Stay Informed

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Updates for International Students and Scholars

Beginning March 30 the university will move to all online courses for the duration of the spring semester. Further, campus services such as housing, dining, and other campus facilities will be discontinued. While our building is closed until further notice, advisors remain available remotely to process immigration requests and provide advising support. If you have a question that is not answered in the Q&A below, please contact us for assistance. 

Each of you is a valued member of the Longhorn family and we are committed to supporting you with the plan that is right for you through this difficult time. Your safety and well-being are our highest priority and we will continue to provide you with the most current information. 

How does switching to online instruction affect my immigration status? What if I want to return home and complete the semester?

F-1 and J-1 students will be able to continue this semester’s courses online (either in the U.S. or abroad) without jeopardizing their immigration status. You must remain enrolled full-time and make progress toward your degree. Please note that approval to take all of your courses online and still remain in good immigration status is a temporary accommodation until this health crisis ends and in-person classes resume.

If you plan to return to your home country, we recognize you may face challenges with online instruction including internet availability, access to software platforms, and time zones. If these issues become an obstacle to continuing your coursework, please contact ISSS so we can help you determine if alternatives are available.

I live in on-campus housing. Is it possible for me to stay on campus?

All students who live on campus are required to move out of their residence hall. You have two options:

  • You may submit an emergency housing application as soon as possible, but no later than 8:00am on March 30th, if you believe it is best for you to remain in Austin due to your personal circumstances; or
  • You may opt to return to your home country (or to another country) if your preference is to leave. However, if you have concerns related to coursework completion based on challenges with internet availability, access to software platforms, and working across multiple time zones, please reach out to us immediately. We will coordinate with units across campus to determine alternatives that may be available to you.

International students living in 2400 Nueces and in University Apartments do not need to move out of their apartments.   

I would like to return home. Will I be able to maintain my immigration status if I return home until the Fall 2020 semester?

Yes. As long as you maintain and complete a full course load during the Spring 2020 semester, you will be considered a full-time enrolled student. Immigration regulations allow for a summer vacation (without being enrolled) as long as you are eligible for and intend to register for Fall 2020 semester.

What happens if I intend to return to campus in Fall 2020 but the situation does not improve with COVID-19 and I would like to continue to be enrolled but take classes online. Will these be available? 

Despite the evolving situation, we anticipate that campus will return to face-to-face instruction in Fall 2020. Should it not be the case, we will inform you in due course. 

If I vacate my current on or off campus residence and relocate to a new address, do I need to report it within 10 days? 

Yes. To maintain your immigration status, any change of address within the U.S. must be reported within 10 days. However, if you are departing the U.S., you must keep a U.S. address on file for your Local Address. You can leave your last U.S. address on file if you no longer have a U.S. address.

If I leave the U.S. now will I be able to come back to the U.S?

Under regular circumstances, if you have a valid U.S. visa and a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 that has been signed within a year from the date of your entry into the United States, then you are eligible to reenter the country. However, given the events surrounding COVID-19 and the travel restrictions the United States and other countries are implementing, we cannot determine what the case will be when you’re ready to return.

Travel restrictions into the U.S. may change at any time. Note that restrictions are not based on citizenship but on physical presence in the respective country. We are unsure how long these travel restrictions will continue. Further, if you need to renew your visa to enter the U.S., please consult the U.S. Embassy in your home country regarding visa processing times. 

I need to apply for OPT. Can I apply remotely from elsewhere in the U.S.? Can I apply from outside the U.S.?

You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you submit your Optional Practical Training (OPT) application. If you're planning to return to your home country and have questions about how this will affect your ability to apply for OPT, then please contact us to discuss your case. 

ISSS will continue to process OPT applications via myIO. We strongly encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible.

I will graduate in May 2020, and my plan was to return to my home country.  Now, I am considering staying in the United States. What are my options?

You have three options:

  1. Remain in the U.S. and apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) (for F-1 students) or Academic Training (for J-1 students).
  2. Remain in the U.S. during the grace period after your program end date (which you can find on your I-20 or DS-2019). The grace period is 60 days for F-1 students and 30 days for J-1 students.
  3. Apply to another degree at UT or transfer (if eligible) your SEVIS record to another institution. To initiate, complete the Transfer Out Release Form.

I am an exchange student. How does this change affect me? 

Please contact the exchange student advisor to discuss your options for completing the semester. 

I still have a specific question and need further assistance. Who do I ask?

ISSS advisors remain available to assist you remotely. Please contact us at hotline@austin.utexas.edu with your questions. 

Can I Still Apply for a U.S. Visa?

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced that routine visa services will be suspended in most countries effective March 18, 2020. It is expected that embassies and consulates will resume visa services as soon as possible, but they cannot provide a specific date at this time. To determine the operation status of the U.S. consulate or embassy in your country go to: usembassy.gov.

 In order to enter the United States you must have a valid U.S. visa and a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 that has been signed within a year from the date of your entry into the United States. Please keep this in mind as you make your travel decisions, especially if you have a visa that will expire within the next several months. 

Reporting Bias Incidents

Bias incidents are offenses against individuals or groups that are motivated by perceived identity such as age, citizenship, national origin, gender, and gender expression. Examples of bias incidents include verbal harassment, hateful written comments, and derogatory graffiti.

If you observed or have personally experienced a bias incident, we urge you to report the details. By reporting a bias incident, you will help campus officials gather information regarding the university environment. Additionally, the Campus Climate Response Team has resources available for individuals dealing with the effects of being the target of a bias incident. If you encounter a situation that requires immediate police, medical, psychological, or other emergency service, you should always call 911 first. 

We all belong to the UT family and we want to make sure that everyone in the community is welcomed and respected.