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.

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

Q. What is the DHS guidance for online course loads during the 2022-2023 academic year?

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

Q. Are vaccinations/booster shots required by the University and/or to enter the U.S.? 

Q. What are the Spring 2022 Pre-Arrival Instructions for all students (new and continuing)?

Q. Which COVID-19 vaccines will be accepted by the University? 

Q. How do I submit proof of vaccination for COVID-19?

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

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

Q. Can I get a COVID-19 Vaccine in New York State?

Q. What are the rules for requesting a vaccination exemption?

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

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?

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

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

 

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

Q. What is the DHS guidance for online course loads during the 2022-2023 academic year?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a policy statement continuing the March 2020 pandemic related guidance pertaining to international student course registration at eligible campuses.

Therefore, similar to the 2021-22 academic year, UAlbany F-1 and J-1 international students who have been enrolled since March 2020 may register for any combination of in person, hybrid, and fully online courses during the 2022-23 academic year. F-1 and J-1 international students beginning studies after March 2020 must maintain registration in at least one non-fully online course (i.e. an in person or hybrid course) during the 2022-23 academic year.

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

Q.  Are COVID-19 vaccinations/booster shots required by the University and/or to enter the U.S.? 

A. All UAlbany students are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This mandate is in effect for any UAlbany student coming to any UAlbany campus or facility for any reason during the 2021-2022 Academic Year.   Course registration may be impacted for non-compliant students; incoming students who are admitted for a future term are encouraged to submit documentation of full vaccination in MyUAlbany as soon as possible (see below for more details).

All UAlbany students are required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot as soon as they are eligible and then submit proof to UAlbany.  To view the latest information on boosters, please visit the University's website

Effective November 8th most non-citizen, non-immigrant air passengers to the U.S. must show proof of full vaccination for COVID-19, including F-1 and J-1 students.  Students can review which vaccinations are accepted by viewing table 1 and table 2 of the CDC's website here.  The CDC has also released guidance on limited exemptions to the full vaccination requirement, which may include students traveling certain countries with limited vaccine availability.  For a list of which countries are considered eligible for an exemption, please view Table 4 on the CDC's website here.  Students should consult their airlines if they have any questions about providing acceptable vaccination documentation and/or whether or not they qualify for an exemption to the requirement. 

For more information about UAlbany vaccination requirements pertaining to all students, international students, and on-campus living students, please visit the Vaccinate UAlbany page.

Q. What are the Spring 2022 Pre-Arrival Instructions for all students (new and continuing)?

A. Please review all COVID-19 pre-arrival requirements on the University's website here.  Follow the instructions based on your situation.  Be sure to also review the sections on boosters, pre-arrival testing, and surveillance testing.  These sections apply to all students regardless of their current vaccination status.

Q. Which COVID-19 vaccinates will be accepted by the University?

Please review the University accepted COVID-19 vaccines under "Information on SUNY's Vaccination & Booster Mandate."

Q. How do I submit proof of vaccination for COVID-19?

Please visit the Vaccinate UAlbany website for detailed instructions and submit your proof of COVID-19 vaccination to the Student Health Portal.

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: 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 “12222” 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.

Q. Can I get a COVID-19 Vaccine in New York State?

A.  Currently, residents of New York State ages 5 and older are eligible for a vaccine in New York State.  This means that if you live in New York State and are age 5 or over you are eligible.  There is no cost for the vaccine, though you may be asked to provide your insurance information/card.  Please review information on how and where to get a vaccine on New York State's website here: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ 

Q. What are the rules for requesting a vaccination exemption?

Please review the information for requesting a medical or religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement on the University's Vaccinate UAlbany webpage.

You do not need to request an exemption if you plan to begin or complete your vaccination series immediately upon arrival to Albany.

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

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

We advise students to exercise caution when making international travel plans at this time.  If you are considering traveling, please review the following to make the best decisions regarding travel based on your personal circumstances:

  1. Most non-citizen, non-immigrant air passengers to the U.S. must show proof of full vaccination for COVID-19, including F-1 and J-1 students.  Students can review which vaccinations are accepted by viewing table 1 and table 2 of the CDC's website here.  The CDC has also released guidance on limited exemptions to the full vaccination requirement, which may include students traveling from certain countries with limited vaccine availability.  For a list of which countries are considered eligible for an exemption please view Table 4 on the CDC's website here.  Students should consult their airlines if they have any questions about providing acceptable vaccination documentation and/or whether or not they qualify for an exemption to the requirement.  Please note: UAlbany requires students to be fully vaccinated.
  2. Travel restrictions can change with little notice.  Flights and airline travel worldwide are still limited at this time.  Additionally, consular and embassy services may be limited in certain countries.
  3. Student should review CDC travel recommendations based on the country(ies) they plan to visit
  4. 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.

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. Students on OPT must also carry their EAD card and are highly encouraged to carry proof of employment.  You can find the request EForm for a travel signature on our website here.

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 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:

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.

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.