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International Student FAQ

Updated November 20, 2020

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 and who is outside of the United States, 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. Even if a student 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.

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. Students should not plan to enter the United States until specifically confirmed for in-person course enrollment by the Registrar's Office. Students eligible for in-person courses will be contacted by the Registrar's Office. 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.

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 clearly able to support in-person instruction for you in accordance with SEVP and EVP guidance.

As Caltech has announced the expectation of the continuation of 100% online instruction (with potential exceptions for a limited number of undergraduate students), ISP has begun updating 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, as needed.

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 in November 2020, contact ISP for guidance.

TRAVEL AND ENTRY TO THE UNITED STATES

Review all travel restrictions and possible exemptions on https://international.caltech.edu/travel-new/travel-united-states-2020.

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

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.

ISP can 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.

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 graduate students 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 need to terminate the current SEVIS record for "authorized early withdrawal."

If the student is in the United States at that time of the authorized early withdrawal, 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 to resume full-time enrollment at Caltech, ISP will issue a new, initial I-20. This document would contain a new SEVIS number, and the student 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 the student from reentering the United States until Caltech can confirm in-person instruction for that student.

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. Review all travel restrictions and possible exemptions on https://international.caltech.edu/travel-new/travel-united-states-2020.

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.