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International Student FAQ

Updated January 29, 2021

SPRING TERM

There is no timeline for an SEVP announcement. Until a change in policy is announced, students with Initial SEVIS records are prohibited from entering the United States to attend a fully remote instructional program.

If Caltech is granted permission to offer a small number of in-person laboratory courses for undergraduate students, only undergraduate students in those courses will be allowed to enter the United States with an Initial SEVIS record. Undergraduate students with Initial SEVIS records should not plan to enter the United States until specifically confirmed for in-person course enrollment by the Registrar's Office. Undergraduate students eligible for in-person courses will be contacted by the Registrar's Office. Undergraduate students should not inquire with the Registrar's Office about their status. Contact ISP before planning travel, as a new I-20 may be needed.

Under current guidelines, securing a visa is not dependent on housing, whether on campus or in off-campus housing, but rather on the kind of academic programming that is offered.

Upper-class students who are continuing F-1 international students (with Active SEVIS records) can enter the United States to participate in a fully-remote academic program of the kind that Caltech currently provides. 

Unfortunately, first year students who have not yet entered the United States in F-1 status, and who have Initial SEVIS records, are not eligible to enter the United States to participate in our fully-remote academic program. This is based on the SEVP Fall Guidance, which has not been updated. Until this changes, Caltech is not able to facilitate the entry of these students in the United States.

Again, international students who remain abroad should follow updates available on the International Offices' "Current Travel Guidance" webpage, and should reach out to isp@caltech.edu if they have questions or concerns.

WINTER TERM

Caltech announced its plans to maintain a primarily remote instructional model for the winter term. This means that any international student who currently holds an Initial SEVIS record, who is outside of the United States, and who is not participating in an in-person program, must remain outside the United States. Students with Initial SEVIS records are prohibited from entering the United States to attend a fully remote instructional program. If a student in a fully-remote instructional program with an Initial SEVIS record enters the United States, ISP will be unable to register the student's SEVIS record and the student will be advised to depart the United States immediately. All other continuing students who had an Active SEVIS record on March 9, 2020 may re-enter the United States, regardless of whether Winter Term is remote or in-person, subject to visa and travel restrictions discussed below.

VISA ACQUISITION

Based on local conditions, some U.S. Consulates accept regularly scheduled visa appointments, while others only schedule emergency or expedited visa appointments. Review the information on your U.S. Consulate's website. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/list-of-posts.html

Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement but must comply with all other F-1 or J-1 regulations and restrictions.

SEVP currently allows electronic Form I-20 issuance and ISP can send Forms I-20 to students via email. We recommend that you print the electronic I-20 to present during a visa interview (if applicable) and for entry to the United States.

Your F-1 visa should contain an annotation that matches the SEVIS number or school name (or both) on your I-20. Contact ISP for further guidance.

You may continue with plans to apply for a visa (if necessary). We want you to be prepared to travel to the United States when suspensions of entry are lifted and when Caltech is able to support in-person instruction for you in accordance with SEVP and EVP guidance.

ISP has updated all Initial SEVIS records with a new program start date of March 29, 2021 to match the beginning of instruction for Spring term 2021. This is done for visa application purposes only and to avoid having the Initial records auto-terminated by SEVIS. This is not a guarantee that in-person instruction will be available for Spring term 2021. We will continue to revisit this term by term.

Note: An F-1 visa may only be issued by the consulate within 120 days of the program start date on the I-20. If you have an F-1 visa interview scheduled, contact ISP for guidance.

On December 30th, the Department of State announced that the resumption of routine visa services would occur on a post-by-post basis (that is, by country to country), based on local conditions. F-1 students are listed as a third priority, after U.S. citizen services, and after people coming to the United States to assist in response to the pandemic.  As a result, student access to visa services in their home country may be delayed.

Unfortunately, Caltech cannot in any way schedule or arrange visa appointments on behalf of students, since the process is a personal application.  Nevertheless, the knowledgeable and deeply committed International Offices staff provide regular updates on visa policies and processes on their "Current Travel Guidance" webpage. Students should review this webpage regularly as relevant policies have been changing over time.

TRAVEL AND ENTRY TO THE UNITED STATES

Review all travel restrictions and possible exemptions, as well as testing requirements on https://international.caltech.edu/travel-new/current_travel_guidance.

Students with valid F-1 visas may travel directly from European Schengen countries, United Kingdom, and Ireland to the United States. Students with valid J-1 visas must contact a U.S. Consulate to initiate an exemption request. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/national-interest-exceptions-from-certain-travelers-from-the-schengen-area-uk-and-ireland.html

Prior to your travel date, you can contact ISP to request the Associate Director's contact information.

SEVP currently allows electronic Form I-20 issuance and ISP can send Forms I-20 to students via email. We recommend that you print the electronic I-20 to present during a visa interview (if applicable) and for entry to the United States.

No. J-1 students must travel with a hard copy, original Form DS-2019.

We recommend that you register with your home country Embassy. If you need to leave the United States, your home country Embassy may be able to assist with repatriation flights.

STUDENTS WITH INITIAL SEVIS RECORDS

ISP will continue to update (defer) your SEVIS program start date. We will provide an updated I-20 or DS-2019 when Caltech is able to confirm your in-person enrollment.

ISP will continue to update (defer) your SEVIS program start date. We will provide an updated I-20 or DS-2019 when Caltech is able to confirm your in-person enrollment.

With regard to your immigration support, yes. Since you have an Initial SEVIS record, you are not required to maintain a full course of study. However, you must consult with the Dean's Office or Grad Office for further guidance.

STUDENTS WITH ACTIVE SEVIS RECORDS

Request a travel signature from ISP. ISP can send electronic Forms I-20 via email and hard copy Forms DS-2019 by mail.

Generally, any student who takes time off from studies is placed on a medical or non-medical leave of absence.

Continuing undergraduate students may be eligible for a medical leave without interrupting their SEVIS record. Contact ISP in advance for guidance. If an undergraduate student takes a non-medical leave, ISP would be required to terminate the current SEVIS record.

Continuing graduate students may be eligible for a medical leave without interrupting their SEVIS record. Contact ISP in advance for guidance. A graduate student may be eligible for a non-medical leave (vacation term) without terminating the current SEVIS record. Depending on the type and timing of the leave request, ISP may be required to terminate the current SEVIS record.

If you are in the United States at that time of the SEVIS termination, you would have 15 days to depart the United States. Whenever you are ready to return to the United States to resume full-time enrollment at Caltech, ISP will issue a new, initial I-20. This document would contain a new SEVIS number, and you may need to pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee. Refer to the I-901 SEVIS Fee Frequently Asked Questions at https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/faq#_Toc81222150 for information. Keep in mind that a new, initial SEVIS record would currently prohibit you from reentering the United States until Caltech can confirm in-person instruction for you.

An Active SEVIS student may take less than a full course of study if a reduced course load request is approved by the appropriate office and if the proper notification and documentation is provided to ISP prior to the underload. Consult with the Deans Office or Grad Office if a reduced course load may be needed.

Continuing students who are outside the United States and are enrolled in a full course of study can maintain Active SEVIS records.

Yes, Active SEVIS students can enroll in 100% remote course of study and can travel, subject to current travel restrictions. Keep in mind that the current Caltech travel guidance discourages all travel. Review all travel restrictions and possible exemptions https://international.caltech.edu/travel-new/current_travel_guidance.

EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION

Eligibility for OPT requires that a student has maintained an Active SEVIS record for a minimum of one academic year (3 terms) prior to the start of OPT. If you maintain a full course of study from outside the United States, your SEVIS record will remain active. This should allow you to apply for OPT; however, current regulations require physical presence in the United States at the time of OPT application. Contact ISP for further guidance.

If you continue your program from abroad, your SEVIS record can remain Active, and you can participate in Academic Training.