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International Student FAQ

Updated August 3, 2020

VISA ACQUISITION

The Department of State has announced a phased-in resumption of regular visa processing. This means that, based on local conditions, some U.S. Consulates are accepting regularly scheduled visa appointments, while others are only scheduling emergency or expedited visa appointments. You will need to review the information on your U.S. Consulate's website.

While local conditions and criteria may vary, the Department of State has indicated that, "Student visas are a high priority, and we will make every effort to assist student visa applicants in a timely fashion."

SEVP currently allows electronic Form I-20 issuance. ISP can send Forms I-20 to students via email. While SEVP guidance is unclear as to whether a hard copy (printed) version of the electronic I-20 is necessary, we recommend that you print the electronic I-20 to present during a visa interview (if applicable) and 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. If you intend to use an F-1 visa that does not match either the SEVIS number or the school name, we cannot guarantee that you will be admitted at a U.S. port of entry.

Canadians do not need visas to enter the United States.

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

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 currently have a visa interview scheduled before September 17, you can continue to use the I-20 originally issued by ISP, with the expectation of participating in Caltech's intended hybrid program for Fall 2020. However, if you have a visa interview scheduled for after September 17, you may request an updated I-20 from ISP to reflect your deferred program start date. We can continue to revisit this term by term, as needed. This does not apply to J-1 visa applicants.

The Department of State has announced a phased-in resumption of regular visa processing. This means that, based on local conditions, some U.S. Consulates are accepting regularly scheduled visa appointments, while others are only scheduling emergency or expedited visa appointments. You will need to review the information on your U.S. Consulate's website.

TRAVEL AND ENTRY TO THE UNITED STATES

You may be subject to suspensions of entry based on your country of physical presence prior to departure. You can review all travel restrictions and possible exemptions on https://international.caltech.edu/travel-new/travel-united-states-2020.

F-1 students are now able to travel directly from European Schengen countries, United Kingdom, and Ireland to the United States, without additional approval from a U.S. Consulate, per the U.S. Department of State's recent announcement that F-1 students with valid visas will automatically qualify for a national interest exemption under Proclamations 9993 (Schengen Area) and 9996 (United Kingdom and Ireland).

J-1 students with valid visas will need to contact a U.S. Consulate to initiate an exemption request. It is unclear how this applies to F and J dependents. (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/national-interest-exceptions-from-certain-travelers-from-the-schengen-area-uk-and-ireland.html)

SEVP currently allows electronic Form I-20 issuance. ISP can send Forms I-20 to students via email. While SEVP guidance is unclear as to whether a hard copy (printed) version of the electronic I-20 is necessary, we recommend that you print the electronic I-20 to present during a visa interview (if applicable) and entry to the United States.

No. J exchange visitors must travel with a hard copy, original Form DS-2019.

International travel is unpredictable at the moment and may become more so, in the future. When you arrive in the United States, we recommend that you register with your home country Embassy. In the event that you need to leave the United States, your home country Embassy should be able to assist with repatriation flights.

SEVIS RECORD (I-20) – NEW STUDENTS

(first year undergraduates and incoming graduate students)

ISP will update your program start date in SEVIS and we can issue you a new I-20 with a program start date to correspond with your intended U.S. arrival for in-person instruction, in accordance with SEVP and EVP guidance.

We encourage you to continue with plans to apply for a visa (if necessary). We want you to be ready to travel to the United States once applicable suspensions of entry are lifted and we are clearly able to support in-person instruction.

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 currently have a visa interview scheduled before September 17, you can continue to use the I-20 originally issued by ISP, with the expectation of participating in Caltech's intended hybrid program for Fall 2020. However, if you have a visa interview scheduled for after September 17, you may request an updated I-20 from ISP to reflect your deferred program start date. We can continue to revisit this term by term, as needed. This does not apply to J-1 visa applicants.

SEVIS Transfers: We may be able to defer your start date in SEVIS. Once your new start date is confirmed, ISP will review SEVP guidance to determine if we can issue you a revised I-20 with your same SEVIS number issue, or if we need to issue a new, initial I-20 with a different SEVIS number.

ISP will update your program start date in SEVIS and we can issue you a new I-20 with a program start date to correspond with your intended U.S. arrival for in-person instruction, in accordance with SEVP and EVP guidance.

ISP will update your program start date in SEVIS and we can issue you a new I-20 with a program start date to correspond with your intended U.S. arrival for in-person instruction, in accordance with SEVP and EVP guidance.

No. SEVIS transfer students are considered to be continuing students and are therefore eligible to stay in the United States continuously.

Yes. SEVIS transfer students are considered to be continuing students. If you have not departed from the United States, and you will be enrolling in the graduate degree program from anywhere in the United States, ISP can report your SEVIS record as Active.

Yes. While you are enrolled as a Caltech nondegree student from outside the United States, your SEVIS transfer record will remain pending. We may be able to defer your start date in SEVIS. Once you confirm your intended U.S. arrival date and start of your degree program, ISP will review SEVP guidance to determine if we can issue you a revised I-20 with your same SEVIS number issue, or if we need to issue a new, initial I-20 with a different SEVIS number.

SEVIS RECORD (I-20) - CONTINUING STUDENTS

(rising sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students)

Request a new I-20 with travel signature from ISP. SEVP currently allows electronic Form I-20 issuance. ISP can send Forms I-20 to students via email.

Generally, any student who takes time off from studies is placed on a leave of absence. A leave of absence must be requested through the Undergraduate Deans Office or Graduate Office.

Bachelor's and Master's students: A leave of absence will likely require a termination of the SEVIS record for "authorized early withdrawal." If the student is in the United States at that time, they would have 15 days from the date of SEVIS termination to depart the United States. Whenever the student is ready to return to the United States in order to resume full-time enrollment at Caltech, ISP will issue a new, initial I-20.

PhD students: A leave of absence may be eligible to be considered as a vacation term without terminating the current SEVIS record. PhD students can contact ISP to learn if you are eligible for a vacation term.

Medical leave: A student may take less than a full course of study if a medical leave is approved by the Undergraduate Deans Office or Graduate Office and if the proper notification and documentation is provided to ISP prior to the underload.

If a new, initial I-20 is issued, this document would contain a new SEVIS number, and the student may need to pay a new 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.

Continuing students who are outside the United States and are enrolled in a full course of study are able to maintain Active SEVIS records. A student may take less than a full course of study if a medical leave is approved by the Undergraduate Deans Office or Graduate Office and if the proper notification and documentation is provided to ISP prior to the underload.

Yes, the SEVP guidance allows continuing students to engage in 100% remote course of study.

J-1 STUDENTS

No. J exchange visitors must travel with a hard copy, original Form DS-2019.

You may be subject to suspensions of entry based on your country of physical presence prior to departure. You can review all travel restrictions and possible exemptions on https://international.caltech.edu/travel-new/travel-united-states-2020.

J-1 students with valid visas will need to contact a U.S. Consulate to initiate a national interest exemption request. It is unclear how the national interest exemption applies to J dependents. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/national-interest-exceptions-from-certain-travelers-from-the-schengen-area-uk-and-ireland.html

If you continue your program from abroad, your SEVIS record can remain Active. This will enable you to apply for Academic Training.

EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION (OPT)

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. We do not know whether you will be able to submit your application from outside the United States.

ISP PROGRAMMING

Yes, ISP will conduct a virtual International Student Orientation. We look forward to seeing new students there and helping you connect with one another. Continuing students may contact ISP to volunteer as virtual Orientation Leaders.

ISP and many other Caltech offices will be help you connect with fellow students, student clubs, and other campus and community resources in the new, social distancing environment. ISP will continue to connect with students individually through email, phone, and Zoom-In Advising Hours, as well as through virtual programs like Intercultural Discussion Group. We hope that you will join us.