Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates & FAQ

Berkeley International Office (BIO) understands that the UC Berkeley international community has many questions about the rapidly evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We created this webpage to answer common questions and share support resources.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ

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General

F-1 and J-1 Enrolled Degree-Seeking & UCEAP Students

New Students

F-1 and J-1 Post-Completion Employment

J-1 Visiting Scholars and International Faculty and Staff

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General

 

Travel

Can I travel internationally? Are there any entry restrictions to the U.S.?

See the BIO Coronavirus Policy Updates page for current travel policy announcements. BIO currently does not recommend non-essential international travel due to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts to global travel. International travel is currently unpredictable and high risk. If you do make the 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. 

When returning from international travel, follow CDC guidance and review UC Campus guidance on the UC Berkeley Coronavirus news site and the University Health Services COVID-19 Information page.

Current Travel Bans for Students, Scholars & Non-Immigrant Employees

A travel ban currently suspends entry into the United States of all aliens (except immediate family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and others excluded in section 2 of the proclamations) who were physically present within 1) Brazil- Brazil effective 05/28/2020 at 11:59pm eastern daylight time, 2) United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe) or Ireland 3) the Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), 4) Iran, or 5) China (excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

Entry Suspensions for New Immigrants (Permanent Residents)
On Wednesday, April 22, 2020 the President issued a proclamation suspending the entry of certain new immigrants for 60 days. The proclamation ONLY impacts pending immigrant visa applications (applications for permanent residency) for persons who: were outside the U.S. on the effective date of the proclamation (04/23/2020); and who do not have an approved immigrant visa or some other already issued official travel document (such as an advance parole document).

Mexico & Canada Travel Restrictions

Effective through May 20, 2020 according to a U.S.-Canada Border Federal Register Notice and a U.S.-Mexico Border Federal Register Notice, entry is only allowed to the United States through land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S. Mexico borders for “essential travel” only. “Essential travel” includes “Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions; Individuals traveling to work in the United States.” A separate order from the CDC also suspends "the introduction of persons into the United States" who are traveling from Canada or Mexico who are subjected to entry in a “congregate setting”  at a Port of Entry or Border Patrol station. The order states that it is not applicable to "Persons from foreign countries who hold valid travel documents." It is unclear how this could apply for travelers sent to Secondary Inspection, because their documents cannot be verified or if they are missing appropriate travel documentation.

Other Countries

Additionally, many other countries may have travel restrictions of their own, which could impact your ability to enter those countries or move freely.

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

Global travel conditions are highly impacted and the Department of State has suspended routine U.S. visa services in most countries worldwide. Visit your local U.S. embassy or consulate website to confirm operating status and find information about appointment rescheduling and/or emergency services. If you do make the 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.

What does BIO mean when they say non-essential international travel is not recommended? What if I want to go home?

From an immigration perspective, international travel is currently very unpredictable. If you are currently maintaining a student, scholar or employee immigration status in the U.S. and you depart, BIO cannot 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. 

BIO understands that you may have serious personal or health concerns which require you to depart, or that you may feel more comfortable experiencing this crisis supported by family or in your home country. We want to make sure that as you make these important decisions, you understand the possible risks involved — including the fact that you may not be able to re-enter the U.S. at the time you intend. Additionally, many other countries have travel restrictions of their own, which could impact your ability to enter those countries or move freely. 

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 to 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.

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. Aside from any risk from COVID-19 itself, be prepared for possible localized shelter in place orders, transportation bans or infrastructure disruption which may impact your travel plans.

Where can I find information about the Shelter in Place order impacting Berkeley and surrounding areas?

You can review the current Alameda County Shelter in Place order which limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential needs. If you live in a different county, 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 reentry 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.

My visa is expiring and I need to return home to extend the visa stamp in my passport. I fear that I will not be able to return. What should I do?

Please note that it is always important to make sure that your I-20 or DS-2019 has a future date on it to maintain its validity. So long as 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 when you have departed and need to reenter the U.S. Accordingly, if you are presently in the U.S., your I-20 or DS-2019 is still valid, and your visa in your passport is expired, there is no need for you to make a trip just to extend the visa.

What if I was in a travel ban impacted country more than 14 days ago, and wish to re-enter the U.S.?

The current COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving and unpredictable. It's unclear how long the travel bans may remain in effect for re-entry to the U.S. and how entry could be impacted for travelers even after the 14 day window. Currently, BIO does not have access to clear guidance on what documentation travelers may use to prove they were not present in travel ban impacted areas within the indicated time period. Do you have access to immigration, residence documents, or other documentation which can officially confirm your location? Are you currently employed? Does your passport accurately reflect your entries and exits?

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 will work with our clients on a case-by-case basis to determine the best path forward. 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.

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F-1 and J-1 Enrolled Degree-Seeking & UCEAP Students

 

General

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

We are currently accepting all requests. Please note that BIO’s document-production services and processing times are impacted by Alameda County’s shelter in place directive. Students are not permitted to enter our building to pick up documents, and we are severely limited in the number of staff allowed to enter the building for document printing and mailout support. 

We are doing our best to ensure that documents are ready for mailout within one week. Your document request will be delayed if it is incomplete or requires additional follow-up. While our physical office is closed, we are only mailing documents via FedEx express mail or filing them for pick-up after our office reopens. Mailings are scheduled to occur each Monday and Thursday, but this is subject to change.

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

The U.S. Department of State does not allow electronic signatures or distribution of J-1 DS-2019s.

Currently, BIO does not offer electronic signing or I-20 distribution. However, BIO is aware that the F-1 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-10s for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. USCIS still requires documentation of copies with a “wet” or handwritten signature.

BIO is currently reviewing and revising our I-20 issuance processes, and we hope to soon offer electronic I-20 distribution. Offering electronic signatures and distribution present specific logistical and security challenges. Please be patient as we research best practices to ensure timely and secure processes!

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

Please note that you do not need an updated travel endorsement on your I-20/DS-2019 to leave the country. You will only need it to apply for a new visa should you need one and/or for your reentry into the U.S.

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

  • You may wait until the BIO office reopens. 

  • You can submit a Replacement Document request to internationaloffice@berkeley.edu and BIO will mail you a new I-20/DS-2019 with a new travel endorsement. The request will include instructions for requesting Express Mail shipping, which is required for all mailout. Please note that printing and mailing is only occurring twice a week during the shelter in place period. 

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 are extending your I-20/DS-2019 to have a completion date in Summer 2020, you must enroll in some final unit(s) for Summer 2020 for visa purposes. Summer Extensions must include proof of summer enrollment from CalCentral. If you will not be enrolled full-time in Summer, also attach a Reduced Course Load Request for Final Term

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 contact a BIO adviser regarding your situation, so that we can determine your next steps.

J-1 students with a DS-2019 expiration date between April 1 – May 31, 2020 were automatically extended by the U.S. Department of State for an additional 60 days, allowing additional time to depart, transfer or apply for J-1 Academic Training. J-1 students must continue to maintain financial support and J-1 compliant health insurance for the duration of their stay. BIO has sent direct email information to J-1 students impacted by the automatic extension. J-1s who have questions about their automatic extension and options should contact BIO for advising.

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. 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:

  • Consider applying for post-completion employment:  F-1 OPT employment or J-1 Academic Training.  

  • Consider continuing your academic degree program into the summer 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. 

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.

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 Department of Homeland Security has provided guidance indicating that students may enter the U.S. if they have departed the country for more than 5 months, so long as they have maintained their status while in the U.S. and they are in possession of a valid, unexpired visa in the passport. Be sure to properly maintain your student visa status while abroad and have all required travel documents for re-entry when you return.

If you are currently outside of the U.S. and are unable to return to the United States to resume classes or your UC Berkeley employment, please notify Berkeley International Office to let us know about your situation. We will work with you on a case-by-case basis to determine the best path forward. Please also notify your academic advisor and instructors.

Do you know anything about instruction for Fall 2020? Will we have remote instruction? How will that impact my visa status?

Information about final plans for Fall 2020 instruction is not currently available. You can find information on possible scenarios for Fall on the UC Berkeley Coronavirus news site.

Continuing students: Options to properly maintain your F-1 or J-1 visa status will depend on the model of instruction available in Fall 2020. Current DHS guidance allows for remote instruction and increased online enrollment, for the duration of the COVID-19 period.

New students: Current DHS guidance does not allow new, initial students to enter for remote-only instruction. If you are a new student with an initial I-20 or DS-2019 and Fall 2020 is 100% remote instruction, your I-20/DS-2019 start date and entry date to the U.S. will need to be adjusted to a future semester that includes in-person instruction. Or, if you choose not to attend, You can request that BIO cancel your I-20/DS-2019. However, you are free to remain enrolled and study remotely from abroad if you choose to do so. BIO will communicate any changes to you when information is available.

New students with I-20/DS-2019 transfers: Current DHS guidance allows remote instruction for students who choose to transfer their I-20 or DS-2019. However, current guidance does not allow new transfer I-20s to be activated if the student is not present inside the U.S. If you are a new student who is transferring your I-20 to UC Berkeley for Summer and you are not present in the U.S. at the start of Fall 2020, your transfer I-20/DS-2019 start date and entry date to the U.S. will need to be adjusted to a future semester that includes in-person instruction. You would also have the option to transfer your I-20/DS-2019 to another U.S. school, or to cancel the I-20/DS-2019 if you choose not to attend. However, you are free to remain enrolled and study remotely from abroad if you choose to do so. BIO will communicate any changes to you when information is available.

I have an immediate need for financial assistance. Does the university and/or BIO have any aid available to international students?

BIO has a pool of funds that it can make available to students who are in need. Please meet with a BIO adviser through Virtual One-on-One Advising to discuss your financial situation. Those experiencing COVID-19-related financial emergencies may submit an application for BIO financial support via the following links. The deadline to apply is May 15th.

Undergraduate Students: Apply here

Graduate Students and Parent Graduate Students: Apply here

Will temporarily attending classes online impact my student visa status?

No, the temporary change to remote instruction will not impact your visa status.

On the basis of guidance received from the Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), we can confirm that student visa status will not be impacted by the emergency transition to distance learning for normally in-person classes. BIO continues to monitor and follow all current DHS and Department of State guidance for our F-1 and J-1 students and exchange visitors. 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.

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.

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/or Human Resources regarding remote work policies and procedures.

I am a current student and I have left the U.S. What if I am unable to re-enter to resume my classes. What can I do?

It's unclear how long travel bans or other global travel restrictions may remain in effect for re-entry to the U.S. and how your entry could be impacted. If you are currently outside of the United States and are unable to enter the country, please notify Berkeley International Office to let us know about your situation. You should consult with your college adviser (undergraduates) or graduate adviser (graduates) and contact BIO if you will be unable to arrive in time to resume classes for the semester. Most likely, the university will have some options for continuing your instruction remotely if you choose to do so. 

Please follow CDC guidance and review UC Campus travel guidance on the UC Berkeley Coronavirus news site and the University Health Services COVID-19 Information page.

Please see the above question, “Can I travel internationally? Are there any entry restrictions to the U.S.?” section for information about current travel restrictions, visa suspensions, and entry to the U.S

What will happen if I am unable to return and 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.

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New Students

I am a new student outside of the U.S. and I can't enter to start my degree or UCEAP program for Fall 2020. What can I do?

It's unclear how long travel bans or other global travel restrictions may remain in effect for re-entry to the U.S., what the instruction model for Fall 2020 will be, and how your entry could be impacted. If you are currently outside of the United States and are unable to enter the country to begin in-person instruction, please notify Berkeley International Office to let us know about your situation. We will work with you to determine the best path forward, and if your I-20/DS-2019 start date and documents should be adjusted. Note that If you will not be able to arrive within the first 30 days of the Fall semester, then your I-20/DS-2019 start date must be moved to a future semester.

You must consult with your college adviser (undergraduates) or graduate adviser (graduates) and contact BIO if you will be unable to arrive in time to begin your in-person program. Keep in mind that you are free to begin remote instruction from abroad if you choose to do so.

Please follow CDC guidance and review UC Campus travel guidance on the UC Berkeley Coronavirus news site and the University Health Services COVID-19 Information page.

Please see the above question, “Can I travel internationally? Are there any entry restrictions to the U.S.?” section for information about current travel restrictions, visa suspensions, and entry to the U.S.

If I can’t enter the U.S. to begin my degree program in Fall 2020, 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.

Yes, if you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your degree program in Fall 2020, 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 26, 2020May 14, 2021 (1 academic year = 2 semesters: Fall 2020 + Spring 2021). If Fall 2020 instruction is all remote OR if you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your program for Fall 2020, BIO will be required to change your I-20 start date to January 2021, the start of Spring 2021. You are free to enroll remotely. But, after your entry to the U.S. in January 2021, 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 Fall 2020 instruction is all remote OR if you are unable to enter the US to begin your program for Fall 2020, BIO will be required to change your I-20 start date to January 2021, the start of Spring 2021. You are free to enroll remotely. But,  after your entry to the US in January 2021, your F-1 record will be Active for only 1 semester and you will not qualify for CPT in Summer 2020. 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 26, 2020-May 14, 2021 (1 academic year = 2 semesters: Fall 2020 + Spring 2021). If Fall 2020 instruction is all remote OR if you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your program for Fall 2020, BIO will be required to change your DS-2019 start date to January 2021, the start of Spring 2021. You are free to enroll remotely. But, after your entry to the U.S. in January 2021, 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 Fall 2020 instruction is all remote OR if you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your program for Fall 2020, BIO will be required to change your DS-2019 start date to January 2021, the start of Spring 2021. You are free to enroll remotely. You can qualify for 13 months of total Academic Training.

I am a new student who may be arriving late, or I am considering deferring to a future semester.

Late Arrivals

If you will be arriving late, please confirm with your academic advisors and instructors that your arrival date is acceptable. If you will be arriving within 7 days of the start of classes date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019, contact your academic advisor for a letter confirming you are approved for late arrival. If you will be arriving more than 7 days after the start of classes, notify Berkeley International Office to arrange for adjustments to your I-20 or DS-2019 start date. If you will not be able to arrive within the first 30 days of the Fall semester, then your I-20/DS-2019 start date must be moved to a future semester.

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 Undergraduates will need to contact the Office of Admissions to determine if you have an option to defer to a future semester.

Graduate Students should also communicate with their academic department regarding any option to defer.

I am a new student who has decided I will not attend UC Berkeley. What do I need to do?

If you withdraw or cancel your admission or enrollment with UC Berkeley, BIO will need to cancel your current I-20 or DS-2019. If you  have decided to cancel or withdraw your coming semester, please notify Berkeley International Office and see information from the Office of the Registrar regarding cancellation and withdrawal procedures and information about tuition refund deadlines

Newly Admitted Undergraduates cancelling before the start of their first semester should follow instructions from the Office of Admissions regarding their cancellation process.

Graduate Students should also communicate with their academic department regarding any plans to cancel or withdraw.

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F-1/J-1 Post-Completion Employment

I am a NEW student. If I can’t enter the U.S. to begin my new degree program in Fall 2020, 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.

Yes, if you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your degree program in Fall 2020, 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 26, 2020May 14, 2021 (1 academic year = 2 semesters: Fall 2020 + Spring 2021). If Fall 2020 instruction is all remote OR if you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your program for Fall 2020, BIO will be required to change your I-20 start date to January 2021, the start of Spring 2021. You are free to enroll remotely. But, after your entry to the U.S. in January 2021, 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 Fall 2020 instruction is all remote OR if you are unable to enter the US to begin your program for Fall 2020, BIO will be required to change your I-20 start date to January 2021, the start of Spring 2021. You are free to enroll remotely. But,  after your entry to the US in January 2021, your F-1 record will be Active for only 1 semester and you will not qualify for CPT in Summer 2020. 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 26, 2020-May 14, 2021 (1 academic year = 2 semesters: Fall 2020 + Spring 2021). If Fall 2020 instruction is all remote OR if you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your program for Fall 2020, BIO will be required to change your DS-2019 start date to January 2021, the start of Spring 2021. You are free to enroll remotely. But, after your entry to the U.S. in January 2021, 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 Fall 2020 instruction is all remote OR if you are unable to enter the U.S. to begin your program for Fall 2020, BIO will be required to change your DS-2019 start date to January 2021, the start of Spring 2021. You are free to enroll remotely. 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?

No, if you have entered the U.S. and 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.

The current COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving and unpredictable. It's unclear how long the travel bans or other global travel restrictions may remain in effect for re-entry to the U.S. and how your entry could be impacted. 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. Please contact BIO as soon as possible for advising, which might include planning to extend your program of study.

Has anything 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 an F-1 student and I have already applied for my post-completion OPT. Will my OPT processing be delayed due to COVID-19 impacts to USCIS?

BIO is not currently able to predict how this may impact USCIS services. Please continue to check the USCIS website for updates or visit the USCIS COVID-19 response page. As of March 18, in-person services have been suspended, but this does not include F-1 OPT which is a mail-in application requiring no interview or in-person appointment.

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?

Remote work is OK. 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.

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.

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J-1 Visiting Scholars and International Faculty and Staff

What are BIO's current procedures for J Scholar and Employment-based operations?

BIO staff on the J scholar and employment-based teams are working remotely following campus guidanceDuring this period we continue to process cases remotely and departments can continue to submit cases as usual. Unless there are urgent circumstances, Form DS-2019s will be sent after the campus re-opens.

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

Email jscholar@berkeley.edu if you are a scholar and require a travel signature because you intend to travel internationally and return to resume your J-1 program. Please indicate the intended dates of your travel in the message along with a copy of your J visa stamp.

I am a new visiting scholar or employee currently outside of the U.S. and I can't enter to start my program. Or, I am a continuing scholar employee, and I cannot enter to resume my appointment. What can I do?

The current COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving and unpredictable. It's unclear how long the travel bans or other global travel restrictions may remain in effect for re-entry to the U.S. and how your entry could be impacted. If you are currently outside of the United States and are planning to enter the country, please notify Berkeley International Office to let us know about your situation. We will work with our clients on a case-by-case basis to determine the best path forward, and (for new scholars or employees) if your start date and documents should be adjusted. Consult with your UC Berkeley faculty sponsor, human resources representative, or department administrator, and contact BIO if there will be any changes to your program dates or affiliation.

If you made plans to travel to the U.S. to begin an upcoming UC Berkeley program or appointment, there are several factors to consider. Be aware that travelers returning from CDC Risk Level 3 countries are required to follow UC Berkeley campus guidance following travel and re-entry. More information is available on the UC Berkeley Coronavirus news site and the University Health Services COVID-19 Information page.

Please see the above question, “Can I travel internationally? Are there any entry restrictions to the U.S.?” section for information about current travel restrictions, visa suspensions, and entry to the U.S.

What will happen if I end my UC Berkeley appointment early and/or I depart the United States and do not intend to return to the U.S. for my J program?

If you are a scholar and you depart the U.S. early (more than 15 days before your DS-2019 end date) and you do not intend to return to the U.S. for the remainder of your J program, please discuss this with your faculty sponsor and human resources representative. Please also email jscholar@berkeley.edu so that we can advise you on the steps and the visa implications of ending your program early.

I am an international J-1 scholar and my program ended in March but I am unable to depart the U.S. due to flight cancelations or other issues outside of my control. What should I do?

We understand that many of our J-1 Exchange Visitors have experienced difficulties in returning home due to flight cancelations and other circumstances outside of your control. IF YOU ARE IN THE UNITED STATES PLEASE REPORT TO US IMMEDIATELY AND NO LATER THAN APRIL 7TH TO NOTIFY US OF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES by emailing jscholar@berkeley.edu.

The Department of State has announced that for J-1 exchange visitors who completed their exchange programs in March but remain in the U.S. due to circumstances outside of their control (lack of flights home, etc.), the Department of State will work with our office to reinstate and extend your program in SEVIS until May 31, 2020. However, this option is only available for cases that are reported to us and we must notify the U.S. Department of State immediately. We are hopeful that this guidance applies to all J exchange visitors in March, even those whose programs are reaching the maximum duration of their category.

Our department is inviting a Visiting Scholar who is currently overseas to join our department. When will they be able to start?

U.S. embassies overseas remain closed for routine visa services, and we anticipate a backlog once operations resume. Therefore, even after scholars receive their Forms DS-2019, it will likely take several months before they are able to secure visas and arrive on campus. We therefore strongly encourage new cases submitted to have start dates no earlier than August 1st unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Are there any current travel restrictions for Permanent Residents?

On Wednesday, April 22, 2020 the President issued a proclamation suspending the entry of certain new immigrants for 60 days. Nonimmigrant visa holders including F-1 students, J-1 Exchange Visitors, H-1B, TN and O-1 workers are NOT impacted. The proclamation DOES NOT impact F-1 or J-1 Student employment options.

The proclamation DOES NOT affect U.S. green card holders, spouses and children of U.S. citizens, and EB-5 investor immigrants all of whom are exempt from the order, which is set to take effect at 11:59pm on April 23, 2020. Applications for permanent residence filed in the U.S. (adjustment of status applications) are also not affected. The proclamation ONLY impacts pending immigrant visa applications (applications for permanent residency) for persons who: were outside the U.S. on the effective date of the proclamation (04/23/2020); and who do not have an approved immigrant visa or some other already issued official travel document (such as an advance parole document).

Resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

University of California and other local resources

Government resources

Please note that the above webinar (Travel and Visa webinar) was recorded before the March 11th Presidential Proclamation that added the Schengen Area (26 European states) to the travel ban. Please check our Immigration Policy Updates page for the latest information.