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.

This page was last updated on April 7, 2021.

FAQ sections:

General

F-1 and J-1 Enrolled Students

New & Continuing Students (Fall 2021)

New & Continuing Students (Fall 2020, Spring 2021, & Summer 2021)

F-1 and J-1 Post-Completion Employment

J-1 Visiting Scholars and International Faculty and Staff

 

General

Travel

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

See the BIO Coronavirus Policy Updates page for current travel policy announcements. 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) South Africa, 2) Brazil, 3) United Kingdom* (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), Ireland* 4),  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), 5) Iran, or 6) China (excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau) during the 14-day period before their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

* F-1 Student UK, Ireland, Schengen Area Travel Ban Exemption

The Department of State confirmed that the prior "National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland" will remain in place and will continue. This exemption allows F-1 students an automatic national interest exemption from the Schengen, UK, and Ireland travel ban, but J-1 scholars or J-1 students will require an application for national interest exemption for approval for entry. Please check with your local consulate or embassy regarding whether a national interest exemption will be required for your entry.

Mexico & Canada Travel Restrictions

Travel restrictions are currently in effect through April 21, 2021 for the U.S.-Canada Border and the U.S.-Mexico Border. Current orders restrict entry along land ports of entry on the U.S.-Canada and U.S. Mexico borders to “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 entry along the Canada/Mexico border to those in a “congregate setting” at a Port of Entry or Border Patrol station. The congregate setting order indicates that it is not applicable to travelers holding valid immigration documents. It’s not clear how this could apply for travelers sent to Secondary Inspection, because their documents cannot be verified or if they are missing appropriate travel documentation.

Do I need COVID testing to enter the U.S.? Am I required to quarantine?

Please review the current CDC travel and testing requirements for entry to the U.S. Also review state and local guidelines for the U.S. location to which you will be traveling. Review current UC Berkeley travel guidance regarding what steps to take after your return to UC Berkeley.

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

On July 14, 2020, the Department of State announced it will implement a phased resumption of visa services, including F-1 and J-1 student 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?

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 may 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.

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.

I am a current student, scholar, or employee in the U.S. and I have plans to travel to China. Are there special airline boarding requirements for flights to China?

Starting on November 6, 2020, all Chinese and foreign passengers bound for China will be required to take nucleic acid and IgM anti-body tests and apply for a green health code with the "HS" mark or a certified health declaration form before boarding the flight. Please review the Chinese Embassy’s Notice on Airline Boarding Requirements information carefully, follow any necessary instructions, and check with your airline carrier if you need to make flight adjustments. Failure to obtain the green health code with the "HS" mark or a certified health declaration form with negative nucleic acid and IgM anti-body tests results will mean you do not qualify for boarding the flight to China and will have to change your itinerary.

Enrolled students should contact the Tang Center regarding any necessary testing. Graduated students (OPT/STEM or J-1 AT), scholars, and employees should check with their individual health care provider regarding testing options.

Please direct any inquiries about these requirements to your nearest Chinese consulate or embassy.

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

Effective March 5, UCOP has directed the UC community to avoid all non-essential international travel. UC Berkeley faculty, staff or students considering essential university-related travel (i.e. for field research) should consult the UC Berkeley Coronavirus Travel page for current travel policy announcements and restrictions. 

All UC Berkeley community members (faculty, students, staff) engaging in university-related international travel, regardless of destination, are advised to complete the campus two-step International Travel Protocolwhich includes approval first at the decanal level and then from the Vice Provost for Academic Planning. For additional information, please see the Berkeley Global Engagement website. Specific questions can be directed to geo@berkeley.edu.

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. 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 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.

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 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.

How will the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election impact me? Where can I find support resources from the university if I am experiencing distress about the election?

Berkeley International Office understands that the results of the presidential election will have broad impacts on the United States, current U.S. immigration policies, and the cultural and political climate that our international students, scholars and employees encounter. Leading up to the election, and following the election, we encourage our international community to seek resources to support their mental health and well-being as we navigate this period of anxiety and change. Here are a few resources that may be helpful to you during this time:

Over the last 4 years, the Trump administration has proposed and instituted policies that have negatively impacted international students, scholars, and employees. If Donald Trump is re-elected, we can expect this pattern to continue. However, changes to the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives, ongoing lawsuits, and legal challenges may succeed in blocking or minimizing impactful policies, as we’ve witnessed since Trump’s election.

If Trump’s opponent, Joe Biden, is elected we would anticipate the possible easing of more restrictive immigration policies. But, please be aware that these changes may not be immediate, and would be subject to the Biden administration’s priorities. Many of the policy changes that have occurred over the course of the Trump administration may take a long time to be overturned. The Biden administration would not begin until January 2021, and we could still face continuing last-minute policy changes until that point. 

Regardless of the outcome of the elections, BIO will continue to serve as an advocate for international education and will support you into the future in whatever we can.

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.

F-1 and J-1 Enrolled Students

Can BIO provide me with a letter for entry to the U.S. or for my visa appointment?

Spring/Summer 2021 Entry Letter

BIO has made available an entry letter for Spring and Summer 2021 based on current DHS guidance for students who choose to enter for those terms. Please review the enrollment guidance for new students and continuing students so that you understand the risks to entry. This guidance applies to all students entering for Spring or Summer 2021.

If you need to confirm your specific enrollment or degree program details, you can print your Cal Central enrollment and class schedule, request an official enrollment verification via Cal Central, or contact your academic department.

Fall 2021 Entry Letter

An entry letter for Fall 2021 is available for students entering beginning Fall 2021. New students entering the U.S. for Fall 2021 should plan to be physically on-campus. As the campus transitions back to fully in-person learning, we expect current DHS guidance to continue to allow increased flexibility in remote instruction. We advise all students who are planning to enter the U.S. to enroll in as much in-person instruction as possible.

What’s the definition of a “new” student and a “continuing” student for visa purposes?

For F-1/J-1 purposes, you are considered a “new” student if you entered or will enter the U.S. with F-1 or J-1 status after March 9, 2020

A “continuing” student for visa purposes is a student who entered the U.S. with F-1/J-1 status before March 9, 2020 and has remained continuously enrolled after March 9, 2020

Examples:

You were admitted for Fall 2020 and issued an I-20/DS-2019 with a Fall 2020 start date. You entered the U.S. to begin Fall 2020 and your F-1 or J-1 record was activated after entry. In Fall 2020, you were a new student for visa purposes. In Spring 2021, you are still a new student for visa purposes.

You were admitted for Fall 2020 and issued an I-20/DS-2019 with a Fall 2020 start date.  However, you enrolled remotely for Fall 2020 and remained abroad. Your I-20 or DS-2019 start date was adjusted to Spring 2021. Because you have not yet entered the U.S., you are still a new student even though you have been enrolled since Fall 2020.

You were previously enrolled at UC Berkeley and took a gap year. You have been readmitted to Spring 2021 to return to your studies and you have received an I-20 or DS-2019 with a Spring 2021 start date. You are a new student for Spring 2021.

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

On July 24th, SEVP updated their guidance for Fall 2020 students informing schools that updated I-20s are no longer needed when applying for an F-1 visa or when entering the U.S.

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

On July 24th, SEVP updated their guidance informing schools that updated I-20s are no longer needed when applying for an F-1 visa or when entering the U.S. Be sure that you have all of the necessary documents re-enter the U.S or apply for a new visa if your current F-1/J-1 visa stamp has expired. If your I-20 travel endorsement has expired, 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.

Can I enroll online and study from outside the U.S.? Do I need a valid I-20/DS-2019 to study online from outside the U.S.?

Other than students who come from a U.S. sanctioned country (Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Ukraine - Crimea Region, Sudan, Syria) new or continuing students who are unable to obtain a visa or enter the US are encouraged to enroll from abroad and study online! You do not need a valid I-20/DS-2019 or a valid visa to study from outside the U.S. However, beginning Fall 2021, online enrollment may be limited as the campus transitions back to in-person 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. 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 an F-1 or J-1 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. 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, students can choose documents to be delivered electronically (F-1 only), mailed out via FedEx express mail, or to be filed for pick-up after our office reopens. Mailings are scheduled to occur each Tuesday and Thursday, but this is subject to change.  

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. 

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

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.

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. 

  • 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 via 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 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. 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 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 current DHS guidance allows 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 temporarily attending classes online impact my student visa status as a continuing student?

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.

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 regarding remote work policies and procedures.

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 re-enroll from abroad. Can I study remotely without an I-20/DS-2019? How can I get a new I-20/DS-2019 when I am ready to enter the U.S.?

Yes, you are free to study remotely from outside the U.S. You will need to apply for readmission to your College (undergraduates) or your department (graduates). BIO is not able to issue you a new I-20/DS-2019 if you will study remotely from outside the U.S. You may see a NIF task item in your Cal Central after readmission. You can ignore the task item if you will not enter the U.S. for Spring 2021.

If you plan to enter the U.S. to attend UC Berkeley in a future semester, please contact BIO when you are ready to request a new I-20/DS-2019.

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). 

  • SEVIS Reactivation: This option is available for students who meet specific criteria for taking a 1 semester leave of absence. In some cases, an F-1 student may take a temporary leave of absence of less than 5 months from studies and return using the same F-1 SEVIS record after a SEVIS termination. In this case, a student does NOT need to obtain a new I-20 or F-1 visa. If approved, you will retain the same SEVIS ID number and same SEVIS record with continuous F-1 status. If you meet the eligiblity criteria found here, complete the NIF indicating that you are interested in SEVIS Reactivation. In cases of reactivation, BIO must submit a request to SEVIS to reactivate your current record, and this request can be approved or denied. BIO does not currently have clear guidance on Spring 2021 reactivations, and we are not able to guarantee approval. If you are approved for reactivation, your F-1 record is considered to be continuous, and any enrollment rules that apply to continuing students apply to you.

  • New SEVIS Record: If you do not qualify for F-1 SEVIS Reactivation (see above), then you must obtain a new I-20 or DS-2019 and begin a new F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record with a new SEVIS ID. You will submit a full NIF form including providing proof of new financial support for your return. Because you are starting a new SEVIS record, you must pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee again and it’s recommended that you apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa. If your previous F-1/J-1 student visa for UC Berkeley is still unexpired, it may be used, although students should be aware that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been inconsistent in their treatment of students re-entering with an old visa and a new I-20 with new SEVIS ID. If you return on a New SEVIS Record, for visa purposes you are considered a new student, and new student enrollment rules apply to you.

New & Continuing Students (Fall 2021)

I am a new student who is not in the U.S. and I plan to enter the U.S. for the Fall semester to enroll. How does the Fall 2021 enrollment model affect me?

After the first week of remote instruction, the default instructional mode for Fall 2021 will be primarily in-person. The university is still evaluating which classes will be offered remotely and should have more information about the availability of such courses by the end of April. Classes with more than 200 students may be delivered remotely, while most secondary sections (e.g., discussion and labs) for these classes and other large classes will be held in-person, but some discussion sections will be offered remotely.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not yet released guidance regarding enrollment for new students for Fall 2021. New students who enter the U.S. should plan to be physically on-campus for Fall 2021. As the campus transitions back to fully in-person learning, we expect current DHS guidance to continue to allow increased flexibility in remote instruction. However, we advise all students who are planning to enter the U.S. to enroll in as much in-person instruction as possible.

I am a new student who is not in the U.S. and I am worried I will not be able to obtain my visa and enter for Fall 2021. How does the Fall 2021 enrollment model affect me, if I am not able to enter the U.S. to begin my studies?

After the first week of remote instruction, the default instructional mode for Fall 2021 will be primarily in-person. The university is still evaluating which classes will be offered remotely and should have more information about the availability of such courses by the end of April. Classes with more than 200 students may be delivered remotely, while most secondary sections (e.g., discussion and labs) for these classes and other large classes will be held in-person, but some discussion sections will be offered remotely.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not yet released guidance regarding enrollment for new students for Fall 2021. The university is currently evaluating how many classes can be made available to students who will be enrolled remotely, but it is likely that there may not be sufficient classes available. If sufficient remote courses are not available, students may need to consider deferring admission or withdrawing for a semester if they are not able to arrive in the U.S. to begin their studies. Berkeley International Office will work with students who face arrival difficulties to determine the best option for their specific circumstances, including advising on late arrivals, readmission and return after deferral/withdrawal, and how to receive updated I-20/DS-2019 documents.

How does UC Berkeley's plan for Fall 2021 instruction affect my visa status as a continuing student?

After the first week of remote instruction, the default instructional mode for Fall 2021 will be primarily in-person. The university is still evaluating which classes will be offered remotely and should have more information about the availability of such courses by the end of April. Classes with more than 200 students may be delivered remotely, while most secondary sections (e.g., discussion and labs) for these classes and other large classes will be held in-person, but some discussion sections will be offered remotely. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not yet released guidance regarding enrollment for new students for Fall 2021. 

Continuing students present in the U.S. in Fall 2021 should plan to be physically on-campus for Fall 2021. As the campus transitions back to fully in-person learning, we expect current DHS guidance to continue to allow increased flexibility in remote instruction. However, we advise all students who are planning to enter the U.S. to enroll in as much in-person instruction as possible.

Continuing students who are not able to re-enter the U.S. for Fall 2021 will need to work with BIO regarding their plans. The university is currently evaluating how many classes can be made available to those who will be enrolled remotely, but it is likely that there may not be sufficient classes available. The university should have more information about the availability of remote courses by the end of April. If sufficient remote courses are not available, students may need to consider withdrawing for a semester if they are not able to arrive in the U.S. to resume their studies. Berkeley International Office will work with students who face arrival difficulties to determine the best option for their specific circumstances, including advising on late arrivals, readmission and return after withdrawal, and how to receive updated I-20/DS-2019 documents.

New & Continuing Students (Fall 2020, Spring 2021, & Summer 2021)

I am a new student who is not in the U.S. and I plan to enter the U.S. for the Spring or Summer 2021 semester to enroll. How does the Spring/Summer 2021 enrollment model affect me?

If you entered or will enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status after March 9, 2020, you are subject to new student enrollment requirements and are not permitted to enroll in fully remote instruction. See BIO’s Spring 2021 enrollment guidance for new students, which applies to students enrolling and entering the U.S. in Spring or Summer 2021. Summer entry students must also be sure to maintain full-time summer enrollment that is not 100 percent remote instruction.

I am a new student and plan to enroll in online classes only from abroad. I will not enter the U.S. How does the Spring 2021 enrollment model affect me?

New students may enroll in fully online classes for the fall semester from abroad, and do not need a valid F-1 visa or I-20 to begin studies online. BIO will provide you with instructions on how to obtain a new updated I-20 when you are ready to come to the U.S. for your semester of entry.

Since you will not enter the U.S. for the Spring 2021 semester, you will not be in F-1 Active SEVIS status and will not accrue physical presence as it relates to your F-1 or J-1 status. This means that you will not begin accruing time towards the 1 academic year required for F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) internship authorization, or F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) post-completion employment. 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 currently exists for OPT.)

I am a new student who started my studies in Fall 2020 from abroad and I now plan to enter the U.S. for the Spring 2021 semester. Am I permitted to enroll in all or mostly remote classes based on UC Berkeley’s Spring 2021 instructional model?

New students entering the U.S. for Spring 2021 are not permitted to enroll in fully remote instruction. See BIO’s enrollment guidance for new students.

I already received my I-20 or DS-2019 for the Spring 2021 semester. Can I use it to apply for a visa and enter the U.S.?

Please review BIO’s Spring 2021 new student enrollment guidance before taking steps to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa.

I am a new student who will arrive late in Spring 2021 OR in a future semester. Will BIO issue me an updated I-20 or DS-2019?

BIO is making adjustments to student I-20 and DS-2019 start dates based on your responses to our mandatory Spring 2021 Arrival Survey or Spring 2021 Transfer Survey. If the information you provided in your survey is no longer accurate, or your I-20 adjustment does not reflect your plans for entry, please contact us. We will begin making I-20 adjustments at the start of Spring 2021 in January. If you urgently need an updated I-20 for a visa interview appointment prior to February 15, 2021, please contact us and include a copy of your visa appointment confirmation.

Late Arrival in Spring 2021

BIO is making adjustments to student I-20 and DS-2019 start dates based on your responses to our mandatory Spring 2021 New Student Survey. If the information you provided in your survey is no longer accurate, or your I-20 adjustment does not reflect your plans for entry, please contact us. We will begin making appropriate I-20 adjustments at the start of Spring 2021 in January. If you urgently need an updated I-20 for a visa interview appointment prior to Feb. 15, 2021, please contact us and submit a copy of your visa appointment confirmation.

Arrival in a Future Semester

If you will arrive in a future semester, BIO will adjust your I-20 or DS-2019 start date based on information you provided to us when completing our Spring 2021 New Student Survey. We will begin making appropriate I-20 adjustments at the start of Spring 2021 in January. If you urgently need an updated I-20 for a visa interview appointment  prior to Feb 15, 2021, please contact us and submit a copy of your visa appointment confirmation.

I am a new student who may be arriving late for Summer 2021, or I am considering deferring to a future semester. What are my options?

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 30 days of the start of classes date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019, you can provide this Arrival Letter. If you will be arriving more than 30 days after the start of classes, notify Berkeley International Office to arrange for adjustments to your I-20 or DS-2019 start date.

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 Admissionsto 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 transferred my I-20 to UC Berkeley for Fall 2020, but I am currently outside the U.S. What will happen to my F-1 record for Spring 2021?

You were originally issued a UC Berkeley transfer I-20 with a start date of Fall 2020. BIO was unable to activate your I-20 in Fall 2020 if you were not physically present in the U.S., and we were required by SEVIS to temporarily terminate the F-1 record and I-20. BIO has reached out to you to gather information about your future plans for entering the U.S. via our mandatory Spring 2021 Transfer Survey. BIO will use your responses to determine if any updates to your F-1 record are necessary at this time and issue you an updated I-20 if needed. If your plans change, you must email seviscoordinator@berkeley.edu to notify us so that we can make the required adjustments to your F-1 immigration record. Failure to notify BIO if your survey responses change could lead to serious complications for your F-1 record and/or your ability to obtain an F-1 visa and enter the U.S.

Please review BIO’s Spring 2021 new student enrollment guidance before considering entry to the U.S. for Spring 2021. Here are the current options for students:

If you plan to be enrolled outside the U.S. in Spring 2021:

You are able to remain enrolled at UC Berkeley remotely from outside the U.S. in Spring 2021 without having an active F-1 record. Please note that your F-1 record is no longer active and the I-20 you previously received from UC Berkeley is no longer valid for applying for an F-1 visa or entering the U.S. If you plan to enter the U.S. to attend UC Berkeley in a future semester, please contact BIO when you are ready to request a new I-20. Please keep in mind that we currently do not have guidance regarding whether we will be able to adjust your I-20 entry to a semester later than Spring 2021, or if you will be required to begin a new SEVIS record.

If you plan to be enrolled in the U.S. in Spring 2021:

BIO will submit a request to SEVIS to reactivate your F-1 record and adjust your I-20 start date to Spring 2021 and provide you with your updated I-20. SEVIS does not have a guaranteed processing time for these requests; BIO would advise allowing at least 2-3 weeks for processing. You will not be able to apply for an F-1 visa or enter the U.S. in F-1 status until you have received an updated I-20. If you do not enter the U.S. for Spring 2021, BIO will not be able to fully activate your transfer I-20.

If you will not be enrolled at UC Berkeley in Spring 2021:

Please note that students who are not enrolled in Spring 2021 are not eligible to enter or remain in the U.S. for Spring 2021 in F-1 status. If you are already in the U.S., please contact Berkeley International Office regarding your cancellation/withdrawal and required departure timeline. You will need to take steps to properly cancel or withdraw from the university if you have not already done so. Please review the Registrar’s Cancellation/Withdrawal information regarding cancellation/withdrawal processes, impacts to your UC Berkeley admission, 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. If you have withdrawn/cancelled and plan to return to the U.S. later to continue your studies at UC Berkeley, be sure to review BIO’s Returning Student information for steps to return again in F-1 or J-1 status.

How does UC Berkeley's plan for Fall 2020/Spring 2021 instruction affect my visa status as a continuing student?

Continuing students who entered the U.S. with F-1 or J-1 status before March 9, 2020 and have remained continuously enrolled after March 9, 2020 can enroll in coursework with any instructional mode, and do not have online enrollment restrictions. See BIO’s enrollment guidance for continuing students

As a continuing F-1 or J-1 student, you can enroll in classes that are all online, all in-person or a combination of in-person and online classes. Continuing students who are outside the U.S. and plan to enroll in online classes should maintain a full course of study to retain their F-1or J-1 status and to remain in Active SEVIS status. The current DHS guidance allows continuing Active students to be outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months. Additionally, Active students outside of the U.S. will continue to accrue time towards their CPT or OPT requirements. 

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 student who entered the U.S. for Fall 2020 and I plan to continue in Spring 2021. How does UC Berkeley's plan for Spring 2021 instruction affect my visa status as a continuing student?

If you entered or will enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status after March 9, 2020, you are subject to new student enrollment requirements and are not permitted to enroll in fully remote instruction. See BIO’s enrollment guidance for new students.

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 or Spring 2021, 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 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 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?

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.

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.

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. USCIS announced on 2/26/2021 flexibilities for OPT applicants who may be affected by delayed receipt notices for the Form I-765, which is used for filing OPT/STEM OPT. These flexibilities apply only to applications received on or after October 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021.

12-Month OPT Period Flexibilities

Due to processing delays, some 12-month OPT applicants may only be eligible for a shortened period of OPT if their approval date falls outside of their normal 60-day grace period. This is because F-1 regulations require that the OPT end date cannot be more than 14 months from the program completion date. (The program completion date for Fall 2020 was 12/18/2020 and for Spring is 05/14/2021.) To allow F-1 students to complete a full period of 12-month OPT, USCIS will temporarily allow the 14-month period to start from the date of approval of the Form I-765, instead of the completion date listed on page 1 of the I-20. USCIS will approve applications for post-completion OPT with validity dates reflecting the same amount of time originally recommended. (Example: Your completion date was 12/18/2020. You applied for post-completion OPT and your application was still processing after 2/16/2021, the end of your 60 day grace period. Your OPT is approved with a start date of 03/05/2021. Normally, your OPT would end on 02/15/2022, and you would lose some OPT time. If you filed your I-765 application with USCIS between October 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, USCIS will currently allow you to have an OPT end date of 3/04/2021, providing you with the full 12 months of OPT.)

If you receive an approval with less than the full 12 month amount of OPT time requested, you can request a correction of the EAD due to USCIS error. USCIS will issue a corrected EAD with a new end date to cover the full amount of OPT time recommended in the original application.

Refiling Following Rejection

Notify BIO immediately if your OPT/STEM OPT is rejected! Normally, if your OPT/STEM OPT Extension is rejected, you must file a completely new application with USCIS. If the application is rejected after your filing deadline (the end of the 60-day grace period for OPT; end of the OPT EAD for STEM OPT) refiling would normally be denied. USCIS will temporarily accept a refiled Form I-765 for OPT and STEM OPT and consider it as filed on the original filing date (before the rejection) IF:

  • The original, timely filed application was received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, inclusive; and

  • USCIS subsequently rejected it.

Refiled applications must be received by May 31, 2021, for USCIS to treat the application as though filed on the original received date.

Applicants refiling a Form I-765 for OPT or STEM OPT do not need to obtain a new Form I-20 with an updated OPT recommendation from the DSO, as long as they originally submitted an application for post-completion OPT within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation or an application for STEM OPT within 60 days of the DSO’s recommendation. Applicants refiling an application should include a copy of the rejection notice with the refiling application. 

Missing or Deficient Signatures

Applications with missing or deficient signatures are generally rejected at the lockbox. Currently, if the lockbox accepts a Form I-765 application for OPT or STEM OPT with a missing or deficient signature, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence rather than deny the application, to give the applicant the opportunity to respond and provide the necessary signature or correct the deficiency.

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?

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.

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 guidance. During this period we continue to process cases remotely and departments can continue to submit cases as usual.

Our department is inviting a J-1 scholar who is currently overseas to join our department. When will they be able to start?

Determining a feasible start date for a new J-1 visitor is currently complex and several factors should be considered:

  • U.S. travel restrictions affecting travelers from certain countries are still in effect. See the "General" FAQ section for more information about current travel restrictions.

  • Effective July 14, the U.S. Department of State announced a phased reopening of regular visa services, including J-1 scholar visas. However, operations may vary by post and we anticipate there may be backlogs and delays upon resumption of services.

  • The U.S. Department of State has provided guidance that the programs for newly arriving J-1 Exchange Visitors should include an on-campus component. If the hosting department's operations do not currently allow for on-campus activities, the visit should be delayed until an on-campus component is feasible.

If you have questions about a feasible start date for your visitor, please email jscholar@berkeley.edu and we will work with you on a case-by-case basis.

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

If you are a scholar in J status and require a travel signature because you intend to travel internationally and return to the U.S. to resume your J-1 program, email jscholar@berkeley.edu. 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 inform us of  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 or if you are outside of the U.S. and unable to re-enter.

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 am concerned that I will be unable to depart the U.S. due to flight cancelations or other issues outside of my control. What should I do?

Please email jscholar@berkeley.edu as soon as possible for guidance on your situation.

Resources

Entry Letter Regarding Spring/Summer 2021 and Fall 2021 Instructional Models

BIO has made available an entry letter for Spring and Summer 2021 based on current DHS guidance for students who choose to enter for those terms. Please review the enrollment guidance for new students and continuing students so that you understand the risks to entry.

An entry letter for Fall 2021 is available for students entering beginning Fall 2021. New students entering the U.S. for Fall 2021 should plan to be physically on-campus. As the campus transitions back to fully in-person learning, we expect current DHS guidance to continue to allow increased flexibility in remote instruction. We advise all students who are planning to enter the U.S. to enroll in as much in-person instruction as possible.

If you need to confirm your specific enrollment or degree program details, you can print your Cal Central enrollment and class schedule, request an official enrollment verification via Cal Central, or contact your academic department.

Mental Health Resources for International Students

COVID-19 Resource List

University of California and other local resources

Government resources