Latest Developments in

Immigration Law

Updates for F-1 International Students

Due to Covid-19, many colleges and universities have transitioned to partially or completely online instruction, and the United States government has imposed several restrictions on travel into the United States. These changes may impact international students who are currently in the United States or who are seeking to enter the United States.

When Covid-19 Reached the United States, I Was an F or M Student. Now, My Curriculum is Online. What Happens Now?

Standard regulations prohibit online classes for M students and limit F students to one online class per semester. However, due to Covid-19, the government has granted a temporary exception for students. If you were enrolled in a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, and are now enrolled in an entirely online course load, you may count that online course load toward maintaining your F or M student status.

Qualifying students who are in the United States may remain in the United States as long as they continue to meet their program’s requirements. These qualifying students can also maintain their F or M student status if they have left the United States but are still enrolled in a full online U.S. program. Qualifying students who have left the United States may re-enter the United States if they have a valid visa to do so.

I Became An F or M Student After Covid-19 Reached the United States. What Happens Now?

If you received your F or M initial student status after March 9, 2020, you will not be allowed to enter the United States if all of your classes are online. However, you may enter the United States for a hybrid course load, even if the online classes make up a higher portion of the course load than the typical restrictions.

You may begin an online course of study from abroad, but you will not be in active F status until you enter the United States. The delay may affect your ability to enroll in CPT or pre-completion OPT because you will not accrue academic time as a member of SEVIS while you are enrolled online abroad.

I Am Involved in CPT or OPT. Are There Covid-19 Specific Rules?
If you are on CPT (Curricular Practical Training) or OPT (Optional Practical Training) you may continue to participate in the program remotely, whether you are inside the United States or outside of the United States, provided your employer can adequately assess your work. This eligibility includes students working on STEM OPT projects.

If you are participating in OPT, you may continue to participate in OPT even if you are now, due to Covid-19, working fewer than 20 hours per week.

However, there has been no change in the allowable periods of unemployment. If you are working in OPT, your allowable period of unemployment remains 90 days. If you are working in STEM OPT, your allowable period of unemployment remains 150 days.

I Am About to Graduate, and I Want to Apply for Post-Completion OPT. Can I?

If you would like to seek post-completion OPT, you must apply by filing a form I-765 no more than 90 days before your program ends, and no later than 60 days after your program ends. However, the form I-765 may only be filed if you are in the United States.

If you would like assistance with filing your I-765 form or with seeking permission to travel to the United States where you could file your form I-765, you can make an appointment with Attorney Jon Wu to discuss your case.

I Am An International Student Who Applied for OPT, but USCIS Took A Really Long Time to Issue My Receipt. Is There Anything I Can Do?

If your I-765 form application for OPT was delivered to Immigration on after October 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, you may qualify for certain special exemptions if Immigration’s processing time for your application was greatly extended by Covid-19.

Normally, students applying for post-completion OPT must complete their post-completion OPT within 14 months from the date their program ended. However, due to Immigration’s delays, for applicants within the eligible time period, this 14-month period will begin on the date the Form I-765 was approved, not the date the program ended. If your approval does not reflect this leniency, you may request a correction. If you are uncertain about how to request a correction, you can make an appointment with Attorney Jon Wu to discuss your case.

If you filed your I-765 application for OPT or STEM OPT within the appropriate timeframes, but your initial application was rejected, you may refile. If your initial application was received on or after October 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, provided you refile by May 31, 2021, Immigration will treat your application as filed within the appropriate time period, even if that time period has since expired. You will not need to re-obtain a Form I-20, as long as your original Form I-20 was timely filed. Be certain to include your rejection notice as evidence of your original filing, and if you would like assistance re-filing, you can make an appointment with Attorney Jon Wu to discuss your case.

I Want to Travel to the United States as a Student, but I Have Heard People are Having Trouble Getting Visas and Flights. What Can I Do?

Not all embassies and consulates are currently processing visa applications due to Covid-19. However, even if your embassy or consulate is not processing standard visa applications, you may still be able to get a visa to enter the United States as a student. The Department of State has stated that student visas should be a “high priority.” Therefore, some – but not all – embassies and consulates are willing to process applications for student visas via emergency visa appointments, which you can request online.

If you are unsure if your embassy or consulate will process your case, or if you are unsure of the procedure for seeking an emergency appointment, you can make an appointment with Attorney Jon Wu to discuss your case.
U.S. officials have barred the entry of travelers from certain countries due to Covid-19 within those countries. These countries include: China, Iran, Brazil, the Schengen Area, the UK, Ireland, and South Africa.

If you are from the Schengen Area, the UK, or Ireland, you are still permitted to enter the United States on a student visa, because the government has instituted an automatic National Interest Exception for these students.

If you are from China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, you will need to spend at least 14 days in a non-restricted country before entering the United States, or to qualify for an exemption. If you are unsure if you may qualify for an exemption, you can make an appointment with Attorney Jon Wu to discuss your case.

I Am a Current or Prospective International Student, and I Don’t Know What to Do. Where Do I Start?

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the rules and restrictions governing international students at this point in time, consider contacting your school’s representative for international students or making an appointment with Attorney Jon Wu to discuss your case.

San Mateo Immigration Lawyer Serving San Francisco Bay Area