U.S. Customs & Immigration Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Non-Immigrant Students Maintaining Student Records | Employment | Student Return to the United States

Many F & M students may choose to travel home & complete the Spring semester remotely. Will their I-20 be cancelled if they are taking classes outside the U.S.? If their SEVIS records remain in Active status, will students be subject to the 5-month rule?

Under current conditions, if an active F student leaves the United States to complete the spring term online, their SEVIS record should remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status. SEVIS will allow F and M students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v), even if they have left the United States and are taking the online classes elsewhere. This temporary provision is only in effect due to COVID-19.

Due to COVID-19, what is the requirement for Initial status students who have already arrived in the United States?

Initial status students currently in the United States that have reported to their school should be made Active in SEVIS, and follow the guidelines the school provides to all its F and M students related to COVID-19. If Initial students have not arrived in the United States, they should remain in their home country.

Can students with proper authorization participate in curricular practical training (CPT) while they are abroad?

Students may engage in CPT during their time abroad, provided they are:

  • Enrolled in a program of study in which CPT is integral to the program of study;
  • Their DSO authorized CPT in advance of the CPT start date; and
  • Either the employer has an office outside the United States or the employer can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically.

Will F and M students be able to return to the United States if they are continuing their studies outside of the country as a result of COVID-19?

Students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission into the United States. However, because of the changing array of travel restrictions, students should refer to their local embassy’s website through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance. Also, DHS and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) websites provide information about current travel restrictions to the United States.

How should DSOs manage student records for those who were studying abroad but can no longer maintain a full course of study due to the closure of the overseas institution?

If a school’s overseas study abroad program closes due to COVID-19, students should contact their SEVP-certified school in the United States for guidance. Students may enroll in online or other alternative forms of education offered by the SEVP-certified school, if available. In general, students may remain in Active status in SEVIS as long as they intend to resume their course of study when classes resume.

Should DSOs mark the “Study Abroad” field in SEVIS for students who have traveled back home and are in Active status, engaging in online studies from home?

Schools should not mark “Study Abroad” in SEVIS for students who are in their home countries unless they are attending an overseas institution as part of a formal study abroad arrangement.

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 F students engage in remote work for on-campus employment?

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. Schools should be able to explain how the students are providing services associated with the employment while not at the location of the employer.

Can F and M students who were previously employed and are now unemployed due to COVID-19 apply for unemployment benefits?

Students who are unemployed due to COVID-19 should contact their local or state employment agency for more information.

Is there a time frame for when students are expected to return to the United States once the COVID-19 emergency is over and schools have resumed normal operations?

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. SEVP also anticipates providing additional guidance after the COVID-19 emergency ends regarding a school’s return to normal operations.