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COVID-19 Related FAQs for International Students

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FAQ page - updated 11-13-2020

Contacting an ISS Advisor

I really want to talk with an ISS advisor. How can I set up a meeting?

ISS advisors are still available via phone and email as usual (keithquatraro@boisestate.edu). We are also available for Zoom video meetings, if you would like to do so.

If you are a new student to Boise State University then please reach out to International Admissions, who are available to meet with you (remotely by video) and answer any questions you may have.

I’ve read all the FAQs and my question/answer isn’t listed here. Please can you help?

We’re here to help through these challenging times. We can chat by phone or video conference, and we’re also available by email.

Course Registration & Immigration Requirements

What are the course formats for Spring 2021?

To accommodate physical distancing and other safety measures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the university made changes to its course schedule. Courses are being taught in three different formats: in-person, hybrid, remote and online.

If you would like to learn more about each mode of instruction click here.

For F1 student visa purposes hybrid and in-person courses count as on-campus courses. Unless you are ill, you must be genuinely attending the in-person elements of the class to count it as on-campus for immigration.

Remote and online classes, even if you are taking them while you are personally present at Boise State, do not count as in-person classes for F1 immigration purposes.

What are the immigration requirements for the Spring 2021 semester?

You must enroll full-time if you wish to remain in the U.S. in F1 status for the Spring 2021 semester. That is 12 credits (undergraduate) or 9 credits (graduate). There are some limited exceptions to enrolling full time for graduate students with only thesis/dissertation remaining, and for students in their final semester. In both cases, the exception requires prior approval from the ISS office.

Unfortunately, US Immigration has not given any information about registration requirements for Spring 2021. We will update this FAQ and send out a newsletter update if we receive any information. For now, we recommend that you register for as many in-person or hybrid courses as possible within your degree plan. If you are unable to register for any on-campus or hybrid courses then please contact us (internationalinfo@boisetate.edu). While we are hopeful that US Immigration will extend the flexibility that was provided for the Fall 2020 semester into the Spring 2021 semester, we cannot guarantee this until it is officially confirmed.

If you are planning to study outside the US for Spring 2021 then complete our leave of absence form before the semester begins.

If you are in the middle of your program and you are planning to study entirely online next semester from outside the US please complete our Leave of Absence from Campus form. It is important to complete this form before the semester starts, especially for health insurance enrollment purposes.

If you are a new student at Boise State University for the Spring 2021 semester then please contact an advisor in International Admissions for registration requirements.

Are thesis and dissertation credits on-campus?

Thesis and dissertation credits are coded as in-person. Once you enroll you can see the mode of instruction within your Student Center.

As in regular semesters, you should plan to take the credits from the Boise area, unless your research requires you to be elsewhere in the United States. If you are doing research from outside the U.S. then please contact International Student Services (internationalinfo@boisestate.edu) for the appropriate form for research abroad.

Spring 2021 is my final semester. Do I need to be enrolled full-time?

You can request permission to be enrolled less than full-time if it is your final semester. You can read more about Final Semester requirements here.

We recommend that you have at least one on-campus or hybrid course if it is your final semester.

If you want to take your final courses online you can do so from outside the U.S.. However, if your final semester is outside the U.S. then it may impact your ability to apply for post-completion OPT work authorization. USCIS does not currently allow students to submit OPT applications from outside the U.S.

If you want to take your final semester online from outside the U.S. then please complete our Withdrawal Form as soon as possible so that we can correctly update your immigration record.

Travel and Visas

What documents do I need to re-enter the U.S.?

First, check the travel restrictions to make sure you can enter the U.S. These depend on where you are traveling from, and where you have traveled recently.

We recommend that continuing students have the following documentation to enter the U.S. (required items are in bold):

  1. Valid passport (generally must be at least 6 months left, but some countries must have 1 year of validity left)
  2. Valid I-20, with a valid travel signature (a valid travel signature is less than 12 months old) if you need a travel signature on your I-20, please request one via our I-20 request form.
  3. Valid F-1 visa stamp (Canadians are exempt from this requirement)
  4. EAD card (ONLY for students on OPT or STEM OPT) as well as evidence of employment, and a travel signature that is less than 6 months old
  5. Unofficial Boise State University transcript. This helps show that you are an active student making full-time progress towards your degree. It also helps to show that you were enrolled full-time. You may be required to show the mode of instruction for your courses, so be prepared to provide that information.

Can I travel outside the US?

We understand that the holiday season and winter break is often a key time to reconnect with family and friends, especially after such a difficult and stressful year. You should make the best decision for your own personal circumstances but we urge you to carefully consider the challenges of travel outside the U.S.

We encourage you to review the Boise State COVID Travel page. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a Travel Information website related to COVID-19, and specifically recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to countries at Warning Level 3. Please note that these ratings can change rapidly and without warning.

Here are some other considerations:

  1. Airlines have restricted travel and are cancelling many routes, often with little notice. If you wish to travel home, please check for the earliest possible departure and routes. Keep in mind that this may also make it difficult to find a flight to return to the U.S.
  2. Check that you are able to to enter your destination and transit countries (travel restrictions and transit visa requirements) and if there are any self-isolation requirements. The Embassy for your home country is one source of information on travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.
  3. Check if your F1 visa has expired, or if it will expire soon. Many Embassies are still closed, and most do not have visa appointments without a long wait list. This could make it very difficult to renew your visa and may delay your return to the U.S.
  4. You can only apply for OPT work authorization from inside the U.S. If you are outside the U.S. for your final semester then you may not be able to apply for OPT if you leave the U.S. Consult an ISS advisor (internationalinfo@boisestate.edu) if you have questions about applying for OPT.

Where can I check current travel restrictions?

Although we cannot guarantee the up-to-the-minute accuracy of these websites, many people have found these websites to be useful. You may also wish to check with your airline before booking travel or traveling.

IATA website

US Department of State – on travel to other countries

CDC – on travel to the U.S.

When will Embassies and Consulates open for visa appointments?

The U.S. State Department has indicated that some Embassies are open for visa appointments, and others may open in the near future. As they reopen, the availability for visa appointments has varied depending on staffing and volume of requests. Continue to check the website for your Embassy or Consulate for more details.

Remember that you only need to apply for a new F1 visa stamp if your current F1 visa has expired and you are outside the U.S.

If you are having difficulty getting a visa appointment and are unable to get to Boise State then please contact us (internationalinfo@boisestate.edu).

I am in the U.S. and my visa has expired. How do I renew my visa from within the U.S.?

You cannot apply for a new visa stamp from within the U.S.

However, you do not need to reapply for your F1 student visa if you are not leaving the U.S. It’s alright to be in the U.S. with an expired F1 student visa, so long as your I-20 has not expired and you continue to follow all the rules and regulations for F1 student status.

I am in the U.S. and my passport is expiring soon. How do I renew my passport from within the U.S.?

Please contact your local Embassy or Consulate inside the US for passport renewal requirements. Even if your Embassy or Consulate is not accepting applications be sure to document your attempts to renew your passport.

I-20 Updates & Reprint Requests

I’ve moved to another room or apartment. Do I need to update anything?

Yes, the regulations have not changed about contact information updates.  If you’ve moved to another address within the U.S. then please complete our Change of Address form within 10 days of the move. Students on OPT or STEM OPT should update their address using the SEVP OPT Portal.

What do I do if I’ve lost my I-20 or updated my I-20 and I need a new one?

Complete our online request for a new I-20. If you have changed your major or minor, complete our change of major/minor request for a new I-20.

I forgot to get a travel signature on my I-20. Can I get one now?

Please complete our online request for a new I-20.

U.S. Immigration is temporarily allowing students to use emailed I-20s with travel signatures for travel but if possible, we recommend having an original document with an original signature for travel. If you have received an I-20 by email then remember to print it out and sign it before using it for travel.

If you are inside the US then we can mail the I-20 to your address by regular mail.

Employment and Finances

I have an on-campus job. How is it affected?

Please talk with your supervisor about your employment. Remember you are still restricted to 20 hours/week of on-campus work during the semester, even if classes are online.

U.S. Immigration is temporarily allowing F1 students to do their on-campus jobs on a remote basis.

My on-campus job is not available during this time. I’m worried about my financial situation. Are there any resources available to help?

The Dean of Students Office has a Student Emergency Fund.  It might be a good place to start if you are concerned about finances in the event of a university closure (see here for information).  They also operate a food pantry that you can access.

We’ll continue to update you if we learn of any other funding opportunities or exceptions the US Government provides related to on/off-campus work in this period.

Please contact us (internationalinfo@boisestate.edu) if you continue to have concerns that COVID-19 has affected your financial situation.

Has U.S. Immigration allowed students to work off-campus due to COVID-19?

The F1 student visa regulations regarding employment have not changed.

International students on F-1 student visas are restricted to 20 hours/week of on-campus work only. No off-campus work is allowed, unless you are authorized under CPT (used for academic internships) or OPT (used for working after your degree).

There are some very limited options for work permits based on Unexpected Economic Hardship.

OPT - Optional Practical Training

How do I apply for OPT during this period?

OPT is the work authorization students use to work in the US after completing their academic program.

USCIS still requires students to apply for OPT from within the U.S. The I-765 application form also requires a U.S. mailing address for your EAD (work authorization card) and any other OPT-related correspondence. You can get further information on OPT on our website.

If you are completing your degree in Spring 2021 then it is very important to attend an OPT informational workshop soon so that you are ready to apply when your application window opens in mid-February. Applying for OPT early in the application window is particularly important this semester. You do not need a job in place to apply for OPT.

I’ve applied for OPT but I want to leave the U.S. Will that affect my OPT application?

You can depart the U.S. while your application is pending, but you should be aware that there are some potential risks in doing so.

  • Any OPT-related mail will go to the mailing address that you put on your I-765 form. If no-one will be able to receive your mail then you should find another reliable U.S. mailing address and update USCIS and the ISS office with your address change.  If you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) at that address then you will need to be able to review it and respond to it very quickly, as they are time-sensitive.  If you do not respond to the RFE by the deadline provided then your OPT will be denied.
  • If your OPT is approved while you are outside the U.S. then you will need your EAD card and updated I-20 (with travel signature) to return. You may have difficulties re-entering the U.S. after the program end date on your I-20 if your OPT is still pending.
  • If your F1 visa has expired then you will need to apply for a new F1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, most of which are currently closed. It can be difficult to renew an F1 visa without your OPT approval and verified future employment.

I’ve already left the U.S. and plan to finish my program online. Can I apply for OPT?

If you have already left the U.S. then you are no longer able to apply for OPT.

I’m on OPT but my place of work is closed. What should I do?

Please continue to work directly with your employer on whether you can work remotely. If you cannot work remotely and you are getting close to 90 days of unemployment then please contact ISS/Ruth Prince for further guidance (ruthprince@boisestate.edu).

I’ve reached the EAD end date of my OPT/STEM and I have not reached the maximum number of unemployment days. I’m getting near the end of my 60-day grace period to remain in the U.S. Can I stay longer?

Please contact an ISS advisor if you are in this situation. There are some limited options if no flights are available and if it’s not possible for you to return home.  Please note that the 60-day grace period at the end of your OPT is only available if you have not reached the 90-day unemployment limit.

I am on OPT and my employer has temporarily reduced my hours to less than 20 hours/week. Am I accruing unemployment days?

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.

If you have lost your job or have no hours of work then you must update the last date you worked as the end date for your position in the SEVP portal. If you no longer have any employment or work hours then you would accrue unemployment days. Remember, you have 90 days of unemployment during your first year of OPT. If you’re already on the 2-year STEM Extension then you are allowed a total of 150 days in the 3-year OPT period. It’s OK to use those days!

I am working remotely on OPT / STEM OPT during COVID-19. Do I have to update my place of employment in the SEVP Portal?

SEVP has confirmed that you do not have to update your worksite address while temporarily working remotely during the COVID-19 period. If you work remotely on a permanent or long-term basis even after your company returns to working onsite, then you will need to update your worksite address at that time. Students on STEM OPT who have a worksite address change should contact Ruth Prince (ruthprince@boisestate.edu) for more guidance.

Government-sponsored students

I am a student sponsored by SACM or KCO. How will I request my letters and documents?

The letter request process will not change. If you need to submit a letter request, please visit Sponsored student letter requests.

I really want to talk with the Sponsored Student Coordinator. How can I set up a meeting?

The Sponsored Student Coordinator is still available via phone and email as usual (keithquatraro@boisestate.edu). Zoom meetings and Google Hangout sessions are also available.

Health and Wellness

As an international student at Boise State, your health and well being are our first priority. Please continue to check Boise State University’s main page for the latest Campus updates regarding COVID-19. Below are helpful links we have found to help you address stress and anxiety you may be feeling. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you feel you have any questions or concerns.

Coronavirus Resource Center

Tips and Strategies to deal with the effects of Physical Distancing

University Health Services

Bronco Fit