Studying English in the USA on an F1 Visa
In light of the Coronavirus, at first the current administration was going to require that all students who were studying in the United States at a program that was going virtual only for the fall would be required to either find an in-person program or leave the country. This decision has since been reversed. Travel restrictions and everything else has made the situation for international students very tricky.
“Typically, an F-1 student may be able to take an authorized leave of absence from school due to unforeseen circumstances. When students take a temporary absence, their record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS, will be set to terminated status for “Authorized Early Withdrawal.” SEVIS is used by the U.S. government to maintain information on international students.
When students take an authorized temporary absence of less than five months, their record can be corrected in SEVIS to active status when they return and re-enroll in school, which will allow those students to re-enter the U.S. using their previous SEVIS ID number, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, known as DHS.
Students outside the U.S. for more than five consecutive months will need to obtain a new Form I-20, the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, an important form used throughout an international student’s studies in the U.S. They must also pay the I-901 SEVIS fee again if their original visa is no longer valid.
But as a result of COVID-19, there may be more flexibility. “Given the uncertainty that still exists, especially with the various travel restrictions and the temporary closure of U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, the five-month rule has been relaxed for the time being,” says Christian Stuart, executive director of the Center for On-Campus International Student Services in the College of Education and International Services at Andrews University in Michigan. “If your school is going to be remote this fall or there is a possibility of being virtual (as there is for all of us depending on what happens with COVID-19 numbers) then you don’t need to worry about your status. It should be business as usual.”
Excel’s Plan for Fall Classes in Response to the Current COVID-19 Mandate
Excel has been preparing to receive students since the June session by following CDC protocols, such as distancing, sanitizing and mandating students to wear masks. Our first effort was to bring back only the beginning level classes since they are so small and easy to manage under the CDC guidelines. This has worked very well since beginners need extra face to face guidance and practice. This has also given Excel staff the opportunity to practice with COVID-related issues that might arise with on premises classes.
When the government mandate was issued barring online classes in mid-July, Excel stepped up its COVID-19 protocol to get ready to have students back on campus. Classrooms were rearranged to ensure proper distancing and sanitizing products were purchased to allow students to study with minimal risk of infection.
Shortly after the online class mandate was given, President Trump rescinded this directive, so Excel is continuing with online learning until there is certainty that returning to campus will be safe for its students. Meanwhile, all the safety protocols are in place and Excel staff remains ready to receive students to campus learning once it is the best option for students. For now though, the staff and instructors are always looking for ways to make online learning engaging and effective. Excel staff is eager and ready to have students back on campus as safely and quickly as possible.
All administrative support regarding enrollment and F-1 student support is still 100%, and students never need to worry about not having access to school staff and counseling. Enrollment is always open to new or transferring students since Excel has monthly sessions, making it easy to enroll.
Advice for F1 Students Studying in the U.S.
- Be Flexible – Things are changing! We will are watching out for you and will keep you informed.
- Ask for Help – Get a professional like a guidance counselor or your teacher to help walk you through the updates as the situation changes.
- Stay Focused on your Goals – Remember why you’re studying and how far you’ve come, and all the work you’ve put into it!
- Stay Social – Things may not be “normal” right now but there are ways to facilitate your studies with social interaction. Discover a new delicious recipe with a group cooking class using Zoom. Check out CDC guidelines, being outside is safer than being indoors if you have to get out of the house – plan a picnic or a walk with a friend – just keep your distance!