Updated: July 6, 2020, 6:00 P.M. EDT
This webpage is being updated regularly, and we encourage you to check it frequently for important updates. Please note that this information is constantly evolving and we do not have all the answers at this time.
If you are contacting us with questions about COVID-19 operations and immigration implications for the Fall 2020 semester, please recognize that we have just received updated guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program late in the afternoon on Monday, July 6th. We are diligently working to review this guidance and to provide updated information to the NSU community no later than Friday, July 10, 2020. Please review the Webinars section below to register for the upcoming webinar about the recent SEVP guidance and implications for NSU F-1 students.
The Office of International Affairs is currently operating with a remote staff. We remain available to assist you with all of your needs, including advising and document processing.
All F-1 students are required to complete the COVID-19 Information Form. SEVP requires that NSU and F-1 students continue to report all information changes during COVID-19 disruptions. This form assists in our efforts to fulfill this reporting requirement.
Reminder: If your information changes after you submit the form, you must re-submit your response!
All winter 2020 workshop webinars have now passed. There are no CPT and OPT webinars over the summer but you are able to view recorded versions of previous workshops at any time:
F-1 students who were enrolled in full-time classes during the winter 2020 term are considered in good immigration status even though all NSU courses moved online effective March 23, 2020. Due to this unprecedented situation, an exception has been made for students to complete their winter/spring courses fully online, either within the US or abroad. Students will remain in ACTIVE F-1 status so long as they otherwise adhere to all F-1 regulations.
On April 1, 2020, NSU President Dr. George Hanbury announced that all 2020 spring and summer courses, which begin between March 30 and May 18, will be offered fully online.
Summer 2020 enrollment for current NSU F-1 students who started in Winter 2020 or prior and are continuing in their programs: From an immigration perspective, students may register for summer courses or not. There are no restrictions on the number of courses, their modality, or a student's physical location, if enrolled. Note that academic programs may require summer enrollment and current students should defer to their academic program requirements for summer 2020 registration.
This information applies only to Spring and Summer 2020 terms. On May 1, 2020, President Hanbury announced that NSU will resume in-person classes for the fall 2020 semester/term, subject to the Governor of Florida’s executive orders at the time of opening, as well as CDC and local government directives.
Reminder: CPT authorization takes a minimum of seven business days to be processed by our office. NEVER begin off-campus training/employment before receiving your updated I-20, endorsed for CPT.
On May 1, 2020, President Hanbury announced that NSU will resume in-person classes for the fall 2020 semester/term, subject to the Governor of Florida’s executive orders at the time of opening, as well as CDC and local government directives.
Because it has been announced that NSU will resume face-to-face offerings, F-1 students will be required to return to an adherence of all full course of study requirements, including limits to distance/online education.
Current F-1 students who are unable or unwilling to return to campus for the fall term may continue their studies online, if permitted by the program and/or their home country ministry of education, but their F-1 immigration status and NSU I-20 will be terminated.
Due to the current requirement that students must be enrolled for one academic year in a valid immigration status prior to applying for OPT (the 1-3 year work authorization benefit), students who are unable or unwilling to return to campus for the fall term and are graduating prior to Fall 2021 will be ineligible to apply for OPT.
As of May 18, 2020, there still has been very little guidance provided by SEVP or USCIS regarding modifications to the processing of I-765, OPT applications.
At this time we do not know if applications will be accepted from outside of the US, how applications that were already submitted will be seen if the student is outside of the US when the application is adjudicated (and hopefully approved), or if students attempting to re-enter the country with a pending or approved OPT will be permitted entry without a job offer. All of these are currently unknown and the Office of International Affairs is not able to advise on how SEVP and/or USCIS will respond.
It is important that students recognize that prior to COVID-19 concerns, the Office of International Affairs strongly discouraged students from leaving the country while their OPT application was pending as we have reports of students being denied re-entry. Additionally, Part 3, on page 4 of the Form I-765, reads "You must file Form I-765 while in the United States."
Our best recommendation at this time remains that students who wish to file an OPT application should do so from within the United States and that they should ensure they return to the US before their program end date (last day of coursework).
First, it is important to determine if you are being laid off or if you are being placed on a "temporary leave in accordance with your company's leave policies." In the first scenario, being laid off, this means that you do not have a job to come back to and will be asked to reapply.If you are placed on leave – whether paid or unpaid – this means that your workplace is temporarily suspending services, but will keep your position for you and expect you to return when the company reopens. If you are not sure, please ask this question directly of your boss or your HR office, as this is a very important distinction.
If you are being placed on leave in accordance with an official policy, then the days you are not working will not count as unemployment and will not count against your 90-day (150-day for STEM OPT) maximum period of unemployment. If you are being laid off, however, you are required to report this to the Office of International Affairs within 10 days of your last day of employment. Days after your last day of employment, until you obtain a new job, will count against your 90-day (or 150-day for STEM OPT) unemployment clock.
Unfortunately, there has not been any guidance issued by the Department of Homeland Security indicating that F-1 students will be permitted additional unemployment time on OPT/STEM OPT. As a reminder:
Students on OPT are limited to 90 days of unemployment, starting from the date listed on their EAD cards.
Students who receive a 24-month STEM OPT Extension are allowed an additional 60 days of unemployment for a total of 150 days over their entire post-completion OPT period (standard OPT + STEM).
At this time, students should assume that the 90 day/150 day limits are still in effect and that they will fall out of legal status and should leave the United States if they exceed more than the permitted unemployment time. The Office of International Affairs is constantly monitoring guidance from the Department of Homeland Security and will update this question if changes are announced to these limits.
Employment for less than 20 hours per week: SEVP has stated that "For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT."
Students who are expected to exceed these limits and are unable to depart the country should file an I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status to request a Change of Status to B-2 (visitor) prior to falling out of status. Although it is not ideal, students who do not file prior to falling out of status may still file the I-539 and request a nunc pro tunc approval (a backdated approval) and make a compelling argument that the failure to file on time was due to reasons out of their control.
Nova Southeastern University’s Office of International Affairs is unable to assist with I-539 filings. Students may wish to seek the assistance of a qualified immigration attorney, such as NSU’s external legal counsel, Fragomen. Fragomen’s I-539 filing fee is $1,500.00.
Students who have fallen out of status should schedule an appointment with an International Student Advisor to discuss their options. If you have failed to maintain F-1 student status and wish to regain valid status, there are two ways you can be reinstated:
OIA will assist you with a reinstatement petition only if all of the conditions above apply. If you do not meet the above eligibility requirements you will need to consult a US immigration attorney.
Unfortunately, there has not been any guidance provided on how the Department of Homeland Security will address situations where an individual has fallen out of status and is required to leave the U.S. but is unable to do so due to current travel restrictions. Students may wish to seek the assistance of a qualified immigration attorney, such as NSU’s external legal counsel, Fragomen.
Making the decision to return home is a very personal one. Before making the decision to return home, F-1 students should consider:
Students should follow all recommendations listed on the NSU coronavirus website, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travel website, and from the World Health Organization.
Remember that your F-1 visa is required to be VALID (unexpired) any time you (re)enter the United States.
NOTE: On March 20, 2020, travel.state.gov (U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office) posted the following news alert:
First, please check your most recent travel signature.
If you have determined you require a new travel signature, the Office of International Affairs will issue you a new I-20 with electronic signatures on the first and second page. You should keep your current I-20 and utilize the new I-20 with the electronic signature to re-enter the U.S.
To request an electronic I-20 submit the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org at least seven business days prior to your travel:
A note on electronic signatures:
On March 26, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) provided the following guidance on electronic Form I-20 issuance:
Can DSOs electronically send signed Forms I-20 to students instead of physically mailing the forms?
Yes, due to COVID-19, DSOs may electronically send Forms I-20 to students.
What methods can DSOs use to sign and send Forms I-20?
SEVP has identified the following methods to sign and send the Form I-20:
Only approved principal designated school officials (PDSOs) and DSOs may physically sign or input their own digital signature to the Form I-20. Individuals who are not approved on the school’s Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student,” may not input a DSO’s signature—either digital or physical—to the Form I-20. By signing the Form I-20 or inputting their digital signature, PDSOs and DSOs attest that they are the approved individual issuing the Form I-20.
Additional guidance followed in May 2020:
Has SEVP worked with both the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in developing the policy to accept the use of electronic signatures during the COVID-19 emergency?
SEVP coordinated with both the Department of State and CBP regarding the policy to allow electronic issuance and signing of Forms I-20 for the duration of the COVID19 emergency. Both agencies are in support of this action. SEVP continues torespond to any issues raised or questions from both agencies about this policy and will provide clarity as needed.
F-1 visa holders have 60 days after their program end date to leave the United States. F-1 students who participate in post-completion OPT have 60 days after their OPT end date, or 90 days of unemployment during their OPT period (whichever comes first) to depart.
Students who are unable to depart within their grace period should file an I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status to request a Change of Status to B-2 (visitor) prior to the end of their grace period. Although it is not ideal, students who do not file within their grace period may still file the I-539 and request a nunc pro tunc approval (a backdated approval) and make a compelling argument that the failure to file on time was due to reasons out of their control.
Students within the US who will begin their program at NSU on a new I-20 during the Summer 2020 term: Students must be enrolled in a full course of study, meeting minimum credit requirements but without concern for course modality.
This information applies only to the Summer 2020 term. On May 1, 2020, President Hanbury announced that NSU will resume in-person classes for the fall 2020 semester/term, subject to the Governor of Florida’s executive orders at the time of opening, as well as CDC and local government directives.
Students should continue to make progress on their NSU admission applications for fall 2020. Once you have been fully admitted by your academic program, you will be able to request your NSU I-20. Please visit the Requirements For Obtaining An I-20 page for additional details. Please watch for additional announcements from the Office of International Affairs and visit the Admitted F-1 Student Checklists to ensure you are ready to begin your studies at NSU.
PLEASE NOTE: While NSU programs are scheduled to go on as planned, closures around the globe may cause disruptions. Specifically:
On March 20, 2020, travel.state.gov (U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office) posted the following news alert:
Details about how your course will be offered in an online environment will be provided by your faculty. There are two types of online courses:
Most classes will likely utilize a combination of methods, but students should expect that they will still need to be available to log into their classes and participate in class at their scheduled class dates and times. This is true even for students who are planning to be in different time zones. It is your responsibility to ensure you have appropriate connectivity and technology to be available at your scheduled class dates and times.
Students who will need a Social Security Number (SSN) due to OPT can apply for their SSN at the same time they apply for OPT, using the same I-765 form.
Unfortunately, as of March 18, 2020, all Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed and not providing in-person services. There have been mixed responses from the SSA as to if students can apply for a SSN by mail. Even if this service is permitted by the local SSA, it requires that students mail all original documents (including the student's passport) and that materials are returned by standard mail, without a tracking number. For this reason, we do not recommend students apply for an SSN by mail and instead wait for Social Security Administration offices to reopen. Please check https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/ for more information on Social Security Administration services.
Most state laws, including Florida law, do not require an individual to have a SSN before they start employment. We encourage you to explain to your employer why you may not be able to obtain a SSN until the Social Security Administration reopens to see if they will allow you to begin employment prior to receiving your SSN.
Currently, NSU requires student employees to have already obtained their SSN before they are able to begin employment.
Yes! All F-1 students have a filing responsibility. At this time, NSU's Glacier Tax Prep workshops have been canceled. However, using the Glacier Tax Prep software is very easy and will walk you through your filing responsibilities step-by-step. Visit the Office of International Affairs Taxes page for additional information and to access the Glacier Tax Prep software.
The United States tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15th. Your taxes must be postmarked by this date.
If you experience severe economic hardship because of unforeseen circumstances beyond your control, you may submit an application to USCIS to work off-campus due to an Economic Hardship. Note: At this time, we do not have any examples of successful or unsuccessful Economic Hardship applications due to COVID-19.
Economic Hardship reminders:
If you wish to apply for Economic Hardship, please schedule an an advising appointment at http://bit.ly/nsuoissadvising.
Please be advised that NSU cannot provide any kind of tax advice, tax consultation, or tax preparation assistance to you.
CARES Act credits are only for Resident Aliens (RAs). This is a tax designation, not an immigration designation. The vast majority of F-1 students are Non-Resident Aliens (NRAs) for tax purposes.
Learn more about determining if you are a Non-Resident Alien (the vast majority of F-1s) or a Resident Alien for tax purposes here. NSU F-1 students are also encouraged to utilize Glacier Tax Prep software which will walk students step-by-step through their tax-filing responsibilities, including determining if they are a Non-Resident Alien or Resident-Alien for tax purposes.
Details about exactly when or how CARES Act credits will be paid have not been released, other than to say that individuals who are eligible to receive CARES Act credits will receive them as direct deposits or mailed checks based on the information on file from previous tax refunds.
As outlined in the previous question, the majority of F-1 and J-1 visa holders are considered Non-Resident Aliens (NRAs) for tax purposes and are ineligible for the CARES Act stimulus checks. However, we have received reports that some ineligible students have received a CARES Act stimulus check. This has likely occurred due to a student's incorrect filing of their 2019 and/or 2018 taxes. If a Non-Resident Alien incorrectly filed their tax return using the form 1040 or 1040-EZ instead of the 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ, they may have been incorrectly issued a CARES Act stimulus check. This error should not have happened if a student utilizes NSU's Glacier Tax Prep software. However, this error is very common for students who have utilized TurboTax or another outside tax filing service.
If you received a CARES Act stimulus check, please determine if you are a Non-Resident Alien (the vast majority of F-1s) or a Resident Alien for tax purposes here. If you are a Non-Resident Alien, like the vast majority of F-1 students, and you have incorrectly received a CARES Act stimulus check, Arctic International (the company that operates Glacier Tax Prep) has provided the following recommendations:
Return of Stimulus Payment:
Amendment of Incorrectly Filed 2018 and/or 2019 Federal Income Tax Return:
It is important to note that if the nonresident alien does not immediately return the erroneously received stimulus payment, he or she may be subject to interest accrued until the payment is returned. Also, until such time as the incorrectly filed federal income tax return is amended to submit the correct federal income tax return, the nonresident alien is subject to a filing penalty and/or loss of any otherwise applicable deductions or allowances, including income tax treaty exemptions. While immigration issues are beyond the scope of our expertise, it is important to note that failure to file a correct federal income tax return and/or filing a fraudulent federal income tax return are violations of U.S. tax law and may potentially impact current or future immigration status.
Nova Southeastern University’s Office of International Affairs is unable to assist with addressing CARES Act issues. Students may wish to seek the assistance of a qualified tax professional and/or immigration attorney.
If an Exchange Visitor is in the United States but must go home or is stuck outside of the country and cannot return because his/her visa is expired, NSU will shorten the program using the explanation “due to emergent COVID-19 reasons.” This ends the program in SEVIS and prevents the Exchange Visitor from traveling until NSU can re-issue a new DS-2019 for travel purposes.
NSU may also keep an Exchange Visitor’s SEVIS record active until the Exchange Visitor is able to return to the United States to continue with his or her original program objectives. Exchange visitors should be mindful of the validity dates of their J-1 visas; they may need to renew their visas before they return to the United States.
NSU may need to make changes to programs with little notice, for example to comply with state or local health emergency declarations. In such situations, NSU's obligations regarding the health, safety, and welfare of exchange visitors may conflict with our obligations in the regulations and implementing guidance to provide advance notice of certain changes to exchange visitors’ situations. If that occurs, the Department would support NSU's prioritization of their health, safety, and welfare obligations.
The Department of State asks NSU and exchange visitors to seek alternative ways to maintain program objectives and/or employment, such as telework, online classes, or other arrangements, while preventing unnecessary exposure to the disease and its spread. A temporary modification along these lines for exigent circumstances beyond NSU's control does not undermine a program’s consistency with the regulations.
Exchange visitors traveling through or from affected countries should refer to guidance from the Department of State (https://travel.state.gov), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/ports-entry) for travel restrictions and health notices, as well as specific port-of-entry screening processes.
The Department of State has urged NSU and other sponsors to either cancel the programs altogether or defer the start dates to a date past the current recommended 60-day suspension period and issue new DS2019s. These actions update SEVIS with the information to inform consular officers of what appropriate action to take.
Includes Study Abroad, Travel Study, International Rotations, etc.
Due to the ongoing and evolving global impact of COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution for our staff and students, Nova Southeastern University has suspended all travel outside the continental United States until further notice. As such, all summer 2020 study abroad programs should be cancelled.
At this time, fall 2020 study abroad programs are scheduled to continue as planned. However, it is important to realize that future cancellations may be possible.
We have cancelled our in-person pre-departure orientation and are working to develop an online orientation to be delivered via Canvas. Please stay tuned for additional details.
Because cancellations are possible at any time, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the deadlines and refund policies of your study abroad organization (as well as any other travel arrangements you may make). All approved study abroad students are strongly recommended to take the following actions:
The Sharks Abroad Peer Advising team is back!
Schedule an individual Sharks Abroad advising appointment at www.calendly.com/sharksabroad. Advising appointments have ended for the Winter 2020 term. There will be no advising during finals week and advising will resume the week of May 4, 2020.