Coronavirus/COVID-19 FAQ

Mar. 17, 2020

 

June 24, 2020:

Update Regarding June 22, 2020 presidential proclamation:

 

On Monday, June 22, an Executive Order was signed which limits th visa issuance/entry of certain individuals on H-1B, J-1, and several other related visa statuses.   The full text of the proclamation can be found here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-aliens-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-following-coronavirus-outbreak/  A brief summary by NAFSA of the order and its impacts can be found here: https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/proclamation-suspending-entry-certain-h-j-and-l-nonimmigrants

 

Broadly speaking, this order prevents the issuance of H-1B - and some J-1 category - visa stamps at U.S. embassies/consulates abroad and prohibits certain individuals from entering the U.S..

This order does impact the following individuals:

--H-1B, H-2B, L-1, and certain J-1 exchange visitors (this does NOT impact those in the J-1 professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, or various student categories) who are outside of the U.S. as of June 22nd and who do NOT already have a valid visa stamp as of June 22nd.

A couple of clarifying notes:

--This order does not impact individuals who are already in the U.S. as of June 22nd.

--This order does not impact individuals outside of the U.S. who already have a valid visa stamp in their passports (for one of the impacted statuses) as of June 22nd.

--This order does not impact the J-1 short-term scholar, J-1 research scholar, J-1 professor, or J-1 student categories (degree-seeking student, non-degree-seeking student, and student intern categories are not impacted)

--The order appears not to impact Canadian citizens, who are already visa-exempt. (However, this is not explicitly made clear by the order.  We are waiting for further clarification as to whether or not this will impact Canadian citizens).

--The order does not impact green card holders (lawful permanent residents)

 

 

 

 

 

March 2020:

OISS Update on Remote Services

In light of recent events and to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, The Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) is preparing to work remotely. At this time, all in-person appointments have been canceled. If you need to speak with an advisor, you may still do so via phone, email, or video conferencing options. OISS advisors will continue to work with you remotely via email/phone/video conferencing, etc. We will also continue emailing you updates regarding the ongoing situation as soon they become available. Application documents, etc. can still be emailed directly to OISS (oiss@unlv.edu), and they will be reviewed accordingly by an advisor. Our contact information is listed below. 

If you need to obtain missing immigration documents (e.g., an I-20), please contact OISS directly.

F-1 Students Currently Enrolled at UNLV

  • Can I stay in the United States while taking classes online?

Yes. On March 13, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that they are temporarily relaxing the limits on online coursework for international students during the COVID-19 situation. As such, F-1 students at UNLV can currently continue to maintain their F-1 status this spring semester while instruction is provided in an online-only format.

  • Can I go home to finish the spring 2020 semester online?

Yes. On March 13, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that they are temporarily relaxing the limits on online coursework for international students during the COVID-19 situation. SEVP clarified, in their published guidance, that students may complete their online courses from outside the United States this semester while keeping their SEVIS records "active".

If students are returning home to where it is difficult for them to access the online modules for their classes, we recommend that students install a Virtual Public Network (VPN) to keep up with their coursework. Learn more about how to install the VPN. Contact Information Technology at 702-895-0777 or ithelp@unlv.edu for questions or help.

  • What will happen to my F-1 status? Since I'll be outside of the United States for more than five months, will my F-1 status/I-20 be canceled?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has published guidance that students may complete their online courses from outside the United States this semester without impacting their F-1 status/I-20 record. As stated above, UNLV OISS will be keeping the SEVIS record "active" for international students who have chosen to complete their online coursework in their home country.

If you decide to stay in your home country during the Fall 2020 semester, please note that we have not yet received guidelines for SEVIS I-20 Records/F-1 status from the U.S. government for that period. Therefore, if you decide to stay in your home country during the Fall 2020 semester, you may need to file for a Temporary Leave of Absence for the Fall 2020 semester.

  • Are classes online for the rest of the semester, or will they be back on-campus later?

The official UNLV announcement to campus is that classes are transitioning online beginning March 23. No official statement on the duration of this change has been made as of yet. However, our assumption at this point is that classes will continue to be taught online through the remainder of the spring semester. We recommend that international students planning on completing their online courses from outside the United States notify their professors and notify OISS using this Google Form.

  • If I travel back home, what should I take with me, and when can I return to the United States?

F-1 students should keep all of the usual travel documentation with them. This includes:

  • A current passport that is valid for at least 6 months after returning to the U.S.
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp
  • Most recent/current I-20 with a valid travel endorsement signature
  • (Not required but STRONGLY recommended) Proof of Enrollment (i.e., unofficial or official transcript, enrollment verification, etc.) and a copy of your travel history and most recent I-94.

In light of the impact of the COVID-19 situation, we are recommending that students come back to the U.S. at least 3 weeks before the start of the Summer 2020 term or the Fall 2020 semester in case of any additional travel restrictions/quarantines. Due to the potential for unforeseen changes regarding COVID-19, travel plans may continue to be interrupted, and we cannot predict at this time when travel restrictions may be lifted.

  • How do I know if I have my most recent I-20 or if my travel signature is valid?

If students have questions regarding their I-20 in preparation for international travel, students should email a picture of the first and second pages of the latest I-20 to oiss@unlv.edu.

The first page will inform their advisor if they have the most recent I-20, and the second page will let the advisor know when the travel signature will expire.

To check if the "Travel Endorsement" has expired, please check the second page of the I-20, where there should be a section that says "Travel Endorsement." It should have the signature of a DSO/advisor that endorses re-entry, and each signature is valid for 1 year. For example, if it was signed March 16, 2020, then it is valid until March 15, 2021.

If a new I-20 and/or new travel signature is needed, both the I-20 Reprint Request Form and the City of Birth Form must be completed. Once OISS receives both, an advisor will update the I-20 and email it to the student.

  • I thought that I-20s could only be picked up in person or mailed to me. Is this I-20 valid?

In light of recent circumstances due to the COVID-19 situation, the government (SEVP) released guidance allowing advisors/DSOs to issue I-20s with valid travel signatures electronically to students. Unfortunately, the rest of the U.S. government (e.g., USCIS, CBP, State Department, etc.) have not verified that they will accept these I-20s.

As a result, OISS will send an email explaining SEVP's decision along with the I-20. Students should then:

  • Print the I-20 in color and sign page 1
  • Print the email explaining SEVP's guidance
  • Staple the I-20 and the email together, with the email on top

The email sent from OISS should help the student explain the situation to CBP and facilitate travel between their home countries and the United States.

  • Should I get traveler's insurance when making these plans?

As mentioned before, the situation seems to be continually changing, so we recommend that students who insist on traveling make sure to purchase traveler's insurance to protect themselves if they must change their plans last minute.

  • Can I work more than 20 hours per week on CPT or on-campus since classes are online?

Although classes may have moved online, students should still behave as if the semester is continuing as usual. F-1 students with active I-20 records must still maintain F-1 status through regular full-time enrollment this semester (though all the courses may be online). This includes, but is not limited to: working no more than 20 hours per week on CPT if authorized for part-time, notifying OISS if the student has ended their CPT early, notifying OISS if they plan to change their employers on CPT, etc.

Students working on-campus are also not allowed to work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session, even if the student's department moves to remote work. On-campus employment can only exceed 20 hours per week when classes are not in session such as Spring or Winter Break.

  • Can I apply for OPT while outside of the country?

No, federal regulations state that students must be in the U.S. to submit their OPT application. If a student plans to apply for OPT, we do not recommend that they travel outside of the U.S. as OISS does not want students to potentially get stuck outside of the U.S. and lose their OPT benefit.

  • What if I just applied for OPT and have been told that employers are not hiring?

At this time, the government hasn’t announced any changes to OPT requirements, including OPT unemployment maximums (90 days, 150 for STEM OPT). Our office will continue to update you if there are any developments. Remember that for those on post-completion OPT (NOT STEM OPT), may report eligible volunteer positions (still directly related to the major and above 20 hours per week) to be considered “employed” for OPT purposes. Students may also work with their employers to arrange for remote working/teleworking alternatives to remain employed, if possible.

  • Can I postpone my graduation since hiring has slowed down?

Unfortunately, students cannot extend their academic program just because employers have a hiring freeze in place. If you are still completing all of your program requirements this semester, you cannot extend your program/ I-20. Contact OISS with any questions.

For students who haven’t yet applied for OPT, students can request a later start date (closer to the end date of their 60-day grace period) to give the U.S. time to bounce back from this epidemic and hopefully have the job market start to return to normal.

  • How can I know what my health insurance covers?

If you have any questions about your health insurance coverage, approved doctors, or if you have not received your health insurance card for this year, please contact USI at studentinsurancesvc@usi.com or 1-800-853-5899.

F-1 Students Currently on Approved OPT

  • Will my unemployment keep counting down?

As of right now, students on approved OPT still have a maximum of 90 days of unemployment allowed (150 days for those on STEM OPT). Our primary professional organization, NAFSA, has been in contact with the U.S. government to address these concerns but has not received any updates at this time. When an update has been issued, we will let students know as soon as possible. As of right now, all regular OPT requirements are in place.

  • I have lost my job or am worried about losing my job. What happens to my 90-day unemployment clock if I can no longer work due to the COVID-19 situation?

First, it is important to determine if you are being laid off or if you are being placed on "temporary leave in accordance with your company's leave policies."

In the first scenario, being laid off, this means that you do not have a job to come back to and will be asked to reapply.

If you are placed on leave – whether paid or unpaid – this means that your workplace is temporarily suspending services, but will keep your position for you and expect you to return when the company reopens. If you are not sure, please ask this question directly of your boss or your HR office, as this is a very important distinction. If you are being placed on leave in accordance with official policy, then the days you are not working will not count as unemployment and will not count against your 90-day maximum period of unemployment (your "unemployment clock").

If you are being laid off, however, you are required to report this end in employment (online via the OPT portal website) within 10 days. These days will count against your 90-day unemployment clock.

It is important to note that the international community has asked SEVP and USCIS to issue guidance on this issue and consider a temporary halt in the counting of unemployment days – if any update is released (and we hope it will be) we will share it with you. In the meantime, we have to operate under the normal rules. If you are not clear on how many days you have left of your 90-day unemployment clock, please contact OISS for an update.

  • What should I do if I am laid off due to budget cuts related to COVID-19?

If you have been laid off of work due to budget cuts related to the COVID-19 situation, then you will need to seek additional employment from another company/workplace. At this time, no special accommodations have been specified by the U.S. government regarding this situation. Remember that for those on post-completion OPT (NOT STEM OPT), may report eligible volunteer positions (still directly related to the major and above 20 hours per week) to be considered “employed” for OPT purposes. Students may also work with their employers to arrange for remote working/teleworking alternatives to remain employed, if possible.

  • Do I qualify for unemployment if I am laid off?

Unemployment benefits are administered at the state level.  Each state in the U.S. determines its own eligibility criteria and application process for individuals to receive unemployment insurance/benefits.  Unfortunately, most international students will not be eligible to apply for unemployment insurance in Nevada. However, DHS has clarified that - in the instance where a nonimmigrant may be eligible for state unemployment benefits - these are not negative factors in public charge determinations.  OISS is continuing to seek guidance at the state level for further clarification.

  • What would happen if my employer temporarily closes down but I am not laid off?

At this time, no changes have been announced regarding F-1 employment rules. Students need to be working full-time (20+ hours per week) with an eligible employer in order to maintain F-1 status on OPT. Remove working/teleworking arrangements may be possible with your employer, or you may remain employed on approved leave.

Remember that for those on post-completion OPT (NOT STEM OPT), may report eligible volunteer positions (still directly related to the major and above 20 hours per week) to be considered "employed" for OPT purposes. Students may also work with their employers to arrange for remote working/teleworking alternatives to remain employed, if possible.

J-1 Exchange Visitors

  • What steps do I need to take if I am ending my J-1 program early?

Please email a J-1 departure form directly to Jason Lawrence (jason.lawrence@unlv.edu). Be sure to communicate with your hosting program/department. If you part of the College of Engineering, also notify COE International Programs (eip@unlv.edu).

  • What should I do if I am continuing my program (student internship, J-1 research program, classes, etc.) remotely/online at this time?

Please complete this Google Form with the relevant information about the (temporary) changes to your J-1 program. If you have any problems, concerns, or questions about your specific program, please contact Jason Lawrence (jason.lawrence@unlv.edu) directly for more information.

  • If I am traveling internationally, which documents are required?

As always, J-1 scholars should travel with the usual documentation:

  • most recent Form DS-2019, signed for travel by OISS (if you need a recent travel signature, contact OISS)
  • a valid J-1 visa
  • a valid passport (minimum 6+ months remaining from date of re-entry)
  • (Not required but STRONGLY recommended) a letter from your hosting academic department and/or your supervisor (interns, researchers) verifying your continued participation in your J-1 program and a copy of your travel history and most recent I-94

Note: Due to the complexities surrounding international travel due to the COVID-19 situation, please also notify OISS of any planned international travel.