COVID-19 International Student FAQs
Please find below some answers to the immigration related questions we have recently received regarding the recent decision to move to online instruction through the end of the semester, including final exams.
We will continue to update this page, so please check back for more information.
- USCIS Response to Coronavirus
- U.S State Department Suspending Embassy Appointments (3.18.2020)
- UT Dallas updates on coronavirus
- ISSO hours and operations
Frequently Asked Questions
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, which is why we have partnered with UTD alumni to provide scholarship opportunities for our international students most in need.
UT Dallas International Student Emergency Fund
Description: This fund was established by UT Dallas alumni to support F-1 international students at UT Dallas. The fund is to help degree-seeking F-1 international students whose financial circumstances are adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students must be enrolled at UT Dallas in spring 2020 and currently be in the United States to be eligible.
Fund Amounts: The UTDISEF grants will vary based on the need and availability of funding.
Fund Priorities: Primary allocations will be made students whose CPT internship employment has been reduced/canceled leading to disruptions in their own employment income.
Additional allocations will be made to for emergency support for various expenses, such as fees for critical immigration applications (economic hardship requests, extension of stay applications, etc.), housing, medical expenses, food and travel for students who are or were enrolled in the spring 2020 semester and who are unable to meet specific unexpected financial burdens resulting from the effects of the pandemic.
Deadlines: Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis beginning May 1.
How to Apply:Submit a complete application through iComet - Institute of International Education (IIE) Emergency Grant Assistance for International Students
UT Dallas Emergency Fund
UT Dallas has also provided an emergency fund. For details about eligibility and the application process, see their webpage - https://www.utdallas.edu/deanofstudents/emergency/. Applications are currently open.
Will I get a stimulus check?
If you are considered a nonresident alien for tax purposes, you are NOT allowed to receive a stimulus payment. An international student who entered the U.S. on an F, J, M, or Q visa after 01/01/2015 is a nonresident alien for tax purposes for both 2018 and 2019 tax years.
If you entered the U.S. prior to that date, you must take the Substantial Presence Test to determine whether you are a Resident Alien for Tax Purposes or a Nonresident Alien for Tax Purposes for each tax year. You must qualify as a resident alien in 2020. You can enter your U.S. travel history in Sprintax and the software will help you determine your tax residency status.
For more information, visit the IRS Economic Impact Payment Information Center.
What if I get a stimulus check and I should not have?
If a person who is actually a Nonresident Alien for Tax Purposes incorrectly filed Form 1040, thus presenting himself or herself to the IRS as a U.S. Person, the IRS may erroneously send the Nonresident Alien for Tax Purposes a stimulus payment. In this instance, the individual must take actions to correct the error. You must amend the incorrectly filed Federal Income Tax Return and return the stimulus payment.
Most importantly, the nonresident alien should NOT spend the erroneously received stimulus payment. It is important to note that if the nonresident alien does not return the erroneously received stimulus payment, he or she may be subject to interest accrued until the payment is returned.
How do I amend an incorrectly filed Federal Income Tax Return?
You must file an amended tax return for each tax year that an incorrect federal income tax return was filed. An amended tax return has two parts: (i) Form 1040X, and (ii) the correct federal income tax return for the tax year in question (Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ). Form 1040X Instructions Page 8 provides the detailed instructions on how to complete Form 1040X manually. For 2019 tax year’s Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ, nonresident aliens can use Sprintax to generate it using the access code provided by UTD. Both Sprintax and Glacier Tax Prep can prepare amended tax returns for nonresident aliens, but the individual will be responsible for the cost.
Until such time as the incorrectly filed federal income tax return is amended to submit the correct federal income tax return, the nonresident alien is subject to a filing penalty and/or loss of any otherwise applicable deductions or allowances, including income tax treaty exemptions.
An amended tax return can only be filed by mail (paper tax return) and it will take a much longer time for the IRS to process as the IRS currently is not processing any paper tax returns. Amended tax returns for different tax years should be mailed in separate packages. Postages and envelopes can be purchased online at USPS.com and it is strongly recommended to add the tracking/return receipt services and keep both physical and electronic copies of everything that you send to the IRS.
How do I return the stimulus payment?
To return the stimulus payment, you may follow the guidelines posted on the IRS Economic Impact Payment Information Center. Follow the instructions posted under Question 41 - https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center.
How does switching to online instruction affect my immigration status?
U.S. universities received guidance from the Department of Homeland Security that allows students to continue this semester’s courses online without jeopardizing their immigration status. This means that you must continue to be enrolled full-time (or with ISSO authorized reduced course load) and be making normal progress toward the degree. Regardless of where you are participating in online classes, your immigration status will remain active. Please note that this is a temporary accommodation in place until this health crisis ends and in-person classes resume.
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?
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.
If I travel internationally, will I be able to come back to the U.S. next month, in May, or later this summer?
As you all know, we are in uncharted territory regarding international mobility. As of today, only foreign nationals who have visited China or Iran in the past 14 days may not enter the United States as announced in the Presidential Proclamation on Novel Coronavirus and Presidential Proclamation on Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus. Additionally, effective as of 11:59 pm on March 13, 2020 all foreign nationals who were physically within the Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the U.S. may not enter the U.S. for 30 days as announced in the Presidential Proclamation on Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus.
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).
I still need to apply for OPT. Can I do this remotely from elsewhere in the U.S.? Can I do it 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. If you have not applied for OPT yet, but plan to do so due to completing your studies in spring 2020, we strongly encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible.
What if I requested for my USCIS documents to be mailed to the ISSO? Can I still receive my documents?
Although the ISSO office is currently closed, we are still working remotely and processing mailing requests. However, due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, circumstances can change rapidly. We encourage all students who used the ISSO address as their mailing address for a USCIS application to consider updating their mailing address with USCIS so that documents are not sent to the ISSO.
If you have used the ISSO address for a currently pending USCIS or Social Security application, we recommend that you contact that agency and update them with your personal mailing address. After May 15, 2020, mail received by the ISSO may be returned to sender.
See the USCIS webpage for details on how to update your mailing address.
If I vacate my current on or off campus residence and relocate to a new 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 in May 2020, 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
Please submit the OPT/STEM OPT reporting form to update the ISSO concerning this change. 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 you 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.
My employer registered me for H-1B lottery. Can I leave the U.S. now?
If your employer is planning to register or has already registered you for the H-1B lottery, please consult your employer and their immigration counsel before you make any international travel plans. ISSO advisors cannot answer travel related questions regarding your H-1B petition sponsored by your employer.
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.