Dear International Students,
GTU is committed to supporting you during this pandemic. What we are experiencing is unprecedented, but we will navigate through this together.
Many of you have been following the COVID resources page and keeping up to date on the developments at the GTU. In this page, I want to add a few questions that are specific to you.
Stay healthy and safe,
Director of Student Life
1. How does switching to online instruction affect my immigration status?
U.S. universities received guidance from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that allows students to continue this semester’s courses online without jeopardizing their immigration status. The Student and Visitor Exchange Program (SEVP) has confirmed that “If a school closes temporarily but offers online instruction or another alternative learning procedure, nonimmigrant students should participate in online or other alternate learning procedures and remain in active status in SEVIS.”
2. Can I complete the Spring Semester from my home country?
Yes, SEVP confirmed that international students may take full-time courses online either from within the US or from abroad.
Regardless of where you are participating in online classes, your immigration status will remain active, if you participate in online learning, continue to be enrolled full-time, and make normal progress toward your degree.
3. If I vacate my current residence and relocate to a new U.S. address, do I need to report it?
Yes, you need to report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government. Please send your new address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travel and Visa
4. Will the five-month rule apply to my visa if I go back home and stay away from GTU until the Fall semester?
The five-month rule refers to the termination of a student’s record in SEVIS if a student is away from classes or out of the country or not in status for five months.
If you have decided to go home during COVID-19 and are maintaining full-time status until the end of the Spring Semester, the five-month rule should not worry you. After you complete the Spring Semester, you are entitled to your annual summer vacation. According to the immigration regulations, an F-1 student is in status during the summer holidays if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term. You must return to GTU for the Fall to maintain your immigration status though.
5. Will I be able to come back to the U.S.?
Since travel restrictions are constantly changing, we cannot predict the travel situation for the time that you are planning to be back in the U.S. You will need to continue to monitor travel updates by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and travel guidelines by the U.S. Department of State.
We will be carefully monitoring updates from the CDC, SEVP, USCIS, and the US Department of State as well.
6. Is there a time frame for when I am expected to return to the U.S. once the COVID-19 emergency is over and schools have resumed normal operations?
According to DHS, “Dependent on their school’s return to normal operations and any continuing travel restrictions, students should seek to return to the United States within 30 days of the next available session start date.”
7. My visa is expiring, and I am unable to travel to my home country currently. What should I do?
Your visa is meant to give you entry into the U.S. and it is not a problem if it expires while you are legally present in the U.S., i.e., by maintaining your immigration status by being in possession of a valid I-20 or DS-2019 and by meeting normal enrollment requirements.
8. Many students’ on-campus employment opportunities are now being conducted remotely while campuses are closed or students are able to perform their work duties from home. Can I engage in remote work for on-campus employment?
DHS maintains, “If the current on-campus employment opportunity has transitioned to remote work or the employment can be done through remote means, students may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely.”
Other Employment Options
For specific questions on CPT and OPT in the light of COVID-19, please contact me at email@example.com
Some of you might qualify to apply for off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship caused by COVID-19. You may read more about that here. USCIS considers such applications on a case-by-case basis. If you intend to apply, please make a zoom appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting the I-20 for a Student Visa
Once admitted, international students must secure an I-20 in order to go to the US Consulate to secure an F-1 student visa to be able to study in the United States. Students must show sufficient financial resources to cover living expenses while engaged in a GTU program. Students will need to pay a SEVIS fee online before the meeting with the consulate official. The Admissions Office will work with new students on this process.
Transferring your F-1 SEVIS Record to GTU
If you are currently in F-1 status in the U.S., but no more than 5 months will have lapsed between your last day of enrollment and the start of fall quarter, you may transfer your SEVIS record to the GTU. Here are the steps that are required to transfer your SEVIS.
1: You need to fill out the SEVIS Transfer Form. This form will collect immigration related information to confirm your eligibility to transfer your SEVIS record and determine when your SEVIS record will be released to GTU.
2: Contact the Designated School Official (DSO) at the school that currently sponsors your F-1 status and ask them to complete Section 2 of the SEVIS Transfer Form.
3: Return the completed SEVIS Transfer Form to email@example.com as an email attachment, or fax.
4: Complete and submit the “Getting the I-20 for F-1 Status” form.
5: GTU will issue a “Transfer Pending” I-20 to you after the SEVIS “Transfer Release Date” noted in the SEVIS Transfer Form provided we have received all required documents – including the evidence of financial support.
6: Complete the SEVIS Transfer process by reporting to the Director of Student Life & Liaison for International Students and Scholars at the GTU no later than 15 days after the start date indicated on your GTU Form I-20. Failure to report by this deadline will jeopardize your F-1 student status.
Maintaining Student Status
Students must be careful to abide by all regulations to maintain their F-1 status. International students must provide the GTU with a copy of the passport upon arrival, and current address information at all times. International students can only work on campus. Students are not to work in any capacity off campus, unless authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
The Director of Student Life coordinates a proofreading program for students writing research papers in the course work stage of the doctoral program. The proofreaders are current students who are paid for their service.
There are co-working groups for students wanting peer support, particularly during the comprehensive exam and dissertation writing stages.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Curricular Practical Training is off-campus employment or training directly related to your field of study. You must be authorized by the Dean of Students/PDSO, and you must register for a special agreed upon course where you will receive unit credit for the CPT training or work. You need to register for the course during each of the academic terms that you will be involved in the CPT training. The authorization will be indicated on the last page of a new I-20 form
- To be eligible for CPT you must have been in F-1 student status for at least one academic year.
- You will to provide an offer letter from the institution offering you job training.
- During the academic term, you are only eligible for part-time CPT (20 hours a week).
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training is an opportunity to gain experience after the completion of your program on a 12-month OPT. It is intended to enhance your academic program by providing a way to gain experience in your field of study. Students may apply to work part-time (20 hours a week) or full time in either a paid or unpaid job related to their field of study. Apply to the Dean of Students/PDSO early, as it can take three months to get approval from USCIS. The earliest you can send in your application is 90 days before your program completion. You OPT start date must be within 60 days after your completion date. Your OPT end date will be 12 months later.