COVID-19 International Student FAQs
Last updated October 23, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges and difficulties for all of us, but especially for our international students. The ISSO is here to support our international population. If you have questions or need help, please reach out to us.
We will continue to update this page, so please check back for more information.
- F-1 Virtual Start
- USCIS Response to Coronavirus
- U.S State Department List of Embassies/Consulates
- UT Dallas
- Spring 2021 Registration Information
- Updates on coronavirus and COVID FAQ
- Campus COVID-19 Confirmed Cases
- ISSO hours and operations
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I maintain my F-1 status while taking classes while outside the United States?
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not yet provided updated information regarding the Spring 2021 semester. As soon as we have new information, the ISSO will share it.
In the meantime, international students may enroll in accordance to the guidance from Fall 2020.
On July 24, 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a Broadcast Message and Additional FAQ’s clarifying enrollment options for the Fall 2020 semester. The guidance provides requirements for continuing students, who were maintaining F-1 status prior to March 9, 2020, and initial students, who were in new or initial status after March 9, 2020.
Continuing students may enroll in a fully online program of study or hybrid course of study. You may attend synchronously, or asynchronously within the U.S. or abroad. You should enroll full time unless you are eligible for a reduced course load authorization from the ISSO (for example, due to graduation, CPT, medical or academic reasons). If UT Dallas later transitions to fully online study, you will be able to maintain your immigration status in the U.S, and do not need to depart the U.S.
Initial students who wish to enroll in entirely online classes while outside the United States may opt in to Virtual Start. Initial students may not enter the U.S. in the fall 2020 semester to pursue a course of study that is completely online.
I’m a prospective student for Spring 2021. Can I enter the U.S. to start my program?
We are excited to help you begin your program at UT Dallas! There are several things to consider as you prepare for spring 2021 study:
Be Prepared for Some Face-to-Face Instruction
The immigration enrollment requirements for fall 2020 required new F-1 students who arrived in the U.S. to take at least one course with face-to-face components. While we have not received guidance specific to spring 2021 enrollment, we expect it to be the same.
If you wish to study completely online, you may begin your online studies from your home country through Virtual Start and enter the U.S. at a later date.
Choose your Spring Arrival Date
You can plan your arrival for the full-term starting in January. The spring 2021 start date is January 19, 2021. However, if you are not able to arrive by January, you can start your spring classes virtually and plan to arrive for the second 8-week term beginning March 22, 2021.
Prepare for the Visa Process
You will need a visa to enter the U.S. (unless you are a Canadian citizen). If you have not started the visa process, we recommend checking with your local U.S. embassy or consulate to learn more about scheduling an appointment.
I’m a new student, do I need special documents to travel?
For new F-1 students who have not yet begun their UT Dallas program of study, the ISSO has a standard letter you may download to use for travel. If you need specific documentation for your planned trip, submit an Ask an Advisor eForm requesting an updated I-20. We understand that some airlines may require specific letters regarding the operations of the university. Please provide as much information in your request as possible, and we will issue a letter for you. The ISSO will email your documents to your UT Dallas email address.
For students who began their UT Dallas program of study virtually and will be traveling to the U.S. for spring study, request the “F-V to F-1” letter in iComet.
If you are a prospective student and need an updated I-20 with a remark indicating the university remains fully operational in a hybrid format, please send an e-mail to [email protected]
If you need a new I-20 for another reason, you may submit an I-20 reprint request in iComet.
What happens if COVID gets worse and the university needs to transition to a fully online instructional mode. How will that affect my immigration status?
The university will make decisions about changes in the instructional mode based on the safety of the UTD community. While the university is planning on a hybrid instruction model for spring 2021, it is possible that the university may later need to transition to fully online study. In this case, we expect that the regulations will continue to allow students who are in Active F-1 status to maintain their immigration status while remaining in the U.S.
If I travel internationally, will I be able to come back to the U.S.?
As you all know, we are in uncharted territory regarding international mobility. It is impossible to predict if and when further restrictions will be put in place by the U.S. Administration for travelers returning from high risk countries. If you are currently outside the U.S. or plan to travel outside the U.S., we recommend that you continue to monitor travel updates by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Will I be able to return to the United States if I am continuing my studies outside of the country as a result of COVID-19?
We anticipate that the rules in effect for fall 2020 will continue to be in effect in spring 2021. USCIS has indicated that students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission into the United States, even if you are absent from the U.S. for longer than five months. Since you will maintain F-1 status while abroad, the five-month temporary absence provision will not apply to you. You will be able to return to the U.S. to resume your studies once the university resumes in-person classes.
However, because of the changing array of travel restrictions, nonimmigrant students should refer to their local embassy’s website through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance. DHS and CDC websites also provide information about current travel restrictions to the United States.
Can I apply for OPT from outside the U.S.?
You must be physically in the U.S. at the time you submit your Optional Practical Training (OPT) application. ISSO will continue to process OPT applications and will communicate with you about how to receive your documents and mail your application to USCIS.
Can I have my USCIS documents sent to the ISSO?
Please use your own personal mailing address for all USCIS applications and not the ISSO address. ISSO in office staffing levels are very low and cannot accommodate mail handling. See the USCIS webpage for details on how to update your mailing address.
If I am moving to a new residential address, do I need to report it within 10 days? Where do I report?
Yes, the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA § 265, 8 U.S.C. 1305) requires all nonimmigrants and permanent residents, including international students, scholars, and their families, to report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government, within 10 days. Please report address changes in your Galaxy account.
I will graduate soon, and my plan was to return to my home country. After I graduate, I would prefer to stay in the United States for now. What are my options?
You have three options:
- Remain in the U.S. and apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT).
- Remain in the U.S. during the grace period after your program end date (which you can find on your I-20). The grace period is 60 days for F-1 students.
- Pursue another degree at UT Dallas.
- Transfer your SEVIS record to another U.S. institution.
My visa is expiring, and I am unable to travel to my home country currently. What should I do?
You may stay in the U.S. on an expired F-1 or J-1 visa as long as you maintain your immigration status and meet normal enrollment requirements. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.)
My visa is expiring/has expired. If I leave the U.S. now, but must come back after the expiration date of my visa, will I need a new visa, or can I re-enter on an expired visa?
If you leave the U.S. and your visa will have expired by the date you wish to re-enter the U.S., then you will need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.) Because of the changing array of travel restrictions, nonimmigrant students should refer to their local embassy’s website through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance.
If you will be travelling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands, may be eligible for automatic revalidation.
I am currently on CPT, OPT, or STEM OPT and my employer has asked me to work from home. What do I need to do?
Due to the impact of the coronavirus, many employers are asking their employees to work from home. You may still maintain your F-1 status while working remotely on practical training. We also recommend that you keep any communication from the employer that instructs you to work from home so you have it as supplemental documentation for the future.
If you are on OPT/STEM OPT
You are not required to report that you are working remotely. However, you may submit a OPT/STEM OPT reporting form to the ISSO if you wish. Keep in mind, all other reporting obligations remain the same.
To report that you are working from home, do the following:
- Fill out Section B with your current address
- If your employer has not changed, fill out Section C with your employer name only and a note "Working remotely from home."
- If your employer has changed, fill out Section C with your previous employer's information and end date. Below that, include your new employer's complete information. Add a note to the side, "Working remotely from home."
If you are on CPT
Due to the impact of the coronavirus, many CPT employers are asking their interns to work from home. You may still maintain your F-1 status while working remotely on CPT.
- Please inform the JSOM Career Management Center, University Career Center or Industrial Practice Programs to confirm if you are eligible for remote work.
- If your CPT will end, early your I-20 will need to be updated. Please contact the JSOM Career Management Center, University Career Center or Industrial Practice Programs to initiate that process.
I applied for U.S. Permanent Residency. Can I leave the country now?
If you applied to become Lawful permanent resident (LPR) status in the United States, consult an immigration attorney regarding international travel.
I am facing financial difficulties due to COVID-19. Can the ISSO help?
We know that many of our students are experiencing financial stress due to COVID-19. Your health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance to us.
We will continue to update this page and notify students when emergency fund and scholarship programs for students are available and open for applications.
UT Dallas Emergency Fund
UT Dallas is providing an emergency fund. For details about eligibility and the application process, see their webpage - https://www.utdallas.edu/deanofstudents/emergency/. Applications are currently open.
UT Dallas Comet Cupboard
The Comet Cupboard provides weekly distributions of food and personal care items.