International Student and Scholar FAQs on COVID-19


FAQs for international students
| FAQs for international scholars


FAQs for international students regarding suspension of on-campus classes

Emory University has announced that it is extending spring break until March 22 and then will transition to remote learning for the remainder of spring 2020 semester. We understand that it is challenging for you to navigate related changes, and we are here to support you. 

The following FAQs have been compiled from the previous message sent to all international students on March 12, as well as additional questions we have received since.  Please continue to let us know if you have any other questions or concerns. As new announcements and immigration resources develop, this page will be updated with relevant information. Check back regularly.  

Note:  Please carefully review  the CDC guidelines and  Emory guidelines before you decide to travel - whether domestic or international.  

I am wondering about my immigration status.

Due to the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 response, the US Department of Homeland Security has announced a special exception so that international students can continue their full-time studies this semester via remote learning. As a result, it is important that you do not drop your spring 2020 classes, but rather continue your current classes through Emory’s remote learning in order to maintain your immigration status.

All international students must log into ISSS Link and complete the Student Remote Learning Update e-form found under the General Student Services tab by March 27 to update your address (if moving) or confirm your US address (if not moving). It will ensure that ISSS remains able to help you maintain your SEVIS record.

Will remote learning from outside the US jeopardize my immigration status? 

No. For the spring 2020 semester, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed that F-1 status will remain valid even if the student participates in remote learning whether in the US or from outside of the US if the campus is closed due to COVID-19. As a result, it is important that students do not drop their spring 2020 classes, but rather maintain current enrollment through Emory’s remote learning in order to maintain their immigration status.

Can F-1 students engage in remote work for on-campus employment during remote learning?

On April 7, DHS announced that if the current on-campus employment opportunity has transitioned to remote work or the employment can be done through remote means, F-1 students may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely during the COVID-19 crisis.

Remember, to maintain valid F-1 status, you need to maintain full-time enrollment and continue with Emory’s remote learning until the end of this semester. It is still limited to no more than 20 hours per week even if you have more than one on-campus jobs.

Will my return in Fall 2020 be affected by the F-1 five-month rule? 

On March 23, DHS clarified that "Five Month Rule" is not applicable while COVID-19 measures are in place -- "Under current conditions, if an active F student leaves the United States to complete the spring term online, their SEVIS record should remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status."

Can I still live on campus? 

If you currently live on campus, please refer to the message from Emory Housing Operations with special instructions for international students who will have difficulty returning to their home country based on governmental travel restrictions due to COVID-19, and other exception criteria.

You should also complete the Emory Housing form to share your specific plans to either move out or stay on campus by Monday, March 16 at 5 p.m.

I am graduating in May 2020. How can I apply for post-graduation work permission?

If you are completing your studies in May 2020 and wish to apply for post-completion F-1 Optional Practical Training ( OPT) or J-1 Academic Training ( AT) to work in the US, please make plans to remain in the US as you cannot apply for OPT and AT from abroad.

Can I get a travel signature?

If you were not able to obtain a travel signature prior to departing, please do not worry as you do not need a travel signature to leave the US. When you are ready to return to the US, you can simply reach out to your ISSS advisor to coordinate the shipment of your signed I-20 or DS-2019.

How does this affect me as an international student studying abroad?

If you are currently participating in one of Emory’s study abroad programs, please contact your study abroad program advisor as they have country-specific information for you.

Can I travel internationally? 

If you choose to leave the US as you continue your spring semester online courses remotely, please closely monitor the entry requirements related to COVID-19 for your destination country abroad. When you are ready to return to the US, please visit  our website for relevant US entry restrictions.

Also carefully review  the CDC guidelines and  Emory guidelines before you decide to travel - whether domestic or international.   

What do I do when I decide where I will be studying remotely?

All international students must log into ISSS Link and complete the Student Remote Learning Update e-form found under the General Student Services tab by March 27 to update your address (if moving) or confirm your US address (if not moving). It will ensure that ISSS can help you maintain your SEVIS record.

Please submit this form each time you change your address (within 10 days of moving) during the remote learning period in Spring 2020, so that ISSS can continue to help you maintain your SEVIS record.

Can I continue my student employment for Emory while I am outside of the US during this remote learning period?  

Working for Emory from your home country involves multiple compliance considerations and may not be possible. From a US immigration compliance perspective, doing so during the COVID-19 crisis does not present challenges if you meet the following three conditions:

1. You maintain your full-time enrollment for this semester at Emory;
2. You continue with Emory remote learning through the end of this semester; and
3. You will enroll full-time at Emory in Fall 2020. 

However, performing work for Emory from outside the US can have significant tax and legal implications for you and for Emory that are outside the ISSS purview. Due to the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, telecommuting from outside the US may be permitted within certain parameters. Requests to do so must be considered on a case-by-case basis and must be requested and supported by your hiring department. Please ask your Emory hiring department to contact Global Services (Sarah Harlan Zegeye, Associate Director, sarah.harlan@emory.edu or 404.727.9127). 

Can I do a summer internship in the US?

Please check our  F-1 CPT page or J-1 AT page for eligibility, application process, and more. You can remotely submit your CPT or AT request form via ISSS Link. as long as you are returning to Emory for full-time studies in Fall 2020. 

I am transferring to a different university in the US after this spring semester. Can I transfer my SEVIS record to my new school if I am outside the US?

If you are a current student, your will be able to transfer your SEVIS record to your new school provided you remained an active, full-time student through spring semester and otherwise maintained F-1 status. Your new academic program must begin within 5 months of the end of the spring semester.

If you are a student on post-completion OPT, you will be able to transfer your SEVIS record to your new school provided you did not exceed the 90-day limit on unemployment days and you otherwise maintained F-1 status during OPT. Your new academic program must begin within 5 months of your SEVIS transfer release date or your OPT end date, whichever is earlier.

To request a SEVIS transfer, follow the normal transfer request procedures described on Transferring from Emory.

You will use your new I-20 from your new academic program to re-enter the US.

Can I file my US tax form(s) from outside the US?  

Emory provides tax software (Sprintax) for nonresidents to use to prepare their federal and state income tax returns. Sprintax can be accessed from inside or outside the US. However, if Sprintax determines you are a nonresident for tax purposes, you cannot e-file. You will be required to mail your tax return to the IRS. If you are owed a refund, be sure to keep your U.S. bank account open until the refund is deposited into your account. Visit our tax page for more information, including US IRS mailing address.

I have heard that US Consulates and Embassies are reducing their operations. Is that true? 

US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office has announced that in response to worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 outbreak, they would suspend routine visa appointments until further notice in the interest of public health. As resources allow, some embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency services. Each embassy and consulate will vary in their current operating status. Please visit  the US consulate near you for more information.

I have been admitted to a new degree program at Emory and have been sent an I-20. Should I apply for a visa and make plans to travel to Atlanta considering the travel restrictions currently in place?

Congratulations on your admission to Emory! As of now, there are no plans to continue remote learning into the Summer and Fall semesters, so it is advisable to make preparations to travel to Atlanta in time for orientation and the start of classes. Revisit this page and confer with your academic department as your travel date approaches as this may change. In the event that your first semester does begin with remote learning, ISSS will adjust the Program Start Date of your I-20 to more closely align with your arrival to campus.

Is USCIS closed due to COVID-19?

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has suspended routine in-person services in their local field offices and application support centers until April 1, to help slow the spread of COVID-19.  They will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. They will provide emergency services for limited situations.

However, USCIS Service Centers that adjudicate immigration applications like OPT, H-1B, etc. remain open. 

Can Emory help students with financial hardships due to COVID-19 and related changes? 

To help students remain focused on their educational goals, Emory University formally launched the EmoryTogether Fund — a $5 million fund designed to support our undergraduate, graduate and professional students facing financial hardships as a result of COVID-19. Students with direct COVID-19 related financial hardships are encouraged to apply for support through this fund, which will be available from March 23, 2020, through June 30, 2020. Applications should be submitted through www.finance.emory.edu/sfdc.

If you want to donate funds to or apply for the Emory Student Hardship Fund, visit here.  
 

Is ISSS open? 

ISSS remains operational although we must do a few things differently in light of the coronavirus outbreak. You can contact  your ISSS advisor by phone, email, or Zoom, and submit your e-form requests online as usual. 

We understand that this unprecedented decision will cause inconvenience and concerns. The Emory community is resilient and will come out of this crisis stronger than ever before. We are committed to helping you find solutions and connecting you to resources that will support you through this unusual semester. Please don’t hesitate to let  us know if you have any questions or need our assistance. 


FAQs for international scholars regarding COVID-19

The COVID-19 public health crisis requires people to do a few things differently. It can be challenging to navigate these new circumstances, and we are here to support you. The following FAQs have been compiled from questions we have received. Please continue to let us know if you have any other questions or concerns. As new announcements and immigration resources develop, this page will be updated with relevant information.  Check back regularly.  

Note: Please carefully review and follow  the CDC guidelines  and  Emory guidelines  to keep you safe and healthy during this time.

Due to COVID-19, my department is transitioning to telecommuting. Can I telecommute?

Due to the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is permitted within certain parameters. If you have not, please submit the Temporary Telecommuting Schedule Due to COVID-19 e-form in ISSS Link immediately as you might be required to take time-sensitive actions depending on your plan. If you have any questions about this, contact your ISSS advisor

Can I telecommute for Emory from my home country outside the US?

Telecommuting from abroad involves multiple compliance considerations and may not be possible. From a US immigration compliance perspective, as long as you are prepared to return to Atlanta and to Emory as soon as social distancing requirements have been lifted, working for Emory from abroad does not present challenges at this point.  
However, performing work for Emory from outside the US can have significant tax and legal implications for you and for Emory that are outside the ISSS purview. Due to the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, telecommuting from outside the US may be permitted within certain parameters. Requests to do so must be considered on a case-by-case basis. 
If you have not, you should immediately submit the Temporary Telecommuting Schedule Due to COVID-19 e-form in ISSS Link to share your desire to work for Emory from abroad. We will then connect your hiring department with Global Services to review tax and other legal implications for you and your hiring unit.

I am a J-1 scholar. Can I get a travel signature?  

If you need a travel signature on your DS-2019, please complete the travel information update e-form in ISSS Link with a shipping eform. Once your e-form has been approved, it will be mailed to you.

Can I travel internationally? 

Please carefully review  the CDC guidelines and  Emory guidelines before you decide to travel - whether domestically or internationally.  If you choose to leave the US, please closely monitor the entry requirements related to COVID-19 for your destination country abroad. When you are ready to return to the US, please visit  our website for relevant US entry restrictions.

I just arrived in the US. When should I attend a new scholar orientation?

Welcome to Emory! Please complete the New Scholar Arrival e-form in  ISSS Link and wait for our email instructions for next steps. You can get detailed information here.

I am a prospective scholar/employee. Should I still come to Emory?

Emory University remains open although students are transitioning to remote learning. As long as your Emory supervisor can accommodate you during this time of transitions, you are welcome here! But if you need to delay your arrival date, please let your ISSS advisor know.  

Due to COVID-19, I am moving to a different apartment. Do I need to report my address change?

Yes, you need to report your address change within 10 calendar days of moving. You can find the instructions here

I have heard that US Consulates and Embassies are reducing their operations. Is that true? 

US Department of State (DOS) Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office has announced that in response to worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 outbreak, they would suspend routine visa appointments until further notice in the interest of public health. As resources allow, some embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency services. Each embassy and consulate will vary in their current operating status. Please visit the US consulate near you for more information.

Special notes to scholars working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19:

DOS has annonced that they will allow visa appointments for scholars who are coming to the US to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19 (click here). You as a visa applicant needs to call or email the US consulate near you to request an emergency visa appointment.

If you are an MD, please obtain a letter from your department chair, describing your role in treating COVID-19 patients and educating medical school students and interns in the fight against COVID-19. 

If you are a researcher, you will need a letter from your department chair, describing the research and how it relates to COVID-19 and referencing this DOS announcement.

Has there been a suspension of USCIS Premium Processing due to COVID-19?

On March 20, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it was temporarily suspending premium processing service for I-129 and I-140 petitions until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The I-129 petition is used for H-1B filings, among other request types.  The I-140 petition filing is the first or second step of employment-based permanent residency cases.

Although H-1B premium processing service is suspended, USCIS has not suspended expedited requests.  If you are a medical doctor, we can try requesting expedited processing based on the high demand in the US for those skills. To do so, your department must provide ISSS with a letter explaining the great need in the community for physicians and the importance of faculty physicians who train medical school students. If you are a researcher working on COVID-19 research, we can also try requesting expedited processing based on the fact that such research is crucial and time-sensitive to save people's lives.

Is USCIS closed due to COVID-19?

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has suspended routine in-person services in their local field offices and application support centers until April 1, to help slow the spread of COVID-19.  They will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. They will provide emergency services for limited situations.

However, USCIS Service Centers that adjudicate immigration applications like OPT, H-1B, etc. remain open.  

Is ISSS open? 

ISSS remains operational although we must do a few things differently in light of the coronavirus outbreak. You can contact  your ISSS advisor by phone, email, or Zoom, and submit your e-form requests online as usual.

Will ISSS continue to file H-1B petitions during the remote advising period?  

As long as your hiring department and US government agencies remain open, ISSS can continue to file H-1B petitions. 

We understand that this unprecedented situation will cause inconvenience and concerns. The Emory community is resilient and will come out of this crisis stronger than ever before. We are committed to helping you find solutions and connecting you to resources that will support you through this unusual semester. Please don’t hesitate to let  us know if you have any questions or need our assistance.