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New International Students

FAQ for Autumn 2020

Information is subject to change. Updates are based on guidance released from ICE and SEVP on July 24, 2020.

GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE FOR TEMPORARY EXEMPTIONS FOR FALL 2020 SEMESTER

On July 24, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a final announcement and further guidance concerning international students who plan to enroll at a U.S. institution in the fall. The July 24 guidance both supersedes ICE July 6 and 7 guidance and clarifies March 2020 guidance that is now in effect due to a court decision rendered July 14. The July 24 guidance confirms that international students can engage in distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19, however, there are additional limitations for new international students.

How this guidance impacts you:

  • New students who plan to enroll in a fully online course schedule from their home country should defer their immigration start date to a future term.
  • New students who do not plan to enroll in any courses should defer their admission to a future term.
  • New students who plan to take in-person/hybrid courses and enter the United States may not take a fully online course schedule. Visa appointments are not currently available in many countries, so your ability to enter the United States for autumn semester will depend on your ability to obtain a visa. If you are able to come to campus, you do not need to be issued new I-20s with additional remarks.
  • All students who are in the United States can remain in the United States if the school switches to an entirely online format during the semester. All students who remain in the United States must also be enrolled in the Student Health Insurance Plan.

VISA PROCESSING

In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of State temporarily suspended routine visa services at most U.S. embassies and consulates. As resources allow, overseas consulates and embassies will resume routine visa services on a post-by-post basis. Please check travel.state.gov for the most current wait times.

Q. I’m unable to secure a visa appointment. What should I do?
A. Students who do not have a confirmed visa appointment before August 30 should defer to a future term (learn more about the difference between deferring I-20 and deferring admission).

Q. What if I need to travel outside of the United States to change my status to F-1 for autumn 2020?
A. Due to uncertainty surrounding visa appointments and availability of international flights, Ohio State recommends that students defer their admission to a future term.

Q. What documents will I need for my visa appointment?
A. To prepare the correct documentation for your visa appointment, visit travel.state.gov. Keep in mind that a consular officer will interview you to determine your qualifications for a student visa, and may request additional documents, such as evidence of:

  • Your academic preparation, such as:
    • Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended; and
    • Standardized test scores required by your U.S. school;
  • Your intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
  • How you will pay all educational, living and travel costs. 

Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply.

COVID-19 TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

To help slow the spread of COVID-19, there are current established restrictions on individuals entering the United States (e.g., F-1, J-1, H-1b, B-1) who have been in any of the following countries within 14 days of traveling to the United States: China, Iran and Brazil. These restrictions will remain in effect until revoked.

As of July 22, certain students may qualify for national interest exceptions under the Presidential Proclamations for the Schengen Zone, United Kingdom and Ireland. Students traveling from these locations with valid F-1 visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel. Students seeking to apply for a new F-1 visa should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel.

J-1 students who have a valid visa that was issued prior to the Presidential Proclamation for the Schengen Zone, United Kingdom and Ireland’s effective date or who are seeking to apply for a visa, and believe they may qualify for a national interest exception should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling.

Q. If autumn is my first semester and I am not able to enter the United States to start my program at Ohio State, will I be able to defer my admission?
A. If you are an undergraduate student, please contact International Undergraduate Admissions (int.undergrad@osu.edu). Graduate students should contact their department who will work with Graduate Admissions (gradadmissions@osu.edu) to defer to a future term. 

Q. What does it mean to defer my academic program? What does it mean to defer my immigration record?
A. If you do not plan to take any classes at all for the next semester or year, you will need to defer your admission/academic program. Once you notify the appropriate admissions office, a new I-20 or DS-2019 will be processed for you with a future start date when you plan to enter the United States.

If you plan to take full-time or part-time online classes and remain in your home country, you will need to defer your immigration start date to a future term. Once you notify the appropriate admissions office, a new I-20 or DS-2019 will be processed for you with a future start date when you plan to enter the United States.

ACADEMICS AND MODE OF DELIVERY IMPACT

Ohio State will offer a combination of in-person, online and blended courses autumn semester. You can view available courses through buckeyelink.osu.edu.

View the university registrars’ definition of courses online. Below is how they will be determined for maintaining a legal immigration status:

  • Distance Learning (considered online)
  • Distance Enhanced (considered online)
  • Hybrid Delivery is (considered in-person)
  • In Person

New students who remain outside the United States are encouraged to explore registering for Ohio State courses offered through distance technologies. It will be the student’s responsibility to ensure access to university support services via their technology and in accordance with their location’s regulations. Students should contact their advisor to address any academic questions, the university’s help desk (servicedesk@osu.edu) for technical questions and immigration coordinators at the Office of International Affairs (iss@osu.edu) with immigration-related concerns.

Students who experience course access issues relating to time zone differences, content accessibility, textbook availability, etc… should contact their professor/instructor and the appropriate college or department to determine whether any alternative options or support may be available.

Students who are located in certain countries and/or are affected by sanctions imposed by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control may not be eligible to take distance learning courses. For more information visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury and use the search tool to input your location abroad to see if the country is on the list affected by sanctions.

Q. Can I enter the United States to take a completely online course load?
A. No. You may not take a fully online course schedule in the United States. 

Q. If I do not plan to enter the United States for autumn semester 2020 can I enroll full time online in my home country?
A. Federal guidelines allow international students to take full-time or part-time online classes in their home country. Ohio State students in certain countries and academic programs may enroll in distance learning, however, students should be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure access to university support services via their technology and in accordance with their location’s regulations.

If you live in a country where distance learning is available and you intend to enroll in online courses, you will need to defer your immigration start date to a future term. Once you notify the appropriate admissions office, a new I-20 or DS-2019 will be processed for you with a future start date when you plan to enter the United States.

Q: I plan on taking Ohio State online courses outside of the United States, but I am not sure which courses to take.
A: Students who will take online courses outside of the United States should work with their academic advisor to identify courses being offered through distance technologies to continue making progress toward their degree.

Q: What should I do if I have access and technology concerns about taking online courses outside of the United States?
A: Ohio State students in certain countries and academic programs may find that online pathways for distance learning are not currently available in every country as a result of technology, accessibility or regulatory issues. Students with access issues relating to time zone differences, content accessibility, textbook availability, etc… should contact their professor/instructor and the appropriate college or department to determine whether any alternative options or support may be available. If students experience technology issues, contact the university’s IT Service Desk, which offers 24-hour support:

For more information about tech support for online courses, visit https://online.osu.edu/tech-support.

Q. If I enroll full time online in my home country, do I need to schedule an immigration check-in appointment?
A. No. You will only complete an immigration check-in appointment once you enter the United States.

Q. If I do not plan to enter the United States for autumn semester 2020, do I need to complete online orientation?
A. Yes. If you will be enrolling online from your home country when you begin your program, you must complete the online orientation modules.

Q. If I plan to enter the United States to take in-person or hybrid courses, do I need a new I-20?
A. No. The guidance that required students to have new immigration documents with comments specifically stating that the school is not operating entirely online has been rescinded. If you are asked to show proof that you are not enrolled entirely online, you should print the Autumn 2020 Ohio State Instructional Plans letter and carry it with you to your visa appointment as well as when you are travelling in case there are any questions about Ohio State's status for autumn semester. You can also provide a copy of your class schedule from Buckeyelink that states the mode of instruction. 

Q. Can I arrive in the United States after the autumn semester start date of August 25, 2020?
A. Typically, we allow undergraduate students to arrive one week after the semester starts and graduate students up to two weeks after the semester starts, with department permission. Given these extraordinary circumstances, please contact both your department and the Office of International Affairs to discuss your travel plans if you want to arrive after the semester start date.

SEVIS TRANSFER STUDENTS

Q. I have transferred my SEVIS record (from another U.S. institution to Ohio State) and am currently outside of the United States. Will I be able to still maintain my F1 status?
A. Students who have transferred their F1 SEVIS records to Ohio State and wish to remain outside the United States for autumn semester may transfer but must have their I-20 start dates deferred through a data fix. Please contact Kim Anthony, senior immigration specialist in the Office of International Affairs (anthony.118@osu.edu), and she will  assist you with this process.

Q. I am currently in the United States. Will I be able to maintain my F-1 status if I take all online classes?
A. Yes. Due to COVID-19, the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) made an exception allowing students to remain in status, even if they exceeded the number of allowable online classes. SEVP guidelines say this exception will continue through fall semester.