

Below we address some frequently asked questions for international students. If you need additional clarification or have questions that are not answered below please do not hesitate to reach out to our office at [email protected]. Now more than ever it is crucial that you check your albany.edu email address daily.

General Office Procedure Questions

Q: Will ISSS be open? What if I need help from an ISSS advisor?

Q. How do I schedule an appointment to talk to an ISSS advisor?

Q: What if I have a document request for ISSS, can I submit it electronically?

Q: What if I have a document I need to pick-up from ISSS?

Q: Where can I find the most up-to-date information?

Registration and Academic Considerations for F-1/J-1 Students

Q. Where can I find policy guidance on registration requirements for F-1/J-1 students for Spring 2021?

Q. Does the University's decision to suspend in-person instruction (PAUSE) impact my status?

Q. How will courses be offered in Fall 2021?  What will the DHS registration requirements be for Fall 2021?

Q. What should I know if I am planning to return to the U.S. for in-person coursework in Fall 2021?

Q. What if I can’t return to the U.S. for in-person coursework in Fall 2021?

Employment Considerations for F-1/J-1 Students

Q. Can I continue working on-campus remotely?

Q. Are students still eligible to apply for CPT authorization? Can students work remotely while authorized for CPT?

Q: I’m graduating this term, can I still apply for post-completion OPT?

Q. I am a new, initial student starting in Fall 2020. I know students must complete one academic year full-time (a fall and spring term) prior to being eligible for practical training. If I start my program overseas, does that count towards my academic year count for practical training (CPT/OPT) eligibility?

Q. Due to the current job market, I’m worried about finding a job on post-completion OPT before I exceed the 90 days of unemployment allowed. Do you have any suggestions?

Q. I am on post-completion OPT/STEM OPT and my employment hours have decreased due to COVID-19. Is this okay? What do I need to report?

Q. I am working remotely on OPT/STEM OPT due to COVID-19. Is this okay? What do I need to report?

Q. What is off-campus work authorization due to economic hardship, and how do I apply?

Quarantine & COVID Testing Considerations for F-1/J-1 Students

Q. What are the quarantine requirements/recommendations?

Q. How can I get food and supplies while in quarantine?

Q: I will be taking a fully remote course load and not come on campus for any reason during the Spring 2021 semester. Do I still need to take the mandatory COVID-19 test?

Q: Where can I get a COVID-19 PCR and/or antigen test in New York State?

Travel and Visa Considerations for F-1/J-1 Students

Q. Is it okay to travel outside the U.S.?

Q. What travel restrictions/risks should I consider if I’m planning to travel outside the United States?

Q. How do I request a travel signature for my I-20 or DS-2019?

Q. What about renewing my F-1 or J-1 visa? Will that be possible at this time?

Q. I recently completed my F-1/J-1 program and am now in my grace period (the grace period is 60 days for F-1 students, 30 days for J-1 students). What if I’m having trouble finding a flight to depart the U.S.?

Wellbeing and Financial Considerations for F-1/J-1 students

Q. I am facing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 emergency. What resources are available for international students?

Q. I am experiencing food insecurity.  Are there local food banks available?

Q. Where can I find information about the CARES Act, stimulus checks, an unemployment insurance, and how those relate to F-1/J-1 international students?

Q. I am feeling stress/anxiety. What resources are available? Where can I go for help?

Q. I have health concerns related to COVID-19. Is Health Services open?

Housing/Living Considerations for F-1/J-1 students


Q. How do I report where I am currently living?

 

General Office Procedure Questions

Q: Will ISSS be open? What if I need help from an ISSS advisor?
A. Yes, ISSS will continue to be open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. However, our office has transitioned to a remote advising format. This means that the physical office space will be closed and advisement will be conducted remotely via email, phone and Zoom.

Q. How do I schedule an appointment to talk to an ISSS advisor?
A. Students who have questions and concerns that cannot effectively be communicated over email will be able to set up an appointment with an ISSS advisor over Zoom. These appointment slots will follow our normal advisement hours (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9am-4pm). Be prepared to schedule your appointment at least 24 hours in advance to allow time for advisors to prepare for the appointment.

You may schedule a remote advisement meeting by following the steps below:

  1. Click this link.
  2. Select an appointment date.
  3. Click the appointment time you want. Click “Confirm”
  4. Under “Enter Details” answer the questions.
  5. Click the blue “Schedule Event” button.
  6. You should get an initial email from Calendly confirming your request for an appointment. Then, an ISSS advisor will email you with the Zoom Meeting details once the Zoom Meeting is scheduled with an advisor.

Q: What if I have a document request for ISSS, can I submit it electronically?
A. All document requests may be submitted electronically, either through an Eform or fillable PDF document which you can email to [email protected] You can access all forms on our website here: https://www.albany.edu/isss/forms.php.

Q: What if I have a document I need to pick-up from ISSS?
A. There will be no in-person pickup of documents. Alternate options for delivery of documents are:

  1. Electronic Delivery (I-20s only)- Due to COVID-19 emergency guidance, students may request receive an electronic, signed I-20 scanned through email.  The student is responsible for printing this I-20 out. If you do not have access to a printer please consider one of the two options below to have a paper I-20 mailed to you.
  2. Standard USPS- this option has no fee, but also no tracking number and takes on average 3-10 business days to arrive. Email [email protected] the address you want the document sent to. This option would not be appropriate if you need a paper copy quickly; if it is an EAD card; or for international mailing.
  3. Order an E-Ship Label- use this option if you want the paper document quicker; want it tracked; it is an EAD card; or if you need the document sent internationally. Here are the instructions for ordering an E-Ship Label: https://www.albany.edu/isss/91191.php. Email [email protected] to confirm once you have ordered the label.

Q: Where can I find the most up-to-date information?
A. The University will continue to update its website, as will ISSS. Please continue to regularly check your albany.edu email address for any emails.

 

Registration and Academic Considerations for F-1/J-1 Students

Q. Where can I find policy guidance on DHS registration requirements for F-1/J-1 students for Spring 2021?

SEVP announced that the March 2020 guidance (the same guidance used during the Fall 2020 term) remains in effect until further notice.  Based on this, the online course registration requirements a student followed in Fall continue to be in effect for that student during Spring.  Students who were actively enrolled and in an active F-1 or J-1 SEVIS status as of March 9, 2020 may enroll in a fully online course of study and maintain status (full-time registration is still required).  Students who do not meet this criteria are required to enroll in at least one in-person or blended/hybrid course to maintain F-1 or J-1 status.

At this time, we ask that all students please review our UAlbany CIEGS/ISSS Spring 2021 Policy Guidance for F-1/J-1 Students, available here.  If you have any questions please email [email protected] 


Q. Does the University's decision to suspend in-person instruction (PAUSE) impact my status?

We appreciate students’ cooperation in ensuring all health and safety directives are followed to keep our community safe. 

New students who entered the U.S. on an initial I-20/DS-2019 after March 2020 to begin a program of study in the U.S.  are required to have at least one in-person or blended/hybrid course or credit to meet the DHS requirements. In the event the University must suspend in-person class meetings it is our understanding that most new students would have already had some form of in-person instruction this semester, and therefore have met the requirement. If you have questions about your specific circumstances please contact ISSS.

Continuing students (i.e. students who were actively enrolled in active F-1 or J-1 status as of March 2020 or earlier) are currently eligible to maintain status with a fully online schedule whether studying from inside or outside the U.S. Therefore, a suspension of in-person instruction would not impact their status. However, continuing students must remain registered full-time or on an approved reduced course load to maintain status; a fully online schedule is acceptable for DHS requirements for continuing students who have been actively enrolled since March 2020.

We understand that students-- including new students who elected to begin their program from outside the U.S. -- may have questions about Fall 2021. DHS has not yet announced their guidance for Fall 2021. If you intend to study inside the U.S. in Fall 2021, please proceed with scheduling the next available appointment to obtain a F-1 visa or renew a F-1 visa if your visa will expire before your intended return. New students should obtain an I-20 or DS-2019 from Undergraduate Admissions or Graduate Admissions with Spring 2021 dates, since that is the date you plan to enter the U.S. to begin your F-1 or J-1 program of study. Should guidance from federal authorities, the University, or local public health officials require you to adjust your plans we will be here to provide you advice and guidance as necessary.

Q. How will courses be offered in Fall 2021?  What will the DHS registration requirements be for Fall 2021?

On March 1st, Provost Kim emailed students the plans for Fall 2021, which you can review here: https://www.albany.edu/covid-19/news/2021-ualbanys-plans-fall-2021.  In the message, Provost Kim shares that “In April, when the fall semester’s course schedule is released, you will see that class delivery for the fall will be largely in-person. Advance registration for the fall semester begins April 22, 2021.”  Students should therefore prepare to return to a mostly in-person course schedule for the Fall 2021 term.  Students can review the modality for each specific course once the schedule of classes is released in April.

DHS has not yet announced whether their flexibility with online course-load limitations will extend into Fall 2021.  Therefore, we are currently recommending that F-1 and J-1 students prepare for the possible return to normal DHS regulatory requirements; students should plan to limit the number of fully online courses they enroll in for Fall 2021.  Normal DHS regulations require that F-1/J-1 students enroll in no more than one fully online or distance education course (or 3 credits) counting toward the minimum number of credits needed for full-time enrollment during the semester. If the student only needs one course to complete the program of study that course cannot be fully online.  You can read more about these normal requirements on our website here: https://www.albany.edu/isss/85532.php

NOTE: Are you unable to return to the U.S. for fall 2021 semester but want to enroll in courses?  See below, What if I can’t return to the U.S. for in-person coursework in Fall 2021?

Q. What should I know if I am planning to return to the U.S. for in-person coursework in Fall 2021?

We know many students currently overseas will need to begin planning their return. Below are tips for planning your return.  This information can change so you should continue to check your UAlbany email regularly and communicate with our office about changes to your plans:

  1. Enroll in Fall Courses
    • The Fall course schedule will be available starting in April 2021
    • Consult your academic advisor when selecting your courses
  2.  Follow DHS Registration Requirements for Fall
    • DHS has not announced yet whether or not they will continue to allow flexibility with online course load restrictions in Fall 2021
    • If you plan to study inside the U.S. in Fall 2021 please plan to enroll in a mostly in-person schedule (e.g. in-person, blended/hybrid, and arranged courses) in case DHS reinstates the normal online course limitations for F-1/J-1 students. The normal regulations are available on our website under "Current Students."
  3. Prepare Travel Documents
    • Required: Valid passport (with at least 6 months validity remaining); Valid F-1/J-1 visa; valid I-20 signed for travel within the past year on page 2 (6 months is recommended) or valid DS-2019 signed within the past 6 months for travel
      • If you did not take classes in Spring 2021 please contact ISSS about requesting a new I-20 after readmission.
    • A “valid” visa generally means that the F-1/J-1 visa in unexpired and/or never revoked. If the visa you currently hold was issued for a different SEVIS ID than your current I-20 please contact ISSS for case-by-case advisement
    • As of the writing of this (March 2021), Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 is required for all air passengers to the U.S.
    • To request a new I-20 with an updated travel signature, please click here: https://www.albany.edu/isss/91185.php
    • Recommended Documentation: Transcript/proof of enrollment; Proof of finances
  4. Check for travel restrictions and requirements
    • Always check with your airline for the latest information on required documentation.
    • Executive Orders restricting travel are still in place for:
      • China, Iran, Brazil and South Africa: Travelers cannot enter the U.S. if they were physically present in any of these countries in the 14 days preceding entry. If this is still in effect when you plan to return, please make the necessary arrangements for your travel plans (you cannot travel directly back to the U.S.)
      • Schengen Region, UK and Ireland: F-1/J-1 students are eligible for a NIE waiver from the Executive Order
      • Canada/Mexico: limitations on entry at land crossing (does not apply to air passengers).
  5. Follow any quarantine requirements and/or recommendations upon return
    • Students living on-campus should follow the instructions they receive from the Office of Residential Life for any move-in and/or quarantine requirements.
    • Students living off-campus are responsible for arranging their quarantine space.
    • Please follow all state, local, and University quarantining and testing requirements.
    • More information, including information on food delivery and how to obtain a COVID test, is available in the below FAQ section on quarantining and testing
  6. Talk to ISSS about your plans
    • We know there's a lot to keep track of.  Please reach out to ISSS to share your plans and ask any questions you have about DHS requirements, travel restrictions, and other issues
    • Email us at [email protected] or schedule a Zoom appointment with us

This information is also available as a PDF guide; please click here.

Q. What if I can’t return to the U.S. for in-person coursework in Fall 2021?

We recognize that there are several factors which may limit a student’s ability to return to the U.S. for in-person coursework in Fall 2021.  First, please reach out to ISSS if you are encountering difficulties so that we can support you and point you to any resources available at that time.

In terms of class availability, students should consult their academic departments about whether or not the courses they need will be accessible remotely in Fall 2021 and/or whether other academic accommodations can be made.

While DHS is currently allowing continuing F-1 students to maintain an active status while enrolled remotely full-time from overseas, we do not know if they will extend this flexibility into Fall 2021 or not.  Students studying outside the U.S. are not required to have an active F-1/J-1 status to enroll in courses, but a deactivated status could affect a student's future return to the U.S. and/or the student’s future eligibility for practical training (CPT/OPT). Please contact ISSS for case-by-case advisement.

Employment Considerations for F-1/J-1 Students

Q. Can I continue working on-campus remotely?
A. From an immigration perspective, SEVP has said the following about on-campus remote work: “If the current on-campus employment opportunity has transitioned to remote work or the employment can be done through remote means, students may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely. Schools should be able to explain how the students are providing services associated with the employment while not at the location of the employer.” Students may work up to 20 hours per week on-campus during the semester and are eligible to work more than 20 hours during the annual breaks/vacations while classes are not in summer (winter break, summer break, spring break) as long as all other student employment policies are met. Students should discuss with their supervisor(s) whether or not they are allowing remote work for the student's position and under which conditions, as well as how to document how the on-campus employment is conducted remotely. Human Resources requires that students have a physical presence in the United States will engaging in most forms of student employment.

Q. Are students still eligible to apply for CPT authorization? Can students work remotely while authorized for CPT?
A. Yes, students who continue to meet all eligibility requirements for CPT are eligible to apply for CPT authorization as normal. Students are also allowed to engage in CPT remotely as long as the employer is able to provide training remotely and the academic department supports the remote academic internship. As before, students must be authorized for CPT prior to beginning any work.

Q: I’m graduating this term, can I still apply for post-completion OPT?
A: Yes, students who are studying in the United States and are otherwise eligible for OPT may still apply for post-completion OPT. Please be sure to carefully review the OPT requirements before applying (https://www.albany.edu/isss/87855.php). If you will be studying fully online from outside the U.S. in Spring 2021 and graduating in Spring, your OPT eligibility will be jeopardized. Please contact [email protected] for more information.

Q. I am a new, initial student starting in Spring 2021. I know students must complete one academic year full-time (a fall and spring term) prior to being eligible for practical training. If I start my program overseas, does that count towards my academic year count for practical training (CPT/OPT) eligibility?

A. Pending any further DHS guidance contradicting this issue, students will be able to work toward academic year requirement for practical training while studying full-time outside the U.S.  If you will begin your program overseas in Spring 2021 while in initial status, with the intent of entering the U.S. in F-1 status in Fall 2021, and you will be registered full-time for the entire Spring 2021 term (full time is defined as 12 credits for undergraduate students, 9 credits for graduate students), your Spring 2021 term may count towards your one academic year full-time eligibility requirement for CPT/OPT. All other CPT/OPT eligibility requirements must continue to be met, including that you are in an active F-1 status at the time of the internship.  Please note that DHS/USCIS is the agency that approves the OPT application, not UAlbany ISSS.

 

Q. Due to the current job market, I’m worried about finding a job on post-completion OPT before I exceed the 90 days of unemployment allowed. Do you have any suggestions?
A: The current job market will be competitive. However, remember that for purposes of post-completion OPT the practical training may be paid, unpaid or volunteer as long as it directly relates to your major field of study. While under normal circumstances students must engage in at least 20 hours per week of practical training to be considered fully employed while on OPT, DHS has stated that “For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT.” Please also continue to check your weekly newsletter for resources and events being offered through UAlbany (such as by ISSS or Career Services) as well as for off-campus resources which may help you with your employment search as well.

Q. I am on post-completion OPT/STEM OPT and my employment hours have decreased due to COVID-19. Is this okay? What do I need to report?
A. While under normal circumstances students must engage in at least 20 hours per week of practical training in order to be considered fully employed on OPT, DHS has stated that “For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT.” You can report the change by submitting a Post-Completion OPT Employment Reporting EForm or STEM OPT Reporting Employment EForm, click here.

Q. I am working remotely on OPT/STEM OPT due to COVID-19. Is this okay? What do I need to report?
A. Yes, students are allowed to work remotely during COVID-19. DHS has stated that STEM OPT students do not need to update the Form I-983 in this event. Students on post-completion OPT and STEM OPT may send [email protected] an email notifying us that you’re working remotely due to COVID-19, and we will save that email with your file.

Q. What is off-campus work authorization due to economic hardship, and how do I apply?
A. Please remember that working off-campus without authorization is considered a serious violation of F-1 status which could result in loss of status and/or loss of eligibility for future benefits or applications. However, F-1 students who have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year and are experiencing a severe, unforeseen and demonstrable financial need may be eligible to apply to USCIS for off-campus employment authorization due to severe economic hardship. Interested students should contact [email protected] for more information. Please be advised that this application process will not be a quick-term solution for most students, as USCIS processing times average between 3-7 months or longer. Students with more immediate financial needs should email [email protected] about other, non-employment based financial resources.

J-1 students experiencing economic hardship should also reach out to [email protected] for more information.

Quarantine & COVID Testing Considerations for F-1/J-1 Students

Q. What are the quarantine requirements/recommendations?
A. Before travelling back to the U.S. and/or New York State (NYS), please review the University requirements and the New York State (NYS) quarantining recommendations carefully.  As of April 10th, NYS has updated their quarantine requirements to recommendations.  The NYS Traveler Form is still required.

Students who will live-on campus must also follow the move-in instructions from the Office of Residential Life.

Q. How can I get food and supplies while in quarantine?

Students living on-campus who are quarantining on campus should follow the meal delivery instructions provided by the Office of Residential Life.

Students living off-campus may utilize food delivery services, many of which are contact-free. The local Walmart  will deliver food and many local grocery stores provide delivery through Instacart.  You can also order delivery from a local restaurant, many of which we have listed here.  Many services will accept payment online or by phone.  It is also a good idea to have some cash available if needed.

Q: I will be taking a fully remote course load and not come on campus for any reason during the Spring 2021 semester. Do I still need to take the mandatory COVID-19 test?

A: Please review the “Who is eligible for a waiver/exemption” section of the University’s website, here: https://www.albany.edu/covid-19/pre-arrival-requirements-students

Q: Where can I get a COVID-19 PCR and/or antigen test in New York State?

A: All students, including those currently living in the Albany area, can visit the New York State Department of Health’s website to find a nearby test site.  The zip code for the University at Albany campus is “22222” if you’d like to search nearby campus.

Please call the testing site or your health care provider before you go for testing to ask about whether it is a free testing location or requires insurance or other charges.

If you go to a test site run by New York State, there is never any charge for your test.

If you go to a test site operated by local governments, private companies including pharmacies and medical practices or not-for-profit organizations, you are advised to check with the testing site and your insurer in advance of being tested to confirm you will not be responsible for any fees associated with your test.  Students are responsible for arranging for testing and paying associated costs, if applicable.   Tests may not be covered by insurance if a physician does not order them.

Travel and Visa Considerations for F-1/J-1 Students

Q. Is it okay to travel outside the U.S. ?

Our office  does not recommend international travel at this time, if avoidable.  This is because the situation can change rapidly and with little notice, including travel restrictions, travel bans, and lack of flight availability. Students should consider these risks before choosing to travel.  We have also seen that the situation can change at a moment’s notice, so there is unfortunately always an elevated risk while travelling when the pandemic is ongoing.

If you choose to travel, please remember that you must have an I-20/DS-2019 with a valid travel signature when re-entering the U.S. (travel signatures for enrolled students are valid for 1 year; travel signatures for students on OPT are valid for 6 months), a valid passport (with at least 6 months validity remaining), and a valid F-1/J-1 visa when re-entering. You can find the request Eform for a travel signature on our website here.

Q. What travel restrictions/risks should I consider if I’m planning to travel outside the United States?
A: International travel at this time poses special challenges. We therefore encourage any student who wants to remain in the United States while studying to avoid any travel outside of the U.S. at this time, if at all avoidable.

Below is a list of travel restrictions/risks you should consider before travelling:

  • Currently, there are federal executive orders which may prevent entry by individuals who have been present in the following regions/countries in the 14 days preceding their attempted entry: China; Iran; European/Schengen countries; the United Kingdom and Ireland; Brazil; and South Africa (South Africa was added on January 25, 2021).  
    •  In July 2021, U.S. Department of State stated that individuals with a valid F-1 visa from the Schengen Region, United Kingdom, and Ireland may seek entry to the United States without requesting a national exemption waiver. Individuals with a J-1 visa from the Schengen Region, United Kingdom and Ireland should contact their local consulate regarding a national interest exemption waiver.   Presidential Proclamations restricting travel for individuals (including F-1 and J-1 students) who have been physically present in China, Iran, Brazil and South Africa in the 14 days preceding their attempted entry to the U.S. are still in place, though individuals may contact their local consulate for further details about whether or not they may qualify for a national interest exemption waiver.
    • U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are exempted from these bans.  
  • Additionally, there are restrictions on land entry from Canada and Mexico.
  • Even outside of these federal bans, flights and airline travel worldwide are severely limited at this time.
  • Most international (and inter-state) travelers arriving to the U.S. are currently required to complete a Traveler Form upon arrival to New York State, please read more on NYS's website here, including quarantine recommendations: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory
  •  Human Resources requires students to be physically present in the United States to hold an assistantship or other student employment positions, so if you are unable to return to the U.S. unexpectedly it could jeopardize your student employment.
  • Starting on January 26, 2021, the U.S. Center for Disease Control requires any person entering the U.S. to have a negative viral COVID test within 3 days of boarding their flight.  You can read more here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html .  Please check with your airline for more information.

 

Q. How do I request a travel signature for my I-20 or DS-2019?
A. We understand that choosing whether to stay in the U.S. or depart the U.S. is a difficult decision. If you choose to depart the U.S., please do the following:

  1. Read the above answer to "What if I’m planning to travel outside the United States? What travel restrictions/risks should I consider?"
  2. Check the travel signature on page 2 of your I-20 (F-1) or page 1 of your DS-2019 (J-1). Travel signatures are valid for 1 year for F-1 enrolled students, 6 months for J-1 exchange visitors and F-1 students on OPT.  If you need a new travel signature, please:
    • Complete the Request for Updated or Travel Signature I20/DS2019 Eform.
    • Indicate in your Eform how you want to receive your documents. The options are:
      1. Electronic Delivery (I-20s only)- Due to COVID-19 emergency guidance, students may request that an electronic scan of the I-20 be emailed to them. The student is responsible for printing this I-20 out. If you do not have access to a printer, please consider one of the two options below to have a paper I-20 mailed to you
      2. Standard USPS- no fee, no tracking, and takes 3-10 business days to arrive. Email the advisor the address you want the document sent to. This option would not be appropriate if you need the document quickly; if it is an EAD card; or for international mailing
      3. Order an E-Ship Label- use this option if you want the document quicker; want it tracked; it is an EAD card; or if you need the document sent internationally. Here are the instructions for ordering an E-Ship Label: https://www.albany.edu/isss/91191.php. Email [email protected] to confirm once you have ordered the label.

Q. What about renewing my F-1 or J-1 visa? Will that be possible at this time?
A. First, remember that in order to remain in the United States a F-1 or J-1 student needs a valid passport and a valid I-20 or DS-2019. It is okay if the F-1 or J-1 visa expires while you’re within the United States; a valid F-1 or J-1 visa is only needed to enter the U.S. as a F-1 or J-1 student. We do not recommend international travel at this time, particularly if your visa is expired or will be expiring. Many embassies and consulates  still have very limited availability for visa renewals. Therefore, trying to renew a visa at this time is very difficult, and students should avoid travel if possible.

Q. I recently completed my F-1/J-1 program and am now in my grace period (the grace period is 60 days for F-1 students, 30 days for J-1 students). What if I’m having trouble finding a flight to depart the U.S.?
A. Finding a flight to depart the U.S. may be very difficult at this time. SEVP/ICE has acknowledged this difficulty for many students who have recently completed their F-1 or J-1 program. In general, students have the following options to extend or change status during the grace period:

  1. If you are a F-1 student who recently graduated from a degree seeking program, apply for OPT through USCIS to pursue employment in the United States (this extends F-1 status).
  2.  If you’re accepted to a new degree program that will start within 5 months of your program end date, you can apply for a SEVIS transfer (if another school) or change of level I-20 (if at UAlbany) prior to the end of the grace period.
  3. If the above options don’t work, you could look into applying for a change of status with USCIS to change your status to visitor status. If going with this option it’d likely be beneficial to work with an immigration attorney. ISSS can provide references upon request. (Please note: F-1 students who were admitted D/S are not eligible to use the USCIS I-539 for an extension of F-1 status, but may use it to file for a change of status to a different category).
  4. While DHS has not officially extended any grace periods, if you do stay beyond the grace period, you should carefully document why you were unable to leave and any attempts you made to leave (ex: records of flight cancellations beyond your control, etc…).

 

Wellbeing and Financial Considerations for F-1/J-1 students

 

Q. I am facing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 emergency. What resources are available for international students?
A. We understand that many of our students are facing financial difficulties and employment challenges during this time. We have compiled resources below for students with questions or seeking assistance on this topic, please click here for the list. If you have questions or don't see the form of help you're looking for, contact [email protected]

Q. I am experiencing food insecurity.  Are there local food banks available?

Yes.  There is the Purple Pantry on-campus, and there are also community organizations off-campus.  If you are experiencing food insecurity please also reach out to ISSS for help finding resources.

Q. Where can I find information about the CARES Act, stimulus checks, an unemployment insurance, and how those relate to F-1/J-1 international students?
A. Many international students have been inquiring about COVID-19 federal CARES Act benefits like stimulus checks, unemployment insurance under (PUA), and the related public charge rule. Students are encouraged to research and consult a diversity of tax, immigration and employment law firms, state and federal departments of labor, and national immigration organizations. We have compiled information on these topics, available here. This document is for information purposes only and does not take the place of professional, competent legal and tax advice on these matters.

Q. I am feeling stress/anxiety. What resources are available? Where can I go for help?
A. It is normal to experience stress and have an emotional reaction to the evolving global health situation, and resources are available to help you. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is still open. Learn more about their daily operations on the CAPS website. CAPS has also put together a helpful Psychological Tips for Managing Concerns Related to Coronavirus, here.

Q. I have health concerns related to COVID-19. Is Health Services open?
A. Student Health Services is open virtually, and ready to answer questions and schedule telemedicine appointments.

Call 518-442-5454 for assistance or visit the Student Health Services website.

 

Housing/Living Considerations for F-1/J-1 students

Q. How do I report where I am currently living?
A. F-1 and J-1 students are still required to keep their SEVIS USA and SEVIS Foreign addresses up to date in MyUAlbany. Remember that these addresses should reflect where you physically reside, even if temporarily (like staying with a friend or relative during the COVID-19 emergency) and must be updated within 10 days of moving.

If you’re in the United States, please make sure that your SEVIS USA address reflects where you are currently physically residing in the United States. If you’re currently outside the U.S., make sure that your SEVIS Foreign Address is correct and that your SEVIS USA address reflects your most recent physical residence within the United States. Instructions on how to update your addresses are available here.

 

Disclaimer:
The information contained in this web site/form is provided as a service to international students, faculty and staff at the University at Albany. It does not constitute legal advice. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site or form. Neither the University at Albany nor ISSS is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel; students may wish to consult an immigration attorney on the specifics of their case as needed.