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Santa Clara University

Immigration Considerations Related to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last Updated: May 5, 2021

Up-To-Date Immigration Information

Restrictions On Entry Into the U.S.: 

Beginning January 26, 2021, people arriving in the U.S. from abroad must be tested for COVID-19 no more than 3 days before their flight and will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test result in order to board their flight.

The U.S. has suspended entry for non-U.S. citizens who traveled in the following countries within 14-days: 

Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.

The U.S. land borders between Canada and Mexico are both closed to non-essential foot and car traffic (returning home is allowed; flights continue).

New countries can be added to this list at any time without advance warning.

Visa Issuance:

Many U.S. Embassies and Consulates have resumed regular visa processing (based on their local conditions) or are allowing emergency visa appointments for students close to their program start date. (July 14, 2020)

Town Hall Recording: Travel Restriction and National Interest Exceptions (NIE) (May 5, 2021)

General Questions

Following the university's health and safety protocols the ISS Team is working remotely from their homes. We're providing additional information about our continued services below:

Email Response

  • Our office will continue to respond promptly to emails.
  • Emailing iss@scu.edu is the best way to reach us and get answers to your questions.

Drop In Hours

Withdraw / Leave of Absence

  • If you questions about withdrawing or taking a leave of absence, please email iss@scu.edu.
  • In the email please include your full legal name, SCU ID number, academic program, and date of departure from the U.S.

Reduced Course Load & Thesis/Capstone Authorization

CPT Authorization

  • We will continue to process CPT authorization requests
  • To request CPT, please email your completed CPT Cooperative Agreement to iss@scu.edu
  • If you have CPT authorization you may work remotely from your home. Be sure to remain in close contact with your supervisor. You do not need to notify our office about this temporary change.

OPT Appointments

  • OPT appointments are offered via Zoom
  • Information on the modified OPT process can be found at scu.edu/opt
  • You must be in the U.S. to apply for OPT -- if you are graduating, we do not recommend leaving the U.S.
  • If you have questions about OPT please email iss@scu.edu

Workshops / Events

  • All workshops and events have moved online!
  • We have extended event times to support students in different time zones.
  • We encourage you to join us! Review our events and activities at scu.edu/geoevents
  • Videos of our workshops are available online (scu.edu/cpt, scu.edu/opt, scu.edu/stemopt)

We will accept verified electronic signatures on all ISS forms

If you opt for the electronic signature, the signature must have a verification mark or be an signature. Typed signatures or signatures with a typed appearance are not accepted. Programs such as DocuSign or Adobe Sign have signature validation features. Please see below for examples.

Electronic I-20s: While the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that I-20s can be electronically signed, we do not have clear guidance on whether other government agencies which are not within SEVP's jurisdiction, such as Department of State for visa appointments and Customs and Border Protection for entering the U.S., will accept electronic signatures. Therefore, ISS is not issuing I-20s with electronic signatures at this time.

OPT applications: Your OPT I-20 and Form I-765 must be hand signed prior to mailing your OPT application to USCIS.

STEM OPT extension applications: Your I-983 training Plan can be either hand signed or we will accept verified electronic signatures. Your STEM OPT I-20 and Form I-765 must be hand signed prior to mailing your STEM OPT extension application to USCIS. 

You can review a recording of our May 5, 2021 Town Hall related to Travel Restrictions and National Interest Exception (NIE) here:

https://youtu.be/f6fTvkX4Xx0

 

Incoming International Students and Students with Initial I-20s

We’re excited to welcome you to the SCU international family! We are still issuing I-20s and supporting visa applications for all incoming students.

Santa Clara University is carefully monitoring guidance related to health and safety. You can read updates from the university here

Please review the information below detailed and up-to-date answers to common immigration questions. This information will be updated if there are any changes. Please contact International Students and Scholars in Global Engagement at iss@scu.edu if you have any additional questions.

School / Program Academic Term Method of Instruction
Undergraduate (Bachelors) all schools Fall 2021 In-Person (Hybrid)
Graduate Engineering Fall 2021 In-Person (Hybrid)
Graduate Business Fall 2021 In-Person (Hybrid)
Education Counseling Psychology Fall 2021 In-Person (Hybrid)
JST Fall 2021 In-Person (Hybrid)
Law Fall 2021 In-Person (Hybrid)
GPPM Fall 2021 In-Person (Hybrid)

If your program is offering hybrid (in-person) instruction, you can either

Enter the U.S. and:

  • Enroll in a full course load of hybrid units
  • No more than 1 online class can count toward your full course load
  • Arrive in the U.S. for the start of the Spring 2021 quarter (no later than March 25)
  • Attend ISW and immigration check-in March 26 (via zoom)

Stay outside of the U.S. and:

  • Enroll in a full course load of online classes, or
  • Enroll in less than a full course load of online classes, or
  • Enroll in no classes (i.e. withdraw or take a leave of absence from SCU)

International students using an initial I-20 are never eligible to enter the U.S. to enroll in entirely online classes. This is not an SCU policy, but a U.S. government rule. This is not a new rule and unfortunately no government exceptions have been made for classes being online due to COVID-19. While outside of the U.S. you may:

  • Enroll in a full course load of online classes, or
  • Enroll in less than a full course load of online classes, or
  • Enroll in no classes (i.e. withdraw or take a leave of absence from SCU)

Your I-20 will be automatically to show the next academic term's immigration start date. You do not need to submit a new I-20 request or any additional supporting documents.

  • For most students we will be issuing updated I-20s the first week of April 2021.
  • You will get an email when your new I-20 is ready for mailing. ISS will cover the cost of mailing the updated I-20.
  • Your SEVIS ID number will stay the same. The only thing that will change are your program dates. 
  • If you have already paid the SEVIS fee you do not need to pay the fee again.
  • If you have already gotten an F-1 visa stamp you do not need to apply again.
  • You can plan to enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to your new immigration program start date.

For online only programs we will continue to issue I-20s with Spring 2021 start dates only for students students already in the U.S. who are: 

  • Transferring their active F-1 SEVIS immigration records to SCU from another school, or
  • Requesting an I-20 to file a Change of Status application with USCIS.

If you have already paid the SEVIS fee you will not have to pay it again. Your SEVIS ID number will stay the same. We are simply updating your F-1 SEVIS immigration record start date.

 

We recommend that you begin the visa application process immediately.

You are eligible to attend your visa interview up to 120 days prior to your program start date.

Depending on local health conditions, some Consulates and Embassies have resumed regular processing, while others are only allowing emergency appointments, and some remain closed.  Typically emergency or expedited appointments are reserved for students who are within 60 days of their program start date. 

Please review our visa website for more information.

 

If you are already in the U.S. and transferring your active F-1 SEVIS immigration record to SCU we assume you will either stay in the U.S. or that you will return to the U.S. for the start of classes. You will be required to attend International Student Welcome (ISW) and complete immigration check-in. Your immigration record will be validated to show you are in the U.S. You will be eligible to take your Fall classes online while in the U.S. or after you have completed immigration check-in and we have validated your immigration record, you may depart the U.S. and take classes from abroad, if you prefer.

If you are not in the U.S. or do not return to the U.S. prior to the start of Spring classes, we will need to update your immigration record to show that you’re outside the U.S. We are waiting for updated guidance from SEVP and will have additional instructions as we get closer to the start of the Spring quarter (March).

 

Your options to transition to F-1 status remain the same, but your timeline or preference may have changed. For example, if travel to and from the U.S. does not ease, and regular visa appointments do not resume, you may have a hard time getting your visa as originally planned. In this case, you may want to defer your F-1 student immigration record to Fall 2021 and go for visa stamping over summer break. Alternatively, a Change of Status application from within the U.S. may be more appealing. Additionally, some students may wish to remain in their current immigration status for the remainder of their studies.

Please visit our Change of Status website to learn about the options available to you. If you have questions or want to talk through your specific situation, schedule a drop-in appointment

Once you have finalized your plans, please email iss@scu.edu (include your name and SCU ID number) so that we can update your F-1 student immigration record accordingly.

We know that CPT is important to our students and integral to many of our degree programs.

To be eligible for CPT authorization you must complete 3 consecutive quarters of full time enrollment. As it currently stands, enrolling online from outside the U.S. would not count towards the 3 consecutive quarters of full time enrollment for CPT eligibility. We have requested additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (SEVP) and will update our policies if best practices or guidance changes. This FAQ will be updated if there are any changes.

Currently, if you begin your academic studies from outside of the U.S. enrolling online, and then enter the U.S. in F-1 status for Spring 2021, you can begin CPT in the Winter 2022 (if you take a full course load of classes in the Summer 2021) or Spring 2022 (if you do not take a full course load in Summer of 2021).

 

We know that OPT is important to our students and it is a top priority for our office.

Starting your academic program online and entering the U.S. to start your F-1 status in Spring 2021 will not impact on your eligibility for OPT.  We are working closely with your academic program to ensure that you will remain eligible for OPT after the completion of your degree. 

 

Continuing International Students (Active F-1 Immigration Records)

Santa Clara University is carefully monitoring guidance related to health and safety. You can read updates from the university here

Please review the information below for detailed and up-to-date answers to common immigration questions. This information will be updated if there are any changes.

Please contact International Students and Scholars in Global Engagement at iss@scu.edu if you have any additional questions.

From an immigration standpoint, during the academic term F-1 students who are fully enrolled (8 units for grad students, 12 units for undergrad or with an approved RCL or Thesis / Capstone) are considered full time students maintaining valid F-1 status, regardless of where they physically are located, and even though classes will be online.  

We are required to report changes to the method of instruction to the U.S. government agency that manages the student visa system and are submitting all required updates to the government. The government has informed universities that moving classes online due to this pandemic will be allowed and that they are maintaining flexibility to ensure that students are safe and to protect public health. 

Due to this COVID-19 pandemic, international students are eligible to take classes online and are able to either remain in the U.S. or leave the U.S. The only exception is for graduating students who plan to apply for OPT -- you must be in the U.S. to apply for OPT.

That said, we expect that participating in online classes could be challenging if you are outside of the U.S. (due to the time difference, technology limitations, lack of access to instructional materials such as text books etc). Each Professor will handle their classes differently. We recommend that students communicate directly with professors (via email) about the fact that they are international or outside of the U.S. and will have a hard time participating if class is held in Pacific Standard Time and not recorded. The professor may be able to make an accommodation (such as allowing the student to watch a recording of the lecture), however not all classes will allow for accommodation. Alterntatively, the student may be able to switch classes (as long as it's before the add/drop deadline for the term).  In the worst case, if the student is not able to find any classes that would work while they are living outside of the U.S., the student can withdraw for the academic term. Please contact iss@scu.edu before dropping any classes.

During a regular academic quarter or semester international students may only count one online class toward their full time enrollment requirements. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government agency that manages the student visa system (ICE / SEVP) has informed universities that moving classes online due to this health emergency will be allowed and that they are maintaining flexibility to ensure that students are safe and to protect public health.  

We are required to report all changes to the method of instruction to the U.S. government agency that manages the student visa system and are submitting all required updates to the government. The government has informed universities that moving classes online due to this pandemic will be allowed and that they are maintaining flexibility to ensure that students are safe and to protect public health. 

  • Students are able to depart from the U.S.
  • You are not required to stay in the U.S. and can continue online classes from outside the U.S.
  • You are not required to leave the U.S. and can continue online classes from the inside U.S.

Graduating Students: You must be physically present in the U.S. to apply for OPT. You cannot apply from abroad -- this is a regulation not an SCU policy. Students graduating who want to use OPT should not leave the U.S. until they apply for OPT.

If you've considered the risk of international travel and plan to leave the U.S. please review our travel website for a list of documents that you should carry with you.

  • If you've considered the risk of international travel and plan to leave the U.S. please review our travel website for a list of documents that you should carry with you.
  • You do not need to physically meet with an ISS team member before leaving the U.S.
  • I-20 travel signatures are valid for 1 year after issuance for enrolled students.
  • I-20 travel signatures are valid for 6 months after issuance for graduates on OPT / STEM OPT.

If you need an updated travel signature: Email iss@scu.edu. The email subject line should be "updated travel signature" in the email body include your full legal name, your SCU ID, your date of departure from the U.S. and your planned date of re-entry (if any). In the coming weeks we will create an updated I-20 for you with a new travel signature. Once the I-20 has been created you will be sent an email with instructions on how to create a shipping label so the we can mail the I-20 to you prior to your return to the U.S. 

From an immigration standpoint during this global health crisis, SCU students who are fully enrolled (8 units for grad students, 12 units for undergraduate or with an approved Reduced Course Load RCL or Thesis / Capstone) are considered full time students maintaining valid F-1 status, regardless of where they physically are located, and even though classes may be online. 

The 5 month rule does not apply in this situation since you are considered to be maintaining status, even if you happen to be outside the U.S.

To enter the U.S. you do require a valid F-1 visa stamp -- if the visa stamp in your passport is unexpired, you will not need a new visa. If the visa stamp in your passport will have expired, you will need to apply for a new visa stamp before coming back to the U.S.

To re-enter the U.S. you are required to have a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport. If the F-1 visa stamp in your passport will still be valid when you plan to return to the U.S. you will not need to apply for a new visa. If the F-1 visa stamp in your passport expires before you return to the U.S. you will need to apply for a new visa stamp before coming back to the U.S.

Opting for Pass / No Pass (P/NP) grading does not impact your immigration status. You may take any or all of your classes P/NP without harming your immigration status.

To be eligible for the Economic Impact Payments from the CARES Act, you must be a "resident alien for tax purposes”. 

Most of SCU's international students and scholars are "non-resident aliens for tax purposes" and are therefore not eligible for the Economic Impact Payments from the CARES Act.

Anyone who received a stimulus payments in error should follow the IRS instructions under FAQ #52 here and send payment with delivery tracking and keep copies of the check and any correspondence for their records.

We cannot provide personalized tax guidance, however, you can find tax related information and resources here. We hope these web resources are helpful to you.

International Students Who Are Graduating

  • OPT appointments have resumed via Zoom. 
  • Information on the modified OPT process can be found at scu.edu/opt
  • You must be in the U.S. to apply for OPT -- if you are graduating in Fall, we do not recommend leaving the U.S.
  • If you have questions about OPT please email iss@scu.edu

You must be physically present in the U.S. to apply for OPT. You cannot apply from abroad -- this is a regulation not an SCU policy. If you have already left the U.S. and have not yet applied for OPT, you would need to return to the U.S. before the end of the term you are graduating to apply for OPT.

If you’ve already mailed your OPT application, you’re welcome to depart the U.S. but make sure that the mailing address that you listed on your I-765 is still valid and being checked daily. 

During the 60 day departure period after graduation, international students are eligible to:

  • Apply for OPT (scu.edu/opt) -- you can actually do this before graduation, and we recommend you do so now!
  • Enroll in a higher degree program at SCU (you must be admitted and have your SEVIS record updated within the 60 days; you must start classes within 5 months)
  • Enroll in a new academic program at another school (you must be admitted and have your SEVIS record transferred within the 60 days; you must start classes within 5 months)
  • File an application to change your immigration status with USCIS
  • Depart from the U.S.

If you have concerns or want to discuss your options further, please email iss@scu.edu or schedule a drop-in appointment.

International Alumni (on OPT and STEM OPT Extension)

If you have OPT or STEM OPT Extension authorization you may work remotely during any shelter-in place, stay at home orders, or at the direction of your company.

While working from home you should be sure to remain in close contact with your supervisor.

You do not need to notify our office about this temporary change.

Companies use the words furlough and lay-off to mean different things. It’s important to speak with your company’s Human Resources (HR) team to understand the status of your job before reporting changes to your employment to ISS.

If a student is laid-off, it means that the company no longer has employment for you and if you want to work for the company again you would have to reapply. If you are laid-off, you are considered unemployed for OPT or STEM OPT unemployment clock purposes and you need to report the unemployment to our office. If you are laid-off you may be eligible for unemployment insurance while you look for a new job.

If a student is placed on a temporary leave or furlough, it means that the company has temporarily suspended your employment due to lack of work or financial trouble, but you are expected to resume your employment with the company as soon as they resume operations. The key here is that you have a job to return to. Sometimes this suspension of employment is a few days or weeks, sometimes it is months. If you are on a temporary leave (or furlough), you are not considered unemployed for OPT or STEM OPT unemployment clock purposes and do not need to report the unpaid leave or furlough days to our office. You should keep documentation from your company (usually a letter from HR or your supervisor) that documents that this leave is in accordance with the company’s policies and that you are expected to resume work. If you are on a temporary leave, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance while you look for a new job or wait for your job to resume. Accepting unemployment does not impact your OPT or STEM OPT unemployment clock.


If you have questions or are not sure how this applies to you, first reach out to your supervisor or company’s Human Resources (HR) team. Once you have written communication from them you can schedule a drop-in appointment with our team.

Each state has their own process related to unemployment insurance (which is a financial payment for unemployed workers). 

If you've been furloughed or laid off, your company should be able to provide you information for the correct state agency and details on the application process.

You can learn more about California's process and eligibility requirements here.

To be eligible for the Economic Impact Payments from the CARES Act, you must be a "resident alien for tax purposes”. 

Most of SCU's international students and scholars are "non-resident aliens for tax purposes" and are therefore not eligible for the Economic Impact Payments from the CARES Act.

We cannot provide personalized tax guidance, however, you can find tax related information and resources here. We hope these web resources are helpful to you. 

 

Both state unemployment insurance payments as well as the economic impact payments are considered "earned benefits", and therefore are not considered a violation of the public charge rule. If you are eligible for these benefits, you may claim them.

 

Most companies are discouraging travel (both internationally and domestic) for non-essential purposes.

If you've considered the risk of international travel and still plan to leave the U.S. please review our travel website for a list of documents that you should carry with you.

There is no limitation to the amount of time you can be outside the U.S. while on OPT or STEM OPT extension, however, if you will be outside the U.S. for more than 30 days you should carry documents from your company approving your vacation or remote work from abroad.

STEM OPT Extensions: You must be physically present in the U.S. to apply for a STEM OPT extension. You cannot apply from abroad -- this is a regulation not an SCU policy. Students who have OPT that expires should not leave the U.S. until their STEM OPT extension has been properly delivered to USCIS.  

If you need an updated travel signature: Email iss@scu.edu. The email subject line should be "updated travel signature" in the email body include your full legal name, your SCU ID, your date of departure from the U.S. and your planned date of re-entry (if any). In the coming weeks we will create an updated I-20 for you with a new travel signature. Once the I-20 has been created you will be sent an email with instructions on how to create a shipping label so the we can mail the I-20 to you prior to your return to the U.S.

If you are eligible, you should file a STEM OPT extension. More information can be found at scu.edu/stemopt.

If you are not eligible for further practical training extension, during the 60 day departure period after your practical training period ends, you are eligible to:

  • Enroll in a higher degree program at SCU (you must be admitted and have your SEVIS record updated within the 60 days; you must start classes within 5 months)
  • Enroll in a new academic program at another school (you must be admitted and have your SEVIS record transferred within the 60 days; you must start classes within 5 months)
  • File an application to change your immigration status with USCIS
  • Depart from the U.S.

 

If you have concerns or want to discuss your options further, please email iss@scu.edu or schedule a drop-in appointment.

 

J-1 Research Scholars and Exchange Students

We continue to monitor the situation and options and as we better understand the university's academic and operational plans for the coming academic year. As the university updates operational plans to support dedensification and social distancing, we will continue to evaluate whether it makes sense for new scholars to physically arrive as planned or if we recommend they defer their arrival to a later date.   

We are accepting International Visitor Proposals and continue to evaluate them with respect to the university's operational plans and immigration guidance from the U.S. Department of State. Please submit your proposal to scholars@scu.edu on or before the deadline.

For more information, please visit our scholars page.

Parents and Families

Students facing extraordinary circumstances that will require them to remain in on-campus housing must request an exception to live on campus.

  • The form is available on your housing portal via eCampus.
  • Look for a button titled “Exception Form” across the top of the Housing landing page.
  • All exception requests will be reviewed within 24 hours.

More infomation can be found on the SCU On Campus Living Website