FAQ for FSU Departments: Immigration Updates and Issues for the Spring 2021 Semester

Last updated: January 4, 2021

The Center for Global Engagement advising office is open M/W/F from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm.

Departments can contact advisors via email or Teams and can submit documents to them via Dropbox or email. We are asking students to submit applications (e.g. OPT, CPT) to their CGE advisor via Dropbox or email. If an application requires a department signature, we accept electronic signatures. If we receive a drop/add form or a major change form, an advisor will sign it and forward it to the appropriate office. Students can contact advisors via email, Zoom-In Advising (M-F from 2-4), or by appointment.

For H-1B or other employment-based applications, send documents electronically to Luciana Hornung, lhornung@fsu.edu. Checks for application fees that aren’t coming from payroll via campus mail can be dropped off at the CGE during the hours listed above.


Visa Delays

New international students, and continuing students who are abroad with expired student visas, must obtain an F-1 (or J-1) visa from a U.S. Consulate before entering the U.S. (except for citizens of Canada and Bermuda). The U.S. Department of State suspended routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide in March began a phased-in reopening. We know that, despite some consulates reopening, many students will not be able to obtain visas to come to the U.S. for the spring semester.

Students from Canada and Bermuda do not need visas, but they do need a valid passport and an I-20 immigration document.


Enrollment Requirements for International Students for Spring 2021

U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement/SEVP has not posted guidance regarding COVID-19 exceptions to normal enrollment requirements (https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus) , but SEVP has stated that the March 2020 guidance will continue for Spring 2021. The information below provides our understanding of how the guidance should be used for Spring 2021.

  • NEW international students coming to the U.S. from abroad to begin study as F-1 international students (this includes new FSU students who began study in the fall from their home countries): At least one in-person class required if the student is in the U.S.
  • Students who are continuing F-1 students and were enrolled in March 2020: Covered by SEVP guidance as continuing students and a schedule that is 100% remote/online is allowed. A few continuing students must enter the U.S. with a new “initial” I-20 because SEVP would not activate their previous SEVIS record when they didn’t enroll or enroll full time in the fall. These students must have an in-person class.
  • F-1 international students enrolled in March as an F-1 student at another U.S. university with an active SEVIS record: Covered by SEVP guidance as continuing students if they are transferring their F-1 record to FSU. These students may enroll in a schedule that is 100% remote/online.
  • F-1 students who were new, “initial” F-1 students in summer/fall: SEVP did not clarify how guidance applies to students who came to the U.S. as new F-1 students in the summer or fall. We recommend that these students enroll in an in-person class if offered by their department (graduate students) and if available for their degree requirements (undergraduate students). If an appropriate in-person class is not offered by the department or FSU, we recommend that students in this situation request a letter from their department or academic advisor. The letter should confirms that the student is a continuing student in Spring 2021 who is unable to enroll in an in-person class due to the Spring 2021 COVID-19 precautions at FSU.
  • New international students who begin study from their home countries: Immigration regulations don’t apply and these students may enroll in remote classes IF allowed by their department and if they have the technology to access internet and Canvas. These students must enroll full time if they receive out-of-state waivers, unless granted an exception.
  • FLEX classes: If an international student enrolls in a class designated as FLEX, the student must participate in the in-person option.

Travel Restrictions from Certain Countries

U.S. Presidential Proclamations restrict travel to the U.S. for individuals, including students, who are physically present in these countries for any of the 14 days before departure for the U.S.: Brazil, China, and Iran.

The U.S. State Department announced that students from these countries are currently exempt (national interest exemption) from travel restrictions and may travel directly to the U.S.: U.K., Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Students are also exempt from the Canada and Mexico travel restrictions.

However, effective December 28, air travelers coming from the U.K. must test negative, via PCR or Antigen test, no more than 72 hours before departure from the U.K. to the U.S. Individuals who are transiting through the U.K. on their way to the U.S. are exempt as long as their layover is no longer than 24 hours. Read HERE.

Besides affecting new international students, the restrictions affect continuing international students who went home to these countries in the spring, summer, or fall.

Going to a different country for at least 14 days before traveling to the U.S. is an option for students from restricted countries, although not an easy one. Any trip to the U.S. should not include transit through one of the restricted countries.


Covid Precautions and Expectations For FSU

FSU does not have a mandatory self-quarantine period unless you present COVID-19 related symptoms. However, However, FSU expects you to follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for international travel and that you get tested and stay home after higher risk travel. Higher risk travel includes travel from a country or U.S. territory with a Level 2, 3, or 4 travel health notice.

  • FSU’s travel guidance is HERE.
  • COVID tests are available at FSU’s Tucker Center by appointment (https://uhs.fsu.edu/coronavirus/testing) and are free for FSU students. International students may take a passport as photo ID rather than a driver license. Information on free alternative testing sites is HERE.
  • Face coverings are required for all students when inside buildings on the FSU campus and outside when social distancing of at least six feet is not possible.

Banking For New Students and Scholars

Many banks are closed to walk-in appointments and the online appointment times are full. Here are some options that would not require a student or scholar to have a U.S. SSN when applying:

  • Suntrust (Truist) Bank – (104 N. Woodward Ave, adjacent to the FSU Bookstore, ground level of the parking garage) – Students can make an appointment HERE, or try going to the campus bank location when campus is open. Students need 2 forms of photo ID, a local address, and check or cash for an initial deposit. We recommend that students and scholars schedule their appointment immediately or try walking in, since appointments are often not available for several days.
  • Bank of America - Make an appointment HERE and select the branches at 2252 N. Monroe St., 2930 Apalachee Parkway, or 5676 or 3430 Thomasville Road. These branches that are open for help with new accounts. The branch closest to campus at 803 Lake Bradford Rd is not open for full services. If no appointments are available, a student may walk in at those locations, but may need to wait until a representative is available. Students must have 2 forms of photo ID, a local address, and a check or cash for an initial deposit. We recommend that students and scholars schedule their appointment NOW since appointments are often not available for several days.
  • Wells Fargo – Make an appointment HERE. Students must take 2 forms of photo ID, a local address, and a check or cash for an initial deposit.

Obtaining a U.S. Social Security Number

  • Because the Social Security Administration office is closed to walk-in visits, students and new postdocs/employees must have an appointment to apply for a number. F-1 students must have an offer of employment (e.g. graduate assistantship) to be eligible to apply for an SSN. Departments do NOT currently need an SSN receipt or number to complete the onboarding process or for the I-9 as long as the student or scholar has initiated the process for an appointment.
  • F-1 students should ask their department to complete the SSN Form for On-Campus Employment and email it to the student’s CGE advisor or give it to the student to send to their advisor.
  • The CGE advisor will sign the form for F-1 students and either email the form back to the student, or the student can request to pick it up at the CGE if they need it printed. (M/W/F from 1 – 5 pm)
  • Students and employees can call the Tallahassee Social Security Administration office and request an appointment, (866)-248-2088. It is likely they will have to wait at least two weeks to be given an appointment.
  • Students should take the signed SSN Form for On-Campus Employment, (F-1 Students), their passport, I-94 (printed), I-20, and a completed SSN application to the appointment. We were informed that students and scholars coming from international travel must have been in the U.S. for at least 14 days before the appointment.
  • After the appointment, students should show the application receipt to the department payroll representative. When the social security card arrives via mail, the student should show it to the department’s payroll representative and to the registrar’s office (can send it via FSU Dropbox to bethomas@fsu.edu).

What are the options departments can offer NEW international students?

It is important to understand that NEW international students are incoming international students who have not already been studying at a U.S. institution with F-1 nonimmigrant student status. Students who began study in the fall from their home countries would be new international students for purposes of the immigration regulations. (Students coming to FSU after studying at other U.S. institutions in F-1 status are NOT considered NEW international students for immigration purposes. Refer to the questions regarding transfer and change of level students.)

These are scenarios for NEW international students:

Scenario 1: Obtain an F-1 visa and arrive in time to start classes in-person by January 19 (students coming as GA should be here by January 6). Adhere to enrollment requirements.

 

Scenario 2: Unable to obtain a visa and arrive for spring semester. Enrolls in remote classes from home country, with plans to obtain visa in time to arrive for summer or fall semester, if allowed by department and if technology adequate.

  • Graduate Assistant appointment not possible if no U.S. bank account. Possible COVID-19 waivers with student paying fees. (Verify with College)
  • Graduate Dean’s Fellowship, if eligible, and/or scholarship if funds available (total waivers and fellowship/scholarship not to exceed total of qualified tuition and fees)
  • Full course of study optional unless receiving waivers or the Latin America/Caribbean scholarship.

Scenario 3: Cannot receive visa in time to arrive for spring semester. No waivers or other support available.

  • Student enrolls remotely, paying tuition and fees. There are no immigration regulations that would prevent a student from studying part time.
  • Student works with department or Office of Admissions (undergraduate students) to begin program in summer or another future semester

What about new international students transferring their F-1 immigration (SEVIS) record from another U.S. university to FSU?

We consider these students transfer students for immigration purposes. They are transferring their F-1 SEVIS immigration record from their previous institution to FSU. They may have engaged in F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completion of a degree at their previous school, but they would still be transferring their SEVIS record from the school to FSU.

Requirements:

  • Must enroll in a full course of study at FSU (minimum 9 hours/graduate, 12 hours/undergraduate)
  • Remote classes allowed while in the U.S. but student should enroll in an in-person class if available.
  • Remote classes allowed from abroad
  • Less than a full course of study allowed if outside the U.S., but this could affect immigration transfer process

What about international students who completed a degree at FSU and are beginning a new program here – changing level?

If these students have maintained their F-1 immigration status these students may stay in the U.S. to begin their new programs, even if course instruction is remote. If the student is abroad and not able or willing to return to U.S. for the spring semester, student must contact the CGE.

What are departments doing to provide Spring 2021 classes that meet in-person class requirements for NEW international students?

Departments that have not been planning to offer any in-person/traditional classes and those that plan to offer only a small number of classes through in-person/traditional instruction in Spring 2021, need to decide if they can help NEW international students meet federal enrollment requirements. If there will not be any in-person options, be sure that any incoming (from abroad, and depending on future guidance) international students are aware of this.

Acceptable Options:

  • Provide enough in-person/traditional classes so that a NEW international student enrolling full time could have at least 3 credits of in-person/traditional classes (graduate) and at least 1 credit of in-person/traditional classes (undergraduate).
  • Use the FLEX options and make sure international students opt for the in-person format.
  • Enroll the student in a Directed Independent Study (DIS) with required, periodic, in-person meeting with the instructor.

Options That Are Not Acceptable:

Classes conducted by Zoom with no in-person requirement

  • International students meet in a campus classroom and watch broadcast class lectures, no instructor or TA present
  • Classes conducted remotely with quizzes or examinations at FSU Testing Center
  • Directed Independent Study (DIS) classes that do not require any in-person meetings

Should a department notify the CGE if a NEW international student or a new transfer student cannot come to the U.S. for the spring semester?

Yes, please. The CGE needs to know when a student will come to the U.S. in order to change the program start date on the student’s I-20 immigration document, if the department expects the student for a future semester.

Where can I find for more information on these topics?

Travel Restrictions: U.S. Presidential Proclamations have restricted travel to the U.S. for certain individuals physically present in these countries for any of the 14 days before the departure: Brazil, China, Iran

The restrictions are in effect until the President decides to end restrictions.

Going to a different country for at least 14 days before traveling to the U.S. is an option, although not an easy one. Any trip to the U.S. should not include transit through one of the restricted countries.

Student Exceptions to Travel Restrictions:

Visa Delays:: In March 2020, the U.S. Department of State temporarily suspended routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. The Department of State began a phased-in reopening of consulates. Some international students have obtained visas for the spring semester, but many have not been able to get appointments. Consulates in China have not opened for student visa processing.

Immigration & Customs Enforcement Guidance and Clarifications on COVID-19. ((See the section on Nonimmigrant Students and SEVP-Certified Schools) This is the guidance for the fall semester that allows continuing F-1 students (including transfer students) to enroll in remote/online courses that their universities transitioned to due to COVID-19. Guidance for the spring semester will appear here when it is available.

President’s Proclamation restricting entry of certain H-1B and other workers, and dependents: This proclamation affects new H-1B workers and their dependents, outside the U.S. without valid visas in their passport issued before June 22. There are currently no restrictions on changes of status to H-1B from within the U.S., or extensions of existing H-1B status.

Other:

President’s Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization: May affect the J-1 Exchange Visitor Skills list and possibly some employment-based categories. No specific information yet.

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