COVID-19 FAQ for International Students and Visiting Scholars

International Education & Global Engagement

CONTACTING YOUR INTERNATIONAL OFFICE

How do I get in touch with staff at international offices?

Due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, the best way to contact any international office staff member is by email.  Contact information for each office is listed below:

International Degree Seeking Students
Short-Term Study Students

Is the Center for International Education (CIE) open?

The physical CIE offices are closed. However, all international offices are open online, Monday through Friday, from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

Also, degree program students have access to the following in-person services with ISS in the Foundation Building Room 180, Monday through Friday, from 2:00 to 4:00pm:

  • I-20 Travel Signatures (provided at the time of visit)
  • Document Pick-up
  • Please note that ISS In-Person Hours are subject to change. Check Facebook or Instagram for up-to-date hours.
  • Connect With An Advisor via Zoom for drop-in advising, appointments, and workshops

Do I need to wear a mask if I come to campus?

Yes. All staff and students are required to wear masks on campus.  If you do not have a mask, you can refer to the CDC guidance on alternative ways to cover your face.

Where can I park?

Go to the CSULB Parking webpage for current designated student parking areas on campus.

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

How do I receive a travel endorsement for my re-entry if I am unable to visit CIE in person?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is currently allowing school officials to sign the I-20 form digitally. Please email the appropriate office indicated above to obtain the signature. 

  • Degree students only: You can request a new I-20 form with a travel signature through the ISS online request form here: Submit Your Request. You will then request shipping for your I-20. Express Shipping is recommended at this time.

IMMIGRATION & VISAS

My I-20 or DS-2019 is expiring, but I need more time to complete my degree or program. What should I do?

Contact the appropriate international office for advising, as listed in the first FAQ above. 

ALI students should contact their advisor, Ms. Tammy Guzman, at Tammy.Guzman@csulb.edu.

My I-20 or DS-2019 form is expiring and I can’t leave the U.S. due to flight issues. What can I do?

Contact your appropriate international office for advising on your immigration options.

Degree student I-20 forms with ISS have automatically been extended.

For flight assistance, you should contact your country’s embassy officials in the United States for support. Find your country’s embassy or consulate at the Department of State Contact Info for Foreign Embassies & Consulates page.

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?

As long as your SEVIS record remains “active,” you may re-enter the U.S. with an unexpired F-1 visa.  Contact your appropriate international office to notify staff of your return. 

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

Although internationals students are not eligible for CARES Act funds, you may still apply for the Student Emergency Intervention and Wellness Fund.

Will attending classes online during the remainder of Spring and Summer semesters impact my student visa status?

No. SEVP has allowed all F-1/J-1 students to study online due to the COVID-19 situation.

Will changing my grading option to CR/NC impact my student visa status?

  • Exchange Students: No, it will not affect your visa status. However, we do not encourage exchange students to take CR/NC. This is because not all our partner universities recognize CR/NC as a grading system, which can lead to issues when you return to your home university. However, if you wish to consult with your home university about CR/NC, they will be the ones to decide whether or not to allow this type of grading.
  • Study Abroad @ The Beach (SA@B) Students: No, it will not affect your visa status. You have the choice to select which courses you wish to change to CR/NC.
  • ISS Degree Students: No, it will not affect your visa status. You have the choice to select which courses you wish to change to CR/NC.

I left the U.S. already. Can I continue to work in an on-campus position remotely?

Yes. SEVP has allowed F-1/J-1 students to engage in remote on-campus work as long as your record is “active” in SEVIS. Please consult with your direct supervisor at your job for appropriate assignments. 

I am a continuing student, and I am unable to re-enter on time to resume my classes. What should I do?

Contact your appropriate international office (see first FAQ above) as soon as you are aware that you will not be able to return. An international advisor will assist you with immigration advising and the necessary steps to continue at a later time. The advisor will also connect you with your college advising center for support on course withdrawals, and filing an educational leave of absence through Enrollment Services.

Also, you may be able continue your CSULB education from your home country through remote instruction/online classes during Fall 2020. Contact your academic program advisor.

If I need to submit a request to CIE for processing a document such as a new I-20, how do I do that? When will my new I-20/DS-2019 be processed? How can I receive it?

  • Continuing Degree Students: Please visit the ISS student Forms page for details on request options. ISS will communicate with you on delivery options. 
  • Newly Admitted Degree Students: Request a new form I-20 by visiting the Form I-20 page for details and guidelines. Once a student submits all the required documents for the new CSULB form I-20, and express shipping is purchased, our SEVIS specialist can process your form I-20. 
  • Exchange Students: Email our office at InBoundExchange@csulb.edu to discuss this matter. If you are currently in the United States and are awaiting your updated DS-2019, our office will send it to you soon via email. Please note that you will need to place a request with us if you need a new DS-2019 for official visa processing purposes. In that case, we would need to send you a physical copy with a signature. 
  • ALI Students: Contact CPIE-ALIPrograms@csulb.edu.

NEWLY ADMITTED STUDENTS

As a new student, what should I do if I cannot get a visa due to U.S. Consulate closures and lack of flights, or if I cannot enter on time to start my program?

  • Degree Students: Did you know you can begin your program online? If you decide to begin your program, contact the International Admissions Office at cie-admission@csulb.edu with your CSULB ID number. You may either begin your program online; or, if you are interested in starting in Spring 2021, we will assist you to defer/re-apply without the application fee. 
  • Graduate Programs: If you were admitted to a graduate program offered only in Fall semesters, please correspond with program advisors for additional information. We are working with graduate programs to assist you with possible options.
  • Short-Term Study Students: Contact your appropriate international office for rollover options or refunds:

I am a new student and might want to start in the Spring 2021 semester. How do I do that?

  • Degree Students: If you prefer to start your attendance in the Spring 2021 semester, we will assist you to defer/re-apply without the application fee. Contact the International Admissions Office at cie-admission@csulb.edu with your CSULB ID number. 
  • In addition, graduate applicants should correspond with their graduate program advisors for assistance and additional information. CIE is working with the graduate programs for possible alternative options.
  • Exchange Students: Communicate with your home university and have them contact our office at InBoundExchange@csulb.edu to discuss the matter.
  • SA@B: studyatthebeach@csulb.edu
  • ALI: CPIE-ALIPrograms@csulb.edu

I am a new student but decided I will not attend CSULB. What do I need to do?

I could not complete my high school or college courses in Spring 2020 due to COVID-19 and I am worried.  What will happen to me?

Degree Students:  Please refer to the Enrollment Services Most Common Questions sheet.

My school is still closed and I cannot get my graduation/degree certificate or final grade report. What should I do?

Degree Students:  Please refer to the Enrollment Services Most Common Questions sheet.

F-1 OPT (DEGREE STUDENTS ONLY) and J-1 ACADEMIC TRAINING RELATED

I’m on F-1 OPT and am working fewer than 20 hours a week due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Is this compatible with my F-1 status?

Yes. For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities for fewer than 20 hours a week as actively engaged in OPT.

I am outside of the U.S. and unable to enter to apply, start, or continue my F-1 OPT. What should I do?

  • If you are already approved for OPT, you can continue to work remotely for the duration of their post-completion OPT period.
  • You can return to the U.S. as soon as flight and immigration travel restrictions are lifted; and as long as your employment authorization continues to be valid. Keep in mind that, due to the changing nature of the situation, you should refer to your local U.S. embassy website through the U.S. Department of State COVID-19 Traveler Information page for any updates about visa issuance and travel restrictions to the United States.
  • Students who left the country before applying for OPT should wait for further guidance from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as indicated in the May 2020 Frequently Asked Questions for SEVP Stakeholders page, where it states that “DHS is evaluating these issues and may issue additional guidance.”

Has anything changed with the OPT application processes due to COVID-19?

No. The OPT application process with CIE remains the same. For instructions, please go to the ISS Employment page at www.cpie.csulb.edu/employment.

What if I cannot find an employer within 90 days of the start date of my OPT?

Post-completion OPT rules have not changed due to COVID-19. If you know that you will exceed the 90-day unemployment time, you should seek alternatives to continue to maintain F-1 status. These options include: departing the U.S., transferring to a new school or new academic program, or seeking a change of visa status.

I have already applied for my post-completion OPT. Will my OPT processing be delayed due to the COVID-19 situation?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) still continues to perform duties that do not involve face-to-face contact with the public, and has not announced any further delays on the processing of OPT applications. USCIS has indicated that individuals may still submit applications and petitions during this time. You may track the status of your application or submit a Case Status inquiry online at https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do. For general I-765- Application processing times, you can Check Case Processing Times.

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?

SEVP guidance indicates that students can engage in remote employment for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency and until further notice. In addition, you do not have to update the employer address information in SEVIS or on the Form I-983 if you are working remotely.

I have been furloughed or laid off. What happens now?

You may use available unemployment time to cover the unemployment gap. However, you should still continue to make efforts to seek employment in order to maintain F-1 status and avoid exceeding the 90-day unemployment limit.

What’s the difference between being furloughed and being laid off?

The main difference between being furloughed and laid-off comes down to the employment relationship between the employee and the employer. In both cases, you are not getting paid. Generally, furloughed means your job may be reinstated after a certain timeframe. Being laid off means your employment has ended. Read this Huffington Post article for a full detailed explanation.

How does my separation of employment impact my OPT or STEM Extension unemployment days?

From the moment that a student is officially without a job and ends the employee relationship with the employer, the student will accrue unemployment time. The SEVP definition of unemployment time is “each day (including weekends) during the period when OPT authorization begins and ends that the student does not have qualifying employment counts as a day of unemployment.”

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I am furloughed or laid-off from my OPT?

There are no clear answers to this question. However, SEVP guidance has indicated that students should contact their local or state employment agency for information on whether or not they are allowed to accept unemployment benefits.

The other concern regarding unemployment benefits is that, as a consequence, it would be necessary to categorize you as a “public charge” if you decide to apply for a green card in the future. For more about the public charge rule, go to the UCIS Public Charge page.

I am a J-1 student and my Academic Training employment has been terminated due to COVID-19. What can I do?

Exchange Students: Contact your advisor to update your Academic Training status.

TRAVEL RELATED

Can I travel internationally during summer? What are the entry restrictions to the U.S.?

  • Exchange Students: Your visa may have expired on May 22, 2020, and you would not be allowed to return to the United States on the J-1 visa. Exception: Only year-long exchange students with a valid visa and travel signature may travel internationally in the summer and return to the U.S., as long as travel restrictions allow.
  • Degree/ALI/SA@B Students:  Yes, but if you are planning to travel outside of the U.S., we urge you to stay informed about current global travel warnings and delays affecting travelers all over the world. You should obtain a travel signature from your advisor in order to return to the U.S.

The U.S. government posts up-to-date travel warnings about country events that create potential risks and dangers. You should check these sites for updated reports on risks of traveling to certain countries at this time.

In addition, if you are on F-1 OPT or STEM OPT, you should consult with your employer’s human resources department or your supervisor about your travel plans.

For travel support, please visit your home embassy or consulate office website for guidelines and details.

Returning to the U.S. from High Risk Countries: Be cautious about travel. Refer to guidance from the CDC, U.S. Department of State COVID-19 Traveler Information, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Notices of Arrival Restrictions Due to Coronavirus for specific port-of-entry screening processes, as well as any travel restrictions. If you are unsure how an entry ban will impact your travel, you can consult with your international student advisor. If you have returned from a country that is currently severely affected by the coronavirus, it is highly advised that you take the following steps from the CDC on How to Protect Yourself & Others.

I just want to go home. What should I do?

All international students should inform their offices about returning to their home country.

  • Exchange and SA@B Students: Inform our office that you would like to go home, and we will advise you on the matter. Please note that due to the pandemic, you may be unable to find a flight home for an undetermined amount of time. Work with your embassy or consulate to get proper advice from them on how to return.
  • Degree and ALI Students: Get information from your home country embassy or consulate website for updates regarding country and travel advisories. Before you depart, make sure you have a valid travel signature on page 2 of your form I-20.  If you are unsure of the validity of your signature, you can email our offices to determine if you need a travel signature.

What about traveling within the U.S.?

Be cautious when traveling within the U.S. While you are legally permitted to travel within the U.S. prior to the end of your grace period, we do not recommend any non-essential travel at this time. All travel is at your own risk. Please follow guidance from the CDC on Coronavirus and Travel in the United States, as COVID-19 has affected the entire U.S. Check the local and state guidelines for places you will travel to and from. If you will be flying, check with the airline or airport about additional guidelines you must follow.

As in all travel, please carry all of your travel documents (I-20 or DS-2019), passport, and medical insurance information with you in case of an emergency.

  • Exchange Students: In addition to the above information, all exchange students are required to document their travels on the online travel reporting form, which our office provided to you at the beginning of the semester. We can send you the link as needed if you email us at InBoundExchange@csulb.edu.
  • ALI Students: In addition to the above information, let the ALI office know about your travel plans and contact your ALI Advisor Tammy Guzman at tammy.guzman@csulb.edu prior to travel.

If I decide to leave the U.S., can I leave without a CIE advisor signature on my I-20 or DS-2019?

  • Degree Students: If you leave without receiving a travel signature, email ISS right away at cie-student@csulb.edu. You can also request a new I-20 with a travel signature through our online request form here: Submit Your Request.
  • Exchange and SA@B Students: If you are returning home and will not return to the U.S., you do not need a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 to leave.  However, please inform your advisor if you are leaving before your program end date.
  • ALI Students: Email your ALI Advisor Tammy Guzman at tammy.guzman@csulb.edu to confirm your travel plans, and make sure your documentation is in order before you travel.

How can I get an I-20 or DS-2019 signature?

  • Degree Students only: You can get your form I-20 signed for travel through two different options:
    • In-person in Foundation 180, Monday-Friday, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm (Please be advised that this may change depending on staff availability. Check Facebook and Instagram for updates on office hours.)
    • Online Request of a newly reprinted I-20 form with a travel signature. You can Submit Your Request here and obtain your I-20 via Express Shipping. Online requests can take 7-10 business days to process. 
  • Exchange Students: Email InBoundExchange@csulb.edu to discuss receiving a signature. Only requests for official visa purposes will be considered.
  • SA@B Students: Email studyatthebeach@csulb.edu.
  • ALI Students: Email Tammy Guzman at tammy.guzman@csulb.edu to request a signature.

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

Keep in mind that you are permitted to remain in the U.S. as long as you are participating in your program with a valid I-20 or DS-2019. While we do not generally recommend that you travel at this time for the sole purpose of renewing your visa, you should contact your international office advisor for guidance on your specific situation.

What are the quarantine requirements to re-enter the U.S.?

Please check the current Center for Disease Control and Prevention quarantine guidelines for travelers returning from international travel.

My program is ending, but I may not be able to leave. What are my options?

All international students must email their international offices immediately for advising.

HEALTH & SUPPORT

I am quite stressed. Where do I go for support?

All International Students:
CSULB Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has also created a virtual support group for all international students. The International Student Support Group will be conducted virtually via Zoom every Thursday from 3:00-4:30pm PST. Group facilitators will send out weekly reminders via email, which will also include a Zoom link to the session. Any international student who is interested in joining can send an email to one of the facilitators, Elaine Yeo, at Elaine.Yeo@csulb.edu. Students are also welcome to share the Zoom link with other international students at CSULB.

Each group meeting will focus on a mental health topic related to the COVID-19 situation.  Topics include: Fear, anxiety, and stress amidst a global pandemic, Social distancing and mental health, Racism and microaggression amidst COVID-19 fears, and “Stuck” and away from country and community.'

  • Degree Students: CSULB Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available to offer their support. Please visit their website for the available services. You may also review your Anthem health insurance coverage for information on mental health benefits.
  • ALI Students: MY SSP is available for support 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. To use the app, check the MY SSP instructional video or ALI Student Health Resource Guide, or email us at CPIE-ALIPrograms@csulb.edu for assistance.
  • Exchange and SA@B Students: Please review your Anthem health insurance coverage for information on mental health benefits.
  • J-1 scholars: Please review your health insurance coverage for information on mental health benefits.

Where can I find health information and guidelines related to COVID-19?

You can find information on the CSULB COVID-19 page as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention site.

I am experiencing xenophobia, racism, harassment, or bullying. Where do I go for support?

Contact CSULB’s Office of Equity & Diversity to report your incident.

How can I connect with other CSULB international students?

Contact your international office or advisor for virtual events to connect with other international students.  There is also a regular international student support group for all international students that meets online every Thursday from 3:00pm-4:30pm Pacific Standard Time. For more information about this group, contact Elaine.Yeo@csulb.edu.

How do I apply for Severe Economic Hardship or Special Student Relief work authorization?

Degree Students: This is available for degree students only. An international advisor will assist you during a one-on-one Zoom advising appointment to review in detail the option of “Severe Economic Hardship.” Book an appointment to Meet with an Advisor here.

J-1 VISITING SCHOLARS AND INTERNATIONAL FACULTY AND STAFF

How can I get a travel endorsement for my re-entry if I am unable to visit CIE in person?

Contact the International Scholar Advisor, Ignacio Castor, at Ignacio.Castor@csulb.edu for instructions.

I am a new visiting scholar or employee currently outside of the U.S. and I can't enter on time to start my program. What should I do?

Contact your mentor at CSULB to request an update on the program start date, and submit to ignacio.castor@csulb.edu.

I am a continuing scholar employee but I cannot enter on time to resume my appointment. What should I do?

Please contact your Academic Department or College Dean’s office to learn alternative options that may be available to you.

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

DS-2019 program end dates between April 1 – May 31, 2020 and active SEVIS records have automatically been extended in order to provide exchange visitors the opportunity to complete their programs, or continue to finalize travel plans to return home. 

Given the uncertainty caused by the lack of available flights and ongoing travel restrictions, we strongly recommend that you reach out to your country embassy or closest consulate if you are unable to book return flights home. A growing number of embassies are posting special communications on their websites and social media for their exchange visitors in order to contact them.

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

If everything goes as planned, they should be able to start on their planned date. However, a number of factors will determine the ability of the visiting scholar to travel to the U.S. and begin their program at CSULB, including: 1) the reopening of embassies and consulates for visa issuance; 2) travel restrictions; and 3) availability of flights for international travel.

Are there any current travel restrictions for Permanent Residents?

On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, the President of the United States issued a proclamation suspending the entry of certain new immigrants for 60 days, which took effect at 11:59pm on April 23, 2020. The proclamation DOES NOT impact F-1 and J-1 visa holders.

The proclamation DOES NOT affect U.S. green card holders, spouses and children of U.S. citizens, and EB-5 investor immigrants, all of whom are exempt from the order. The proclamation ONLY impacts pending immigrant visa applications (applications for permanent residency) for persons who were outside the U.S. on the effective date of the proclamation.

FALL 2020 SEMESTER

What will be the mode of instruction during the Fall 2020 semester?

Most CSULB classes for Fall 2020 will be delivered remotely, either fully online or through alternative modes of instruction. A limited number of classes that require in-person activities—such as nursing clinical sessions, science and engineering labs sections, and some performing and creative art classes—will be held on campus with strict physical distancing guidelines.

I am a newly admitted student for Fall. Since most classes will be offered remotely or online, can I still come to the U.S. on an F-1 visa?

According to current Department of Homeland Security guidelines, new F-1 students should not enter the U.S. if all courses are delivered remotely. However, new SEVP guidance is expected for Fall programs. As soon as any new guidance becomes available, we will keep all new students informed about their ability to participate in Fall programs.

Continuing or transfer students are able to remain in the U.S. as long as they maintain their F-1 visa status.

What kind of housing will be available on-campus and off-campus?

Housing policies for Fall are still being finalized. A limited number of housing units are expected to be available on campus.  Your advisors in the international office will be able to recommend some off-campus housing facilities that are primarily occupied by CSULB students.

ADDITIONAL HELPFUL LINKS AND RESOURCES

​In response to COVID-19, the university is transitioning to alternate delivery of classes. Click here to learn more.