FAQ for International Students

FAQs for International Students at SUNY during New York State PAUSE


All non-essential workers are directed to work from home, and everyone is required to maintain a 6-foot distance from others in public. Read about the 10-Point Policy here.

SECONDLY: International Student & Scholar Services

If you have questions regarding immigration status, travel, employment and campus operations you must reach out to your international student services office for advice and guidance.

Immigration Status

How does switching to online instruction affect my F or J immigration status?

U.S. universities received guidance from the Department of Homeland Security that allows students to continue this semester's courses online without jeopardizing their immigration status. The Student and Visitor Exchange Program (SEVP) has confirmed that "If a school closes temporarily but offers online instruction or another alternative learning procedure, nonimmigrant students should participate in online or other alternate learning procedures and remain in active status in SEVIS." Furthermore, SEVP confirmed that international students may take full-time courses online either from within the U.S. or from abroad. This means that to maintain your immigration status you need to participate in online learning, continue to be enrolled full-time, and make normal progress toward your degree. Regardless of where you are participating in online classes, your immigration status will remain active.

Will my immigration status be impacted if I leave the U.S.?

On March 13, the U.S. government announced that as long as you maintain full-time enrollment online during the COVID-19 emergency, there will be no negative impact on your immigration status, even if you depart the United States and complete your classes via distance education from elsewhere. This temporary provision is in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Will the five-month rule apply to my visa if I go back home until the Fall semester?

If you are maintaining full-time status until the end of the Spring Semester, then you are entitled to your annual summer vacation. According to the immigration regulations, an F-1 or J-1 student is in status during the annual (or summer) vacation if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term. If you maintain your immigration status, the 5-month rule does not come into effect. Remember that when classes resume in person, you must return to campus to maintain your immigration status.


What if I am unable to return to my home country?

Most SUNY campuses will be able to work with you to ensure there are accommodations for housing.

Will I be able to come back to the U.S.?

Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict if and when further restrictions will be put in place by the U.S. Administration for travelers returning from high risk countries. You need to check the travel and visa restrictions that may be in place at the time you are planning to travel as the situation is changing daily. If you are currently outside the U.S. or plan to travel outside the U.S., we recommend that you continue to monitor travel updates by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). As of March 18, 2020 routine U.S. visa issuance has been suspended worldwide and daily restrictions on travel are being implemented.

My visa is expiring, and I am unable to travel to my home country currently. What should I do?

You may stay in the U.S. on an expired F-1 or J-1 visa as long as you maintain your immigration status by being in possession of a valid I-20 or DS-2019 and by meeting normal enrollment requirements. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.)


How will my on-campus employment be affected by SUNY's transition to distance learning?

Students working on-campus may experience a disruption due to SUNY's transition to distance learning. We recommend speaking with your supervisor for clarification.

How can I apply for off-campus work authorization based on economic hardship?

USCIS makes case-by-case decisions for off-campus employment for students who can show that new, unexpected circumstances beyond their control have created severe economic hardship. An F-1 student must have remained enrolled for at least one academic year, in status and in good academic standing before USCIS will authorize off-campus employment. The process to apply can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-765.

I am graduating this semester, how can I apply for Optional Practical Training?

Please reach out directly to your international student services office for guidance on Optional Practical Training.

Campus Operations

Will my health insurance through SUNY cover all the required medical fees for screening and treatment of COVID-19, if needed?

If your in-network health provider deems it appropriate to test you, the COVID-19 testing kit will be covered by the UHC policy for students that have the SUNY international student insurance plan.

How will summer or fall classes be offered?

At this time no decisions have been made about the summer or fall semesters. When a decision has been made, that will be communicated to all students.

What if I live off-campus and am having trouble paying my rent?

Please reach out to your international student services office so that they can check with residential life & housing regarding the availability of accommodations on campus.

Critical Resources for Students:

Study in the States: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students

ICE: https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus

Department of State: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/covid-19information.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019ncov/travelers/index.html