Please find information in this letter from Illinois Institute of Technology related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and how it relates to your F-1 status or J-1 status:
USCIS Preparing to Resume Public Services on June 4th
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is preparing some domestic offices to reopen and resume non-emergency public services on or after June 4. On March 18, USCIS temporarily suspended routine in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices and application support centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to protect our workforce and the public. For the latest information on the status of individual offices, check our office closures page.
While certain offices are temporarily closed, USCIS continues to provide limited emergency in-person services. Please call the USCIS Contact Center for assistance with emergency services.
As services begin to reopen, offices will reduce the number of appointments and interviews to ensure social distancing, allow time for cleaning and reduce waiting room occupancy. Appointment notices will contain information on safety precautions that visitors to USCIS facilities must follow.
If you are feeling sick, please do not go to your appointment. Follow the instructions on your appointment notice to reschedule your appointment for when you are healthy. There is no penalty for rescheduling your appointment if you are sick.
More information is available here: https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-covid-19
Social Security Applications
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Social Security Administration has closed its offices until further notice.
Can I start my job or internship before I receive a Social Security Number?
As long as you have authorization from the International Center (on-campus work, CPT, or OPT), you can start working without a Social Security Number (SSN). Be sure your employer follows the correct instructions for allowing you to begin work without the SSN. The Social Security Administration’s publication, “Foreign Workers and Social Security Numbers,” has additional information.
As soon as Social Security Administration offices re-opens, you may apply for your SSN immediately.
International Center Virtual Office
[Updated March 24, 2020]
The International Center, effective March 23, is temporarily transitioning to virtual operations due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. We will reopen our physical office locations once we have been approved to do so by the state of Illinois.
In the meantime, the International Center's Virtual Office will remain open for the Spring 2020 term from 9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday. Advising will continue to take place by phone, email, and through Zoom appointments.
Please bear with us during this difficult period as we collectively respond to the current pandemic. The International Center remains committed to continuing our services for you and will restore operations at our physical locations once it is feasible to do so.
Newly Admitted International Students
Employment Related Questions
Can F-1 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.
Can F-1 students with proper authorization participate in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) while they are abroad?
Yes, F-1 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.
Can F-1 Students apply for post-completion OPT from outside the United States?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicates OPT employment authorization requests, and as of now, F-1 students may only apply for OPT while inside the U.S. If and when students are able to apply for OPT outside the US, this page will be updated.
Can F-1 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.
Online Course Format
- Beginning Monday, March 23, 2020, classes for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester will be done in an online format. Your individual faculty members should have provided you with information regarding how you will participate in your courses by now.
- All final exams will be conducted online as well.
- The physical May 2020 Commencement has been canceled. More information is available here.
Maintaining F-1/J-1 Status During this Time
- Due to the recent developments related to COVID-19, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has temporarily waived its online course restrictions for F-1/J-1 students. Students will remain in active status during this time. You can view the SEVP government update on the SEVP link here.
- If you choose to remain in the United States to complete the rest of the Spring 2020 semester and you are taking a full course of study, you will continue to maintain your legal F-1/J-1 status.
- If you choose to leave the U.S. and complete the rest of the Spring 2020 semester from home virtually, you will still be maintaining your F-1/J-1 status.
- As we look ahead to next semester, please enroll in desired coursework as usual, following F-1/J-1 rules and regulations. If the usual operations of campus remain impacted next semester Fall 2020, we will have updated options before that time from the university and from the SEVP government agency.
Appointments and E-Advising
- For now, the International Center will remain open; however, staffing will be limited as we do our part in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
- For community health reasons, the International Center is temporarily suspending physical walk-in advising hours and all programs and events, effective Monday March 23.
- Even though we are open, we ask that you communicate with our advisors by making an appointment, either through email or virtually, through Zoom. You may make an appointment via Zoom using this link.
- Please know that the International Center is committed to supporting our international student and scholar community during this health emergency. While we must do a few things differently, we remain available, as always, to answer your questions and to address your concerns.
- I-20/DS-2019 pick-up: We highly recommend that you strongly consider NOT picking up your documents in person at this time but instead, request that they be shipped. You may arrange for shipping by following the instructions here. Unfortunately, we cannot scan and email I-20/DS-2019s electronically.
- At this time, international students should be able to return home, as long as their home country is allowing them re-entry.
- Any international or domestic travel should be taken with caution―after checking for any developments in travel restrictions for both the country/area being traveled to and where you are traveling from.
- Regularly check the U.S Department of State website for travel updates here.
- The country or area you are traveling to could experience an outbreak and implement a quarantine, and you may not be able to leave that country or area until the quarantine is lifted.
- While you are traveling, if there is an outbreak in the Chicagoland area and travel restrictions are imposed upon your return to the Chicagoland area, you may want to keep in mind the following:
- Consider health insurance coverage at your destination. Will you have insurance coverage in case you are sick?
- Are your travel plans flexible in case of any delays?
- Consider purchasing flights or other parts of travel, such as hotels, that have flexible cancellation. The extent to which different airlines or other companies are reimbursing purchases varies tremendously.
Leave of Absence Procedures
International students can take a semester off if necessary or desired, as follows (we recommend that you speak with an adviser first).
- Remaining in the U.S. While Taking Time Off
- International students who wish to remain in the U.S. while taking a semester off can only do so for medical reasons; additional information can be found here.
- Taking Time Off While Outside of the U.S.
- International students are welcome to take a semester off from outside of the U.S.; additional information can be found here.
- Students outside of the U.S. for less than five months can continue to use the same F-1/J-1 SEVIS record, visa, and documents. You should contact our office at least 30 days before you return to the U.S. in order for your F-1/J-1 SEVIS record to be reactivated.
- Students outside of the U.S. for five months or more will require a new F-1/J-1 SEVIS record, visa, and documents. You should contact our office at least three months before you return to the U.S.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Concerns
For students participating in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics extension (STEM) OPT, I-983 forms do NOT need to be updated to include a remote work address.
For students participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT), an updated address does NOT need to be submitted into your SEVP portal, if work is being done remotely.
- Spring 2020 OPT Applicants
- For now, you must still be physically present in the U.S. to apply for OPT with USCIS. If the regulations surrounding this rule changes, we will update this portion of our website to inform students.
- The International Center will continue to process all requests for new OPT I-20s. Information on how to apply for OPT is available here.
- For students who are currently on OPT and the STEM OPT Extension, there are no changes in the existing rules related to OPT and the STEM OPT Extension. We would encourage you to make sure that you understand your employer’s options for sick leave, should you become ill or even concerned that you might be getting sick. Your employer should also be providing you with clear direction about remote work options and expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- If you are planning to travel (internationally or within the U.S.) or attending conferences, please work with your employer to understand how to best manage these plans.
- Lastly, make sure that you understand the health insurance that you have through your employer in case you need it should you become sick.
Thank you for your understanding and patience during this uncertain time for us all. We wish you the very best as you navigate the rest of the semester. Know that we are here to support you. Please make use of such on-campus resources as the Student Health and Wellness Center, which will remain available to you during this time.
Director, International Center
Illinois Institute of Technology