COVID-19 Updates & FAQ

Berkeley International Office (BIO) understands that the UC Berkeley international community has many questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. We created this webpage to answer your common questions and share helpful resources.

This page was last updated on July 14, 2022.

FAQ sections:

General

Travel

Health and Support

New & Continuing Students (Fall 2022)

F-1 and J-1 Enrolled Students - General Questions

F-1 and J-1 Post-Completion Employment

General

Travel

Are there any current travel bans or entry restrictions to the U.S.?

Air Travel to the US

Vaccination Requirement for Air Travel Entry to the US
All non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the U.S. Full details on the requirement can be found on the CDC  website.

Testing Requirements
As of 12:01AM ET on June 12, 2022, CDC will no longer require air passengers traveling from a foreign country to the United States to show a negative COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board their flight. Information on this change can be found on the CDC’s COVID-19 Testing Recision webpage

Proof of Vaccination:
Proof of vaccination will be required for nonimmigrants– with very limited exceptions. Passengers will need to show their vaccination status. See the CDC’s  CDC Vaccination requirement page  for current information and what forms of proof are acceptable.

Accepted Vaccines
The CDC has determined that for purposes of travel to the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorized and World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines.

Limited Exceptions from the Vaccination Requirement:

  • There are a very limited set of exceptions from the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals. These include exceptions for children under 18, those who are traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability (as determined by the CDC), certain COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants, those with medical contraindications to the vaccines, those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons (with a US government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel), and other very narrow categories.

  • Those who receive an exception will generally be required to attest they will comply with applicable public health requirements, including testing and quarantine, and with very limited exceptions, a requirement that they be vaccinated in the U.S. if they intend to stay here for more than 60 days.

  • A limited National Interest Exception applies to for certain nonimmigrants traveling to the United States, as follows: (1) are traveling with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;(2) were physically present in Ukraine as of February 10, 2022; and(3) possess valid travel documents allowing them to travel to the United States

Land & Ferry Entry from Mexico & Canada

Beginning on January 22, 2022, DHS will require non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. These restrictions will apply to non-U.S. individuals who are traveling for both essential and non-essential reasons. They will not apply to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, or U.S. nationals.

Do I need a vaccine or COVID Testing to enter the U.S.? Am I required to quarantine?

Air Travel to the US

Vaccination Requirement for Air Travel Entry to the US
All non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the U.S. Full details on the requirement can be found on the CDC  website.

Testing Requirements
As of 12:01AM ET on June 12, 2022, CDC will no longer require air passengers traveling from a foreign country to the United States to show a negative COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board their flight. Information on this change can be found on the CDC’s COVID-19 Testing Recision webpage

Proof of Vaccination:
Proof of vaccination will be required for nonimmigrants– with very limited exceptions. Passengers will need to show their vaccination status. See the CDC’s  CDC Vaccination requirement page  for current information and what forms of proof are acceptable.

 Accepted Vaccines:
The CDC has determined that for purposes of travel to the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorized and World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines.

Limited Exceptions from the Vaccination Requirement:

  • There are a very limited set of exceptions from the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals. These include exceptions for children under 18, those who are traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability (as determined by the CDC), certain COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants, those with medical contraindications to the vaccines, those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons (with a US government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel), and other very narrow categories.

  • Those who receive an exception will generally be required to attest they will comply with applicable public health requirements, including testing and quarantine, and with very limited exceptions, a requirement that they be vaccinated in the U.S. if they intend to stay here for more than 60 days.

  • A limited National Interest Exception applies to for certain nonimmigrants traveling to the United States, as follows: (1) are traveling with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;(2) were physically present in Ukraine as of February 10, 2022; and(3) possess valid travel documents allowing them to travel to the United States

Land & Ferry Entry from Mexico & Canada

Beginning on January 22, 2022, DHS will require non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. These restrictions will apply to non-U.S. individuals who are traveling for both essential and non-essential reasons. They will not apply to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, or U.S. nationals.

UC Berkeley Campus Requirements

For general information see UC Berkeley campus access requirements

What about travel restrictions for visiting other countries outside of the US? Do other countries have testing, vaccine or quarantine requirements?

Many other countries may have travel restrictions and entry requirements of their own, which could impact your ability to enter those countries or move freely or return to the US in the timeline you wish. You will need to check with your airline and/or that country’s consulate to be sure you understand any requirements for vaccination, testing, quarantine or other requirements for travelers. If you do need testing before you leave the US, the University Health services has an information page about available COVID travel testing including on and off-campus resources.

Do I need to be vaccinated to attend UC Berkeley ?

For general information about requirements and access to campus, see UC Berkeley campus access requirements

The University of California currently has a vaccine mandate. For more information about what this means for students and scholars, please visit the University Health Services (UHS) website to review the COVID Vaccine Policy, which includes a helpful FAQs about the policy and requirements. Vaccines are available for students who need them. See the UHS COVID-19 vaccine webpage for details about upcoming vaccine clinics.

For information about student COVID testing, vaccination, and campus access requirements please visit UC Berkeley's COVID-19 pag

Can I apply for a U.S. visa right now? Are consulates and embassies open for applications?

The Department of State continues to implement a phased resumption of visa services, including F-1 and J-1 category visas. Visit your local U.S. embassy or consulate website to confirm operating status and find information about appointment rescheduling and/or emergency services. Please also be aware that global travel conditions remain highly impacted and could change rapidly, and visa applicants could face serious delays.

I am a current student, scholar, or employee in the U.S. Is it OK for me to exit the U.S.? Will I be able to return?

If you are currently maintaining a student, scholar or employee immigration status in the U.S. and you depart, BIO can never guarantee your ability to return to the U.S. in a timely manner, which could have an impact on your U.S. visa status if you are unable to resume to continue your requirements as a student, scholar or employee. Additionally, many other countries may have travel restrictions of their own, which could impact your ability to enter those countries or move freely or return to the US in the timeline you wish. You will need to check with your airline and/or that country’s consulate to be sure you understand any requirements for vaccination, testing, quarantine or other requirements for travelers. If you do need testing before you leave the US, the University Health services has an information page about available COVID travel testing including on and off-campus resources.

If you are considering a short trip to a country which is not your home, you may also want to consider the risk that you could remain stuck there if the travel situation changes while you are away, possibly limiting your ability to enter the U.S. (or any other country). Are you prepared to be delayed for a while in the country you are visiting? You'll have to decide for yourself how comfortable you feel with that risk. It might be important for you to rethink your travel dates and make adjustments to later in the year.

If you do make personal decision to travel internationally, please carefully review the BIO Travel & Re-Entry page for general information regarding travel and required re-entry documents. If your U.S. entry visa is expired, be aware that applying for a visa for entry could be unpredictable and could cause you to face further delays.

Are there any University of California restrictions for university-related travel (i.e. field research or academic travel) at this time?

UC Berkeley is following the guidance of UCOP and the CDC when outlining travel policies. Please review UC Berkeley’s guidance on travel before you travel or make travel plans for the duration of  the COVID-19 pandemic – particularly for international travel as advance approval may be required and local public health and border entry requirements frequently change.

Please also consult your Berkeley International Office advisor to ensure that travel will not impact your visa status.

Can I travel within the U.S.?

Even within the U.S., different regions are experiencing travel impacts and restrictions. The CDC: COVID-19 Cases in the U.S. website has updated numbers per state, but this is changing quickly. If you choose to travel domestically, please be sure to consider your own health and safety. We encourage you to follow the CDC and local recommendations for travel.

Where can I find information about current health orders impacting Berkeley and surrounding areas?

You can review current Alameda County and City of Berkeley health orders. If you live in a different area, please check the Health Department instructions for your locality.

I need to leave the U.S. and BIO has not signed my I-20 or DS-2019 document! Is that OK? How can I get an I-20 or DS-2019 signature?

Yes, it’s OK! Please know that you do not need a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 document to either remain in OR to depart the U.S You DO need a valid travel signature to return to the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status. A valid travel signature must be no more than twelve months old on the date that you return to the U.S. (For F-1 students on post-completion Optional Practical Training or STEM OPT Extension, travel endorsements are only valid for 6 months.) You will only need a valid signature to apply for a new visa if the F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport is expired and/or for your re-entry into the U.S.

See sections below for instructions for Enrolled F-1/J-1 Students or J-1 Scholars to request a new travel endorsement.

The visa stamp in my passport has expired! Do I need to leave the U.S. to renew it right now?

No! The visa is just an entry document. Your I-20 or DS-2019 has a future expiration date (or post-completion F-1 OPT) on it to maintain its validity. If you remain in the U.S. with a valid I-20 or DS-2019, you are not required to extend the visa stamp in your passport. The visa in the passport only needs to be extended if you leave the U.S. and need to reenter the U.S. If you are presently in the U.S., your I-20 or DS-2019 is still valid, and the visa stamp in your passport is expired, there is no need for you to make a trip just to extend the visa.

My program is ending and I can't leave!

BIO is aware that many flights to impacted regions have been canceled, and that travel may not be available at this time. If your program is ending soon and you are unable to depart the United States, please notify Berkeley International Office to let us know about your situation. We urge you to also contact your home country’s local consulate or embassy in the U.S. for support and information regarding travel home. We will work with our clients on a case-by-case basis to determine the best path forward.

F-1/J-1 students, please see this question for more specific options.

Health and Support

I'm really worried and stressed. Where can I find support?

With the ongoing concerns around COVID-19, BIO understands that there may be concern and anxiety about family around the world. In addition, with the increasing level of news coverage and concerns about the spread of the virus locally, some of you may be experiencing anxiety or stress. Please know that these reactions are normal and there are ways in which you can take care of yourself during these stressful times.

The university has many resources available to help you cope with these situations. At the following links you can access various resources that you may find useful about how to take care of yourself.

Resources available for students, scholars and employees:

Counseling resources just for students:

Counseling resources just for scholars and employees:

Also be aware that BIO advisers are always ready and willing to be of assistance in any way we can. Please contact us for support or resources.

Where can I find health and travel information about COVID-19?

Please see our Resources section on the right sidebar of this page. BIO will continue to update this as we discover new resources.

I am experiencing xenophobia, racism, harassment, or bullying. What can I do and where can I find support?

Please notify Berkeley International Office so that we are aware of your situation and can assist with connecting you to support. 

UC Berkeley and BIO are committed to upholding our Principles of Community, to ensure that all members of our campus community, regardless of race or country of origin, feel welcome, safe, and respected.  

Please know that these behaviors have no place in the UC Berkeley community. UC Berkeley prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of categories including race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation/identity and/or sexual violence status. If you have experienced physical assaults, hate crimes, and/or threats of violence, you have the right to report them to UCPD and the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD). Concerns about hateful incidents or messages also can be made via stophate.berkeley.edu, the systemwide portal for making those reports.

Students can seek counseling support at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Scholars and employees can access counseling services through Be Well at Work

New & Continuing Students (Fall 2022)

am a new student who will enter the US for the first time for Fall 2022. What are my enrollment requirements?

If you entered or will enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status after March 9, 2020, are not permitted to enroll in fully remote instruction. You can search for classes using the Berkeley Academic guide, which also allows you to filter for mode of instruction. For Fall 2022, a class is 100% online if the course instructional mode mode is listed as “Online” or “Web-based” . Courses considered “in-person” are coded with “In Person”  instructional mode and have at least one in-person meeting during the semester. If you are a student in this category and you do not  plan to enroll in any in-person courses, your F/J record will be canceled and you should should instead plan to participate in remote classes while remaining outside the U.S. - or  you can choose to add in-person instruction to your schedule to keep an active F/J record. You can search for classes using the Berkeley Academic guide, which also allows you to filter for mode of instruction.

F-1 and J-1 students are expected to remain enrolled in full-time units, or to apply and be approved for an authorized Reduced Course Load for Academic or Medical Reasons

I am a new or continuing student entering the U.S. for study. Do I need a new I-20 with special language about hybrid instruction to apply for a visa and/or enter the U.S. for hybrid instruction?

No. But, be sure that you have all of the necessary documents to enter the U.S. If you are a new student, or a continuing student and your current F-1/J-1 visa stamp has expired, be sure to review the documents required to apply for a student visa. Continuing students whose I-20/DS-2019 travel endorsement has expired can submit a Replacement Document request to internationaloffice@berkeley.edu and BIO will send you a new I-20/DS-2019 with a new travel endorsement.

I am a F-1/J-1 student who initially entered  the U.S.after March 9, 2020. What are my enrollment requirements ?

If you entered or will enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status after March 9, 2020, are not permitted to enroll in fully remote instruction. You can search for classes using the Berkeley Academic guide, which also allows you to filter for mode of instruction. For Fall 2022, a class is 100% online if the course instructional mode mode is listed as “Online” or “Web-based” . Courses considered “in-person” are coded with “In Person”  instructional mode and have at least one in-person meeting during the semester. If you are a student in this category and you do not  plan to enroll in any in-person courses, your F/J record will be canceled and you should should instead plan to participate in remote classes while remaining outside the U.S. - or  you can choose to add in-person instruction to your schedule to keep an active F/J record. You can search for classes using the Berkeley Academic guide, which also allows you to filter for mode of instruction.

F-1 and J-1 students are expected to remain enrolled in full-time units, or to apply and be approved for an authorized Reduced Course Load for Academic or Medical Reasons

I am a continuing student who entered the U.S. before March 9, 2020. What are my enrollment requirements??

If necessary, students who first entered the U.S. on a new F-1 or J-1 record on or before March 9, 2020may enroll in a full course of study that is 100 percent online.

If you were in Active F-1/J-1 status and enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020 and have remained continuously enrolled and in Active F/J status since then- you can enroll for Fall 2022  in classes that are all online, all in-person, or a combination of in-person and online classes. We advise you to only utilize this option if it is academically necessary. 

Remember that all F-1 and J-1 students are expected to remain enrolled in full-time units, or to apply and be approved for an authorized Reduced Course Load for Academic or Medical Reasons. Reductions in course load must be approved by your College and by the Berkeley International Office in advance of making any schedule changes.

I am a new or continuing F-1/J-1 student who is not in the U.S. What if I am not able to arrive in the U.S. in time for the start of classes?

If you do plan to be here for Fall 2022 , we encourage you to take all necessary steps to begin your new student visa or continuing student re-entry processes. If you are a student returning after withdrawal, please be sure to review our Returning Students webpage for specific information regarding your re-entry and visa requirements.

Late Arrivals
If you think you will need to arrive later than the start of in-person instruction for Fall 2022, you will need to first contact your academic department to see what options are possible for you. After you’ve consulted with your academic advisors, contact Berkeley International office internationaloffice@berkeley.edu . BIO will work with students who face arrival difficulties for Fall 2022, including late arrivals, readmission and return after deferral/withdrawal, and how to receive updated I-20/DS-2019 documents if needed.

Admissions Deferrals
If you have been approved for a deferral of your admission to a future semester, please notify Berkeley International Office. Upon notification by Admissions of your official deferral, we will work with you to adjust your I-20 or DS-2019 start date to the future term.

  • Newly admitted undergraduateswill need to contact the Office of Admissions to determine if you have an option to defer to a future semester.

  • Graduate studentsshould also communicate with their academic department regarding any option to defer.

Withdrawal
Please note that students who are not enrolled in Fall 2022 are not eligible to enter or remain in the U.S. for Spring 2022 in F-1/J-1 status. You must contact Berkeley International Office regarding your cancellation/withdrawal for approval prior to withdrawal or cancellation. Please review the Registrar’s Cancellation/Withdrawal information regarding cancellation/withdrawal processes, impacts to your UC Berkeley admission, tuition/fees, and deadlines. If you intend to attend UC Berkeley in the future, BIO recommends consulting with your College adviser (undergrads) or your department (graduate) before taking any steps to cancel or withdraw. Continuing students who withdraw after the start of classes should also be sure to review BIO’s Returning Student information for steps to return again in F-1 or J-1 status.

I transferred my I-20 to UC Berkeley for Fall 2021, but was not able to enter the U.S. at that time. What do I need to enter the U.S. in Spring 2022?

If you were originally issued a UC Berkeley transfer I-20 but BIO was unable to activate your I-20 since you were not physically present in the U.S., BIO was required by SEVIS to temporarily terminate the F-1 record and I-20. 

  • If you have been continuously enrolled remotely at UC Berkeley since your SEVIS record was transferred to UC Berkeley, you may be eligible to have your transferred SEVIS record and I-20 reactivated via SEVP data fix. Please follow the instructions for the SEVP data fix process that you received by email from seviscoordinator@berkeley.edu. Please email seviscoordinator@berkeley.edu if you have not received instructions or if you have any questions.

  • If you have not been continuously enrolled at UC Berkeley since your SEVIS record was transferred to UC Berkeley (for example, if you deferred your admission to UC Berkeley or took a semester off), it is no longer possible to reactivate your transferred SEVIS record. You must complete the Nonimmigrant Information Form (NIF) to request a new initial I-20.

Can I enroll online and study from outside the U.S. for Fall 2022?

The primary instructional mode for Fall 2022 is in-person instruction, with limited remote classes. All students should plan to be present on-campus for Fall 2022. BIO does not recommend building a plan in advance for fully remote instruction. However, if you face difficulties entering the U.S. for Fall 2022 you should be in contact with your academic department regarding your academic options. After you’ve determined an appropriate academic plan, please contact Berkeley International Office so that we can advise you regarding any adjustments that may be required to your I-20 or DS-2019. 

Additionally, students who come from a U.S. sanctioned country (Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Ukraine - Crimea Region, Sudan, Syria) are not permitted to enroll remotely from abroad.

F-1 and J-1 Enrolled Students - General Questions

I am an F-1 or J-1 student and I need to submit a request to BIO for processing. When will you process my new I-20/DS-2019? How can I receive it?

We are currently accepting student requests by email by email to internationaloffice@berkeley.edu. The standard processing time for student requests is 5 business days (excluding weekends and holidays). Barring any technical issues, documents will be ready by 1 p.m. on the fifth business day.

Our processing time begins on the date that we receive a fully completed request. Incomplete requests are not considered fully submitted until all required documents are received. Processing for requests received after 4 p.m. or on a weekend/holiday are counted as starting the next business day.

Can I receive my I-20 or DS-2019 electronically?

Yes! BIO is able to offer email distribution for all F-1 I-20s. New students can select the option to receive the I-20 by email via the NIF. Continuing students can find instructions for receiving the I-20 by email on all BIO Student Request forms. If you receive an electronic I-20, you must print out the I-20 and sign it by hand for it to be valid. 

Documents are also available by regular and Express mail, and pick-up at the BIO office during normal business hours. Make sure to select your preferred delivery option when submit your request form.

J-1s: The U.S. Department of State DOES NOT allow electronic signatures or distribution of J-1 DS-2019s.

F-1s: Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has made allowances for issuance of electronic I-20 transmissions and has coordinated with both the Department of State and Customs and Border Protection to allow use of electronically signed or transmitted I-20s for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. 

What can I do to receive a travel endorsement for my re-entry if I am unable to visit BIO in person?

Here are your current options for obtaining an I-20/DS-2019 with a valid travel endorsement:

  • Express Mail or Email: You can submit a Replacement Document request to internationaloffice@berkeley.edu and BIO will send you a new I-20/DS-2019 with a new travel endorsement. The request will include instructions for requesting a scanned email copy (not available for J-1s) or an original signed I-20. The I-20/DS-2019 will be emailed or mailed to you after 5 business days.

  • Drop-off- Drop off your I-20 or DS-2019 at Berkeley International Office. Your I-20/DS-2019 with an updated travel signature will be ready for you to pick up 5 business days later.
  • Virtual Drop-ins (F-1 only)- For same-day travel signature, you can join virtual drop-ins and upload your current I-20 for a digital signature. To do this, you must have a pdf file copy of your most recent I-20.Drop-off- Drop off your I-20 or DS-2019 at Berkeley International Office. Your I-20/DS-2019 with an updated travel signature will be ready for you to pick up 5 business days later.

My I-20 or DS-2019 is expiring, but I need more time to complete my degree. What should I do?

Please submit a Program Extension Request to extend your I-20 or DS-2019. 

If you have already applied for F-1 OPT employment or J-1 Academic Training OR if you are eligible to apply now, please contact a BIO adviser regarding your situation, so that we can determine your next steps.

If you are OUTSIDE of the U.S. (or you are departing the U.S. before the end of your grace period) and 1) you WILL NOT return to the U.S. and 2) you do NOT intend to apply for post-completion F-1 OPT employment or J-1 Academic Training: You can choose to allow your I-20 or DS-2019 to expire, but you will need to work with your academic department and advisers to be sure you can complete your requirements from abroad.

My I-20 or DS-2019 is expiring and I can’t leave the U.S. due to flight issues. What can I do?

If your program is ending soon and you are unable to depart the United States, please notify Berkeley International Office to let us know about your situation. Please make every effort to exit the US before the end of your F/J student grace period- this may mean you have to select a flight that is inconvenient or expensive. US immigration rules have not made any exceptions for departure periods and the rules remain the same. We urge you to also contact your home country’s local consulate or embassy in the U.S. for support and information regarding travel home. We will work with you to determine the best path forward.  Some options include:

  • Exit the US to a 3rd country (example: Canada, Mexico, etc), and then make your departure plans from that country
  • Consider applying for post-completion employment: F-1 OPT employment or J-1 Academic Training.

  • Consider continuing your academic degree program if further enrollment is appropriate for you in your degree program. If you think it would be better for you to continue your degree program at this time, please contact a BIO adviser regarding your situation, so that we can determine your next steps. 

  • Transfer to another US school to continue your studies & F/J status.
  • Consider applying for a change of status through USCIS to that of a tourist (B1/B2) visa. The USCIS website contains instructions, checklists, and filing tips. If you need further guidance then you may consider hiring an attorney.

  • If you have no other option, then document your attempts to exit the US on time- including keeping records of your attempts to contact your embassy, cancelled flights, etc. But be aware that if you fail to leave on time, this late departure will be in your US immigration record and could cause you future issues when returning to the US. 

I will be outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months. Will I need a new visa? Will I have any problems re-entering the U.S. again as a student?

The current DHS guidanceallows active students to be outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months, and indicates that the visa stamp in your passport will remain valid as well. Additionally, F-1 active students outside of the U.S. will continue to accrue time towards their CPT or OPT requirements. Be sure to properly maintain your student visa status while abroad and have all required travel documents for re-entry (including a valid, unexpired visa) when you return.

Does the university and/or BIO have any financial resources available for international students who have been impacted financially by the pandemic?

BIO has concluded its Spring and Summer COVID-19 relief applications. Please see our Financial Aid webpage with more information about financial resources available to international students. If you are experiencing financial difficulty, please feel free to use our Virtual Advising to speak with an adviser about your situation. You may also find helpful resources listed on the Basic Needs Center's COVID-19 Living Guide.

Will changing my grading option to P/NP impact my student visa status?

Changing your grading option will not impact your F or J student status.   

F-1 and J-1 students are expected to remain enrolled in full-time units, or to apply and be approved for an authorized Reduced Course Load for Academic or Medical Reasons. Reductions in course load must be approved by your College and by the Berkeley International Office in advance of making any schedule changes.

If you are on a student visa status and you withdraw or cancel your enrollment, this will have a direct impact on your F-1 or J-1 student visa status. Please contact a BIO adviser before you take any steps to officially withdraw or cancel future semesters. If you withdraw without communicating with BIO, this may result in a negative termination of your student visa record.

I am a continuing graduate student on Filing Fee or In Absentia status. Is that OK?

BIO considers Filing Fee to be a normal registration status, and this is not impacted by the current guidance. Students on In Absentia are expected to remain enrolled in full-time units, or to apply and be approved for an authorized Reduced Course Load for Academic or Medical Reasons. Students applying for Filing Fee or In Absentia should consult with a BIO advisor in advance.

If I have departed the U.S., can I continue to work in an on-campus position as an F-1 or J-1 student?

Your travel outside of the U.S. will not impact your eligibility for F-1 or J-1 on-campus employment for visa purposes, and you should continue to follow all F-1/J-1 rules regarding on-campus employment. However, F and J students should check with their employing department and HR regarding remote work policies and procedures, as the university has restrictions on remote employment from abroad.

What will happen if I withdraw or cancel my enrollment at UC Berkeley?

If you are on a student visa status and you withdraw or cancel your enrollment, this will have a direct impact on your F-1 or J-1 student visa status. Please contact a BIO adviser before you take any steps to officially withdraw or cancel future semesters. If you withdraw without communicating with BIO, this may result in a negative termination of your student visa record.

I withdrew from UC Berkeley and now wish to return to my studies in the U.S. What are my options?

You can find detailed information regarding returning to studies in the U.S. on BIO’s Returning Students page. You will need to apply for readmission to your College (undergraduates) or your department (graduates). 

After readmission, all F-1/J-1 students must submit the Nonimmigrant Information Form (NIF). The NIF will allow you to submit a request for your F-1 or J-1 documents for return. You will need to determine if you will require a New SEVIS Record (F-1 or J-1 students) or SEVIS Reactivation (F-1 only).

F-1/J-1 Post-Completion Employment

I am a NEW student. If I am not able to enter the U.S. for Fall 2021 or Spring 2022, will this impact my qualification for F-1 CPT (or internships), post-completion OPT, or J-1 Academic Training?

F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is used for internships during the degree program, and F-1 Optional Practical Training can be used for post-completion employment. J-1 Academic Training is used for internships during the degree and post-completion employment.

If you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your degree program in Fall 2021 or later, it could have an impact on your F-1 CPT or OPT employment eligibility, or impact the duration of J-1 Academic Training available. Please be advised that this information is based on current Department of Homeland Security guidance and current F-1/J-1 regulations, and is subject to change.

F-1 CPT or OPT Eligibility

To be eligible for F-1 CPT or OPT authorization, students must have been enrolled continuously for 1 academic year in Active F-1 status. (The only exception is that CPT is available to graduate students for whom internship is a degree requirement for all students in the program prior to completion of 1 academic year. No exception exists for OPT.) Current guidance has clarified that an F-1 student accrues eligibility for Practical Training only if they are in “Active” status in SEVIS. Prior to entry in the U.S., the I-20 and SEVIS record are in “Initial” status. The SEVIS record cannot be made “Active” “until after entry to the U.S. for the first time in F-1 status.

OPT Example: You are in a 1 year program from August 25, 2021May 13, 2022 (1 academic year = 2 semesters: Fall 2021 + Spring 2022). If you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your program for Fall 2021, BIO will be required to change your I-20 start date to January 2022, the start of Spring 2022, even if you enroll remotely from abroad. But, if you enter the U.S. in January 2022, your F-1 record will be Active for only 1 semester and you will NOT qualify for OPT.

CPT Example: You are in a 2 year program from August 26, 2020-May 13, 2022 (1 academic year = 2 semesters: Fall 2020 + Spring 2021). If you were unable to enter the U.S. to begin your program for Fall 2020, BIO was required to change your I-20 start date to January 2021 while you were enrolled  remotely. But, if you entered the U.S. in January 2021, your F-1 record was only be Active starting with the Spring 2021 semester and you will not qualify for CPT in Summer 2021. You would qualify for CPT starting only after the end of Fall 2021.

J-1 Academic Training

AT is available after completion of 1 semester in the U.S., unless the student has a degree requirement for internship for all students in the degree program. The amount of AT granted is either 18 months OR the length of the J-1 program in the U.S., whichever is less.

AT example 2 year program: You are in a 1 year program from August 25, 2021–May 13, 2022 (1 academic year = 2 semesters: Fall 2021 + Spring 2022). If you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your program for Fall 2021, BIO will be required to change your DS-2019 start date to January 2022, the start of Spring 2022, even if you enroll remotely from abroad. But, if you enter the U.S. in January 2022, your J-1 record will be Active for only 1 semester and you would only have 4 available months of J-1 Academic Training.

AT example 2 year program:You are in a 2 year program from August 26, 2020-May 13, 2022 (1 academic year = 2 semesters: Fall 2020 + Spring 2021). If you were unable to enter the U.S. to begin your program for Fall 2020, BIO was required to change your DS-2019 start date to yoru semester of entry. If you entered the U.S. in January 2021 for Spring 2021, you can qualify for 13 months of total Academic Training.

I am a CONTINUING student with an ACTIVE F-1 or J-1 record. Does attending classes remotely impact my eligibility for F-1 CPT or OPT/STEM or J-1 AT?

As of Fall 2020, the guidance indicates if you are a continuing F-1 or J-1 student in Active F-1/J-1 status, then any current remote instruction semester time is counted towards your qualifications for F-1 OPT or J-1 AT. Your OPT/CPT or AT qualification period began at the start of your I-20/DS-2019, when you first entered the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status.

I am outside of the U.S. and unable to enter to start or continue my F-1 student OPT or apply for OPT.

Current DHS guidance allows remote work from abroad, so long as your employer is a U.S.-based entity. If you are currently outside of the United States and are unable to return, please notify Berkeley International Office to let us know about your situation. We will work with our F-1 OPT students on a case-by-case basis to determine the best path forward. Be sure to review OPT information on the BIO website, including the OPT tutorial, application instructions, employment/address reporting, and required travel documents.

Be aware that you may not exceed 90 days of unemployment during OPT. If you are currently approved for OPT, you may need to determine if you can work remotely for your employer. If you do not have an employer, it’s possible that you might exceed the 90 days of unemployment if you are unable to begin employment. Current guidance DOES allow less-than-full-time employment (meaning less than 20 hours per week) if the change is due to the COVID-19 emergency.

If you are currently outside of the U.S. and have not yet applied for OPT, you must re-enter prior to your program completion date in order to qualify to apply for OPT. You cannot submit your OPT application to USCIS while you are abroad. Please contact BIO as soon as possible for advising, which might include planning to extend your program of study.

I am an F-1 student who applied for OPT or STEM OPT during Fall 2020 or Spring 2021. Is USCIS offering any flexibility related to OPT or STEM OPT processing delays?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently been experiencing serious delays in processing and receipting OPT applications filed by mail. 

USCIS announced on 7/29/2021 and 2/26/2021 flexibilities for OPT/STEM OPT Extension applicants affected by delayed receipt notices for the Form I-765. These flexibilities apply only to applications received on or after October 1, 2020 through October 31, 2021.

1) For standard 12-month OPT I-765 applications received through October 31, 2021, applications can be filed up to 120 days before the program end date (instead of the normal 90 days). This does NOT apply to STEM OPT Extension I-765 applications.

2) If you applied for 12-month OPT during this period and received an EAD with less than 12 months of OPT, contact BIO regarding how to request a correction. 

3) If your OPT/STEM OPT I-765 application was rejected, contact BIO immediately regarding your options to refile before November 30, 2021.

From June 10 until Aug. 9, 2021 USCIS is allowing flexibilities to allow for refiling of applications filed by mail between Oct. 1, 2020, and April 1, 2021 which were rejected due to a filing fee payment that expired while the benefit request was awaiting processing.

Has anything else changed with regard to OPT processes in light of COVID-19? What if I cannot find an employer within 90 days of the start date of my OPT?

Please be advised that this information is based on current Department of Homeland Security guidance and current F-1/J-1 regulations, and is subject to change. There have been no changes to the application process for OPT or to OPT itself. We have not received any guidance regarding the possibility of extending the period of time when someone is not engaged in employment while under OPT or OPT STEM Extensions. Current guidance DOES allow less-than-full-time employment (meaning less than 20 hours per week) if the change is due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Please continue to check the USCIS website for updates or visit the USCIS COVID-19 response page regarding any changes to USCIS processing of requests. See the BIO OPT webpage and tutorial for information regarding unemployment, what can be considered “employment” during the OPT period — including unpaid internships or volunteer work.

If you are still finishing your degree and have concerns about your post-completion employment, you could also consider continuing your academic degree program, if further enrollment is appropriate for you in your degree program at this time. If you think it would be better for you to continue your degree program at this time, rather than continue with your OPT application, please contact a BIO adviser regarding your situation, so that we can determine your next steps.

BIO will continue to process all requests for OPT within a 3 day processing time, and we are doing our best to have these documents mailed out within a week.

I am on F-1 OPT or OPT STEM Extension and I am working remotely. Is that OK? Do I need to report my remote work? Can I be outside the US for more than 5 months.

Remote work is OK, but you need to be working for a U.S. based employer! DHS has indicated that you DO NOT need to update the employer address information in SEVIS nor on the Form I-983 for students working remotely. Students on OPT should be sure that the work continues to meet OPT requirements or STEM requirements for eligible employment. Make sure to continue to report any OPT/STEM  changes in living address, employment, or unemployment via the SSU Hub

The current DHS guidance does not directly address OPT/STEM students and the 5-month rule. But the guidance that exists states “ If an Active F student is outside the United States, their SEVIS record can remain in Active status and not be terminated”, and indicates that the visa stamp in your passport will remain valid as well. The guidance does explicitly state that F-1 active students outside of the U.S. will continue to accrue time towards their CPT or OPT requirements and that they are permitted to work remotely.

I am on F-1 OPT or STEM OPT Extension and I have been furloughed or laid off. What’s the difference? How does this impact my OPT or STEM Extension unemployment days?

Furlough, leave of absence, laid-off and termination have different meanings. You should confirm in writing with your employer exactly what your employment status is. 

A furlough or paid or unpaid approved leave of absence may still be considered employment for OPT/STEM OPT purposes. F-1 regulations allow for “time off taken consistent with leave-related policies applicable to the employer's similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment.” If this is your situation, request documentation form your employer (usually your supervisor or HR) confirming that your period of furlough or official leave of absence.

A termination or lay-off would be an ending of the employment, and would result in the beginning of days of OPT or STEM OPT unemployment. You’ll need to report your employer end date via the SSU Hub

I am on F-1 OPT or STEM OPT Extension and I have been furloughed or laid off. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

BIO is unable to answer questions about eligibility for unemployment benefits. There is information here about state unemployment programs. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed that unemployment benefits are not considered “public benefits” that would violate the public charge rule. However, it is unclear whether use of unemployment benefits could make a student likely to seen as someone who could become a public charge in the future. Being seen as a potential public charge could negatively impact applications for future visas or immigration benefits.

I am a J-1 student and my Academic Training employment has been terminated due to COVID-19. What can I do?

Please contact BIO as soon as possible so that we can advise you on your available options.