International Students FAQs
For Currently Enrolled International Students
Active F-1 students can remain present in the U.S. (or return to the U.S. from abroad) and enroll in all online courses for fall semester. F-1 students can also enroll in a full course of study while abroad and keep their F-1 student status active while remaining outside the U.S. for more than 5 months. These provisions apply to F-1 students who were present in the U.S. at the time the pandemic started.
For Newly Admitted International Students
New students coming to the U.S. for the first time must be participating in a program that is not 100 percent online. Some colleges/departments may not be able to provide in-person courses. This will need to be confirmed before you come. Newly admitted international students can study in all online courses from abroad for fall semester but will not be able to count that time towards meeting the eligibility requirements for OPT and CPT. New students with graduate assistantship offers will not be able to be hired by the university to work remotely from overseas.
All non-essential international travel is highly discouraged. For those who do travel, the countries below currently have restrictions on entry to the U.S. Please note that as of July 16, 2020, students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with a valid F-1 visa, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. J-1 students from these areas who are traveling may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- Vatican City
Anyone who is coming to UC for the first time or returning to campus from an international trip is required to report to University Health Services by emailing COVIDWatch@uc.edu.
The University of Cincinnati has restricted all international travel for faculty, staff and students traveling for UC business or educational purposes. Faculty, staff and students who decide to travel outside the U.S. will be subject to reporting and self-monitoring or other protocols upon return.
In addition, individuals from certain countries may not be able to enter at all. Non-immigrants present in China, Iran, South Korea, and certain travelers in Europe during the 14-day period preceding their entry back into the U.S. will be denied re-entry due to national public health restrictions. U.S. citizens and permanent residents returning from these countries will have some level of public health restrictions on their movements for 14 days from the time they left China. Those considering non-essential travel should carefully consider all of these issues when considering travel.
Further complicating this issue is the fact that the U.S. Department of State has only recently announced that they will be resuming routine visa services due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While good news, re-openings will be a phased in approach and will be contingent on COVID-19 conditions in specific countries. At this point we are unable to provide a specific date when each consulate/embassy will resume specific visa services, or when they will return to processing at pre-Covid workload levels. Students will need to consult their individual U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website for information regarding operating status.
All F-1 students have a 60 day grace period to depart the US from the date of program completion. International students looking for options to stay in the U.S. after graduation should consult with UC International Services about immigration and visa options. Students can reach UC international Services by phone at 513-556-4278 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
However, two options are readily available to international students to consider and include:
- Students could consider applying for an OPT even if they do not wish to use it. The application must be mailed within the 60 day grace period following program completion. Most OPT applications take 90 days for DHS to process. Once the OPT is approved, students are allowed to remain unemployed in the US for an additional 90 days. Taking this course of action would give a student approximately a 6-month window to reside in the US until lockdowns / travel restrictions in their home countries are eased. Please note that F1 students do not need an offer letter from a company to apply for OPT.
- Students could also consider applying for a tourist visa citing the pandemic and lack of ability to travel as the reason. Taking this course of action would result in a change of status from F-1 to B-2 tourist. This would entail filing an I-539 application to change/extend non-immigrant status with USCIS and the student will be allowed to stay while the while the application is being processed. On successful approval, a student gets a maximum of 6 months from their program completion date to remain in the US.
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. However, anyone who is remote working from overseas must contact their hiring department about permission to continue working remotely from overseas. Also be sure to adhere to the 20 hour per week limitation for on-campus employment while school is in session.
International students must remember to submit a curricular practical authorization through UC International Services and the iBearcatsGlobal system. Co-ops done outside the U.S. will allow students to maintain an active SEVIS record.
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;
- UC International Services has 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.
Any student who begins work in the US and is now changing to working outside the US must notify UC International Services of the date the employment changed to overseas work and the name and address of the employer. Send the information to email@example.com.
Prior to the COVID 19 pandemic it was mandatory for students on OPT to work full-time. However, during the pandemic this requirement has been waived and a student on OPT (with a valid EAD card) could work any number of hours between 1 and 40 and not be in violation of the OPT rules. However, the OPT unemployment rules still remain in effect. Students on the 12 month OPT period are limited to 90 days of unemployment and students on the 24-month STEM OPT extension are limited to 150 days of unemployment.
A recent Presidential proclamation has blocked the entry of immigrants to the US. Although the Proclamation did not affect non-immigrant visas such as F-1, it was stipulated that issuance of non-immigrant visas will be evaluated. Some Senators have urged the current administration to end programs like OPT until the economy recovers. While the President has the authority to temporarily alter or change OPT and CPT programs due to an emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not known if any formal changes will be proposed or implemented. Any comment on whether OPT or CPT will be discontinued, if students will lose their current OPT or CPT jobs would be purely speculative. UC is offering its full support for the OPT and CPT program and is talking with legislators and other professional organizations about the value of the program. Any updates on the future of the OPT or CPT programs will be communicated to the students by UC International Services.
There is no link between your program completion / graduation date and job offers. You are required to graduate irrespective of whether you have secured a job offer or not. You can always apply for an OPT which on acceptance, grants you an additional 90 days to look for a job within the US. Please note that delaying graduation due to the COVID 19 pandemic is not permitted.
Under current conditions, if an active F-1 student leaves the United States to complete the spring term online, their SEVIS record will remain in active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students are not subject to the five-month rule and are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study.
The answer to this questions depends on where you intend to pursue your new program/level of study. If you intend to pursue your study at UC you will need to obtain a new I-20 for the new program/degree level. To obtain a new I-20 you will need to submit documentation of your admission to the new program and sources of financial support to UC International Services. It is recommend that you obtain the new I-20 before you depart the U.S. but it can be done up to 60 days following your graduation. In this case your new I-20 would be mailed to you.
If you will be pursuing the new program/degree level at another U.S. institution you need to submit the “Transfer Out Request” eform to UC International Services. You will need to have your letter of admission to the new school to make this request. UC International Services will then transfer your SEVIS record to the new school who will then issue you a new I-20 to study at their school.
Please keep in mind that all travel advisories discussed elsewhere in this document apply (travel to a CDC Level 3 warning country, visa services being suspended, etc.).
Yes, any student who returns home and completes their courses from overseas will graduate as scheduled. Where you complete your courses has no impact on your ability to graduate.
Students with pending OPT applications should not travel currently.
Students who are unable to return in-person for fall semester due to visa issues or other travel restrictions can enroll in online courses and maintain active SEVIS status.
Any visitor coming to campus must self-quarantine for 14 days and report to University Health Services (UHS) via COVIDWatch@uc.edu before arriving to campus. UHS will respond with appropriate health guidance.
There are additional restrictions for certain individuals visiting from more than 30 different countries. Due to the presidential “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus”, visitors who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are currently subject to reporting and self-monitoring protocols upon return. U.S. citizens and permanent residents visiting from China currently have some level of restrictions on their movements for 14 days from the time they left China. Nonimmigrants physically present in China or Europe during the 14-day period preceding their entry into the U.S. are currently denied re-entry.
We recommend that invitations to all visitors be put on hold until travel restrictions and visa operations return to normal. Invitations for anyone to come before spring semester should be reconsidered. Faculty and staff inviting international visitors to campus should contact UC International Services with questions about invitation and visa processes to ensure the proper visas are being secured, that the appropriate export control screenings are conducted, and reasonable start dates are being selected during this difficult time.