International Services for Students and Scholars (ISSS)

The information below is based on the July 24, 2020, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance from the Department of Homeland Security. International students may find additional details on our ISSS website

Q. If I am outside of the country for more than five months, will I be able to re-enter? Do I need a new visa?

A. SEVP confirmed that if an F-1 student remained enrolled full-time and completed their coursework online, they would maintain their F-1 status even if they were studying outside of the United States. SEVP also confirmed the five-month rule would not apply to students maintaining their F-1 status. You do not need to apply for a new visa if your current visa is still valid on the date you wish to re-enter.

 

Q. Will I need to go to an unrestricted third country and stay there for 14 days in order to enter the United States? 

A. This depends upon several factors, including your location before entering the United States. Find guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

 

Q. What documents will I need to re-enter the United States?

A. To re-enter the United States, you must present your passport, valid F-1 visa, and an I-20 with a valid travel signature (issued within 12 months of your entry to the United States).

If your travel signature is no longer valid (issued more than a year from your entry date), you must request a new travel signature by submitting the I-20 Request form, available on the ISSS website.

Q. If my class cohort is allowed back on campus, can I take all online courses, or can I take a mix of in-person/hybrid and online courses?

A. According to SEVP guidance, continuing students can take all online courses and maintain your F-1 status. You can also take a mix of in-person/hybrid and online courses and maintain your F-1 status.

New students who are outside of the United States are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid course to be permitted to enter the United States.

 

Q. How can I tell if the classes on my schedule are online, in-person, or hybrid?

A. The Registrar will provide indicators in SIS for each course to signal if a course will be held online, in-person, or in a hybrid format.

 

Q. If I am taking all online classes in the fall, is there a limit to how many classes I am permitted to take online?

A. For continuing students, SEVP guidance does not restrict the number of classes you can take online, although you must be enrolled as a full-time student (unless you receive prior authorization from ISSS to be part-time during your final semester).

New students who are currently outside of the United States are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid course to be permitted to enter the United States.

Students must continue to meet Institutional requirements for how many classes you can take during the semester.

 

Q. I am currently outside of the United States. Do I need to remain outside of the United States if I do not have in-person classes?

A. For continuing students, SEVP guidance advises that as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status, you are permitted to enter the United States.

New students who are outside the United States are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid course to be permitted to enter the United States.

New students must enter the United States by the end of the SEVIS registration period (Tuesday, September 29).

 

Q. I am already in the United States. Do I need to leave if I do not have in-person classes?

A. According to SEVP guidance, as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status, you are permitted to remain in the United States. Continuing students can take all online courses and maintain your F-1 status. You can also take a mix of in-person/hybrid and online courses and maintain your F-1 status.

 

Q.  After Thanksgiving Break, all classes will be remote. Will I need to depart the United States at that time?

A. No. If you are in the United States during the fall semester, you will not be required to depart the United States during the break.

 

Q. If I take all online classes from outside of the United States, will my visa status be affected?

A. New students: New students cannot obtain F-1 status if remaining outside of the United States. However, you are not required to be in F-1 status to begin your studies online.

Continuing students: According to SEVP guidance, you can take all online courses and maintain your F-1 status, even if you are outside of the United States.

 

Q. Will online classes affect my ability to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

A. Under current guidance, online classes will not affect current students’ ability to apply for OPT or CPT. 

CPT and OPT regulations state that you must be in F-1 status for one full academic year in order to apply for these benefits. Therefore, new students in an accelerated program (12 months) who choose to begin their program online (outside the U.S.) may be impacted. This may also impact re-admitted students who have less than one year remaining in their program, but choose to take all online classes outside the U.S. 

Federal regulations state that you cannot apply for OPT from outside of the United States. So, if you are in the final semester of your program, and are taking 100% online classes outside the U.S., you may be impacted.

Please schedule a virtual advising appointment to discuss your case with ISSS staff.

 

Q. If Rensselaer is required to move all courses online, will I lose my F-1 status and have to leave the country?

A. If Rensselaer is required to move to 100% online courses, F-1 students will maintain their F-1 status and will not be required to depart the United States.

 

Q. I am an incoming first-year student. What if I am unable to get my visa in time?

A. Contact Rensselaer Admissions at admissions@rpi.edu. They are working with students to determine the best course of action for starting your program.

 

Q. If I cannot enter the United States by the first day of classes, can I arrive later in the semester?

A. Students must arrive in the United States no later than September 29 in order for ISSS to complete your SEVIS registration. You can begin your classwork online.

If you anticipate arriving after the program start date (on page 1 of your I-20), you must email ISSS in advance to request a new I-20 with revised dates to be permitted to enter the United States.

If you are in quarantine, you can begin your classwork online.

 

Q. Can I defer my start to the spring?

A. Contact Rensselaer Admissions at admissions@rpi.edu. They are working with students to determine the best course of action for starting your program.

 

Q. As a sophomore international student, do I need to leave the United States during the fall semester?

A. Sophomores will pursue online coursework during the fall semester 2020. According to SEVP guidance, you can take all online courses and maintain your F-1 status, whether you are inside or outside of the United States.

 

Q. As a sophomore international student, will my Arch experience be changed due to online classes during the fall semester?

A. No. Sophomores will return to campus in the spring and will complete the Arch summer term on campus. Therefore, you will be able to participate in your future Arch semester away without issue.

 

Q. As a junior international student, what immigration requirements do I have to meet for the fall semester?

A. You must be enrolled as a full-time student in the fall semester, unless you have been approved by The Arch for an exemption to take your semester away in the fall.

If approved, contact ISSS to discuss your situation on a case-by-case basis.

According to SEVP guidance, you can take all online courses and maintain your F-1 status, whether you are inside or outside of the United States.

 

Q. As a junior international student, will my immigration status affect my Arch semester away?

A. During the spring 2021 semester, you will take your semester away and maintain your visa status.

 

Q. As a senior international student, am I allowed to take classes from outside of the United States and still graduate?

A. Yes. You can complete your coursework online and outside of the United States and still graduate.

Note: you cannot apply for OPT outside of the United States.

 

Q. I have been approved by ISSS to be part-time in the fall. Can I still take a part-time course load?

A. Yes, as long as you will meet all of your graduation requirements by the end of the semester.  

 

Q. As an incoming international graduate student, what if I am unable to get my visa in time?

A. Based on your program, Graduate Admissions and your department are working with incoming international students to discuss your options. Email Graduate Admissions to inquire about your options at gradadmissions@rpi.edu.

 

Q. If I cannot enter the United States by the first day of classes, can I arrive later in the semester?

A. This is a decision that will be made by your academic department. Contact them for guidance.

For immigration purposes, you must arrive in the United States no later than September 29 in order for ISSS to complete your SEVIS registration.

If you anticipate arriving after the program start date (on page 1 of your I-20), you must email ISSS in advance to request a new I-20 with revised dates to be permitted to enter the United States.

If you are in quarantine, you can begin your classwork online.

 

Q. Can I defer my co-term one semester?

A. Contact Rensselaer Admissions at gradadmissions@rpi.edu. ISSS must also provide guidance on the immigration implications. This is a case-by-case scenario, so please schedule a virtual advising appointment with ISSS.

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