COVID-19

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is monitoring developments surrounding COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) globally. This page includes updates and FAQs relevant to future and current international students and scholars.

This page was last updated on March 24, 2020.

No. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State have communicated with universities that special exceptions have been made to the usual online course limits. This means that the courses you are currently enrolled in will continue to count towards your full-time enrollment as F-1 and J-1 students. If you are currently maintaining status, this change in course delivery will not affect that.

No. Students who are outside the US for more than five months and not enrolled or pursuing their program objectives lose their visa status. However student pursuing study abroad opportunities, conducting research, or performing any other activity while maintaining appropriate class enrollment do not lose their visa status. During the COVID-19 pandemic, students who maintain their enrollment while taking classes online will be considered as maintaining their status and will not be subject to the "Five Month Rule."

No. A travel signature is only required for entry. It is never needed to depart. Even if a student needs to return, we can mail you an updated DS-2019 with the signature on it.

Undergraduate Admissions and Graduate Admissions are regularly updating their websites with information for international applicants. Please get in contact with those offices with application-specific questions.

The University has no authority over external agencies; therefore, we cannot intervene and request they issue the required documents.

If the University has issued you an I-20 or DS-2019 document, this demonstrates our wish to have you join the Illinois family. We cannot issue any other documents to assist in obtaining an entry visa, nor can we ask the U.S. Consulate or Embassy to prioritize your visa application.

At the completion of your program you have either an additional ‘grace period’ of 30 days as a J-1 student or 60 days after your graduation or program end date. If you wish to stay longer than this, you could consider applying for Optional Practical Training as an F-1 student or Academic Training as a J-1 student which could extend your legal status in the United States for employment purposes. Alternatively, you may be eligible to file an application with USCIS to change to another non-immigrant status. The discretion of approval falls to United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and ISSS cannot assist in moving your request forward.

If your host department has continued opportunities for you that match your current program objectives, they can request your DS-2019 be extended. Each department has an ISSS contact liaison who can initiate this process. Please note you or your department will be required to show you have adequate funding for this extension period. If you are currently ineligible for an extension due to your J-1 category limitations, a change of category may be possible at the discretion of USCIS.

Scholars who are unable to extend their program or change category but cannot leave the U.S. could apply to USCIS to change to another non-immigrant status. The discretion of approval falls to United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and ISSS cannot assist in moving your request forward. If you are subject to the 212e Two Year Home Residency Requirement, you can consider filing a change of status based on an extreme or special situation.

In the time since that email went out, the University has decided to suspend face to face classes for the rest of the Spring semester, and is encouraging students to return to their permanent home address. ISSS also recommends this where possible, but we want to remind you that current travel bans are prohibiting visitors from certain countries entry to the U.S., and additional countries are constantly being added. If you choose to travel outside the U.S., you should be prepared for the possibility for your return may be significantly delayed. This could pose different problems depending on your unique situation, from not being able to resume classes when face to face instruction does resume to not being able to apply for OPT. Each student should consider their own circumstances.

Campus remains open but many offices, including ISSS, are following federal and state recommendations and closing for foot traffic. The majority of our staff will be working from remote locations. However, while our physical offices will be closed to the public, we will remain open for phone and email correspondence. Appointments will continue to happen via phone, an OPT video workshop is already on our website, and we will continue to provide as many services as we can during this temporary operational shift.

USCIS has granted schools permission to electronically sign I-20’s and e-mail them as attachments, so you will receive your I-20 in this way. This ability has not been extended to DS-2019’s, so these documents will be mailed once the ‘Shelter in Place’ order expires for the State of Illinois. Please also remember you do not need a travel signature to leave the US. You will need one to return but a new document with this endorsement can you delivered to you via e-mail (I-20s) or regular mail (DS-2019s).

No. ISSS will continue to maintain your F-1 and J-1 visa statuses as we always have, and will contact you directly if any action is needed.

We encourage you to review the USCIS information on Special Situations, Extending Your Stay and Response to COVID-19, as well as the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security updates.

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