OIA FAQ's on coronavirus updates

Below are answers to frequently asked immigration related questions specific to the University’s need to adapt procedures and policies to address the significant public health concerns associated with COVID-19. We will continue to update this page with immigration related questions as they come up.

If you have other questions and concerns, please email your designated OIA adviser. We will answer all email and telephone inquiries as quickly as possible.

General Student Questions (Updated May 14, 2020)

  1. Is OIA still offering in-person walk-in advising, travel signatures, or document pick up?
    OIA is open virtually. If you have specific questions you would like to discuss with your adviser, please reach out to your OIA adviser directly via email or phone. We realize this is a change in the way we all work together and hope to return to normal as soon as the situation allows. 
  2. What if I need a travel signature? 
    To request a new I-20 or DS-2019 with an updated travel signature, please follow the instructions for Requesting a Travel Signature on the OIA website. All documents being issued or signed by OIA must now be sent to you based on the request form linked to above. 
  3. Who is my OIA adviser? 
    All international students are assigned an OIA adviser based on the school or division your program. Below are the advisers with links to their email addresses and scheduling an appointment.
    -Amima Diagne (SSD) - schedule an appointment
    -Sarah Tolman (College) - schedule an appointment
    -Mischa Kasperan (Law and Harris) - schedule an appointment
    -Shashi Dyamenahalli (PSD) - schedule an appointment
    -Leah Rosenthal (Booth, PME, BSD, Medicine, and SSA) - schedule an appointment
    -Melissa Chin (Humanities, Graham and Divinity) - schedule an appointment
  4. Where can I find information and updates from the University specific to the coronavirus?
    Be sure to review all messages sent by the University. All updates are listed on the University’s Coronavirus Updates page.

Visa compliance and travel

  1. How does switching to online instruction affect my immigration status?
    The University received guidance from the federal government allowing students to take their spring quarter courses online without jeopardizing their immigration status. This means you must continue to be enrolled full-time and be making normal progress toward the degree and may do so by taking your spring quarter classes online.
  2. Will I be able to maintain my F or J visa status if I go back home and stay away from UChicago until the autumn quarter?
    Current government guidance suggests that a student enrolling in full-time online courses in spring quarter is otherwise maintaining F or J visa status. This will not impact your eligibility for CPT in summer quarter or OPT if spring quarter 2020 is your final quarter before graduation.

    If you decide to leave the U.S. and take spring quarter classes online, please review your I-20 or DS-2019 to ensure your program end-date is in the future and the travel signature provided will be valid for entry back into the U.S. over summer or leading up to autumn quarter 2020.

    For more on travel while in F-1 or J-1 status review this OIA webpage.
  3. If I take my spring quarter classes online and intend to enroll in courses again in autumn 2020, am I eligible to take my “annual vacation” quarter over summer?
    According to the immigration regulations, an F-1 or J-1 student enrolled in the preceding academic year (autumn, winter and spring quarters) and who will enroll in the next available quarter (fall 2020) is eligible for an “annual vacation” quarter in summer. An annual vacation, or summer quarter, does not require enrollment, unless you do not meet the conditions above. Please note enrollment may mean online courses or research (for PhD students) for these purposes.
  4. Will I be able to come back to the U.S. for a summer internship or later this summer?
    The public health situation is unprecedented and constantly changing. There are coronavirus travel bans in place by Presidential Proclamation affecting travel and mobility. For more information on current COVID-19 travel restrictions: https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/covid-19-restrictions-us-visas-and-entry#coronaproclamations  

    These restrictions may impact your ability to return in summer if you intend to leave the U.S. in spring quarter as the public health situation continues to evolve. Please remain in contact with your internship provider and your academic programs’ office for career services or career advancement for any relevant updates.
  5. If I decide to leave the U.S., or am currently outside of the U.S., and I want to return, can I?

    Students are advised to review travel and visa restrictions and check with their air carriers to determine whether travel will be permitted or not. If you are currently outside of the U.S. or plan to travel outside of the U.S. over summer quarter, we recommend that you continue to monitor the travel updates from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). It is impossible to predict whether further travel restrictions will be put in place by the U.S. government for travelers returning from abroad or if international travel to the U.S. will be restricted due to the situation in the U.S.

    Students who choose to travel may have difficulty returning and are reminded that the University’s ability to provide assistance to travelers who wish to return will be limited. Please also note that the U.S. Department of State’s suspension of routine visa services worldwide remains in effect. If you are an international student on an F-1 or J-1 visa and you have questions about travel, please review OIA’s Travel resources or reach out to your OIA Adviser.

  6. 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.) See this OIA webpage for more on visa vs. status.
  7. My visa is expiring/has expired. If I leave the U.S. now, but must come back after the expiration date of my visa, will I need a new visa, or can I re-enter on an expired visa?
    If you leave the U.S. and your visa will have expired by the date you wish to re-enter the U.S., then you will need to obtain a new visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.)
  8. Instead of traveling back to my home country, may I go elsewhere in the U.S. to take my online courses?
    Yes, as long as you are maintaining your student visa status (e.g. enrolling in online courses equivalent to full-time), you may do so from somewhere else in the U.S. If you change your U.S. address, please report it based on the information provided in question #7 below.
  9. If I move, do I have to update my address? If so, where do I report?
    Yes, immigration regulations require F-1 and J-1 international students and J-1 and H-1B international scholars and employees to report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government within 10 days. For current students: report an address change via my.uchicago.edu; for students on OPT, you may report a change of U.S. address via the OPT Update Form on the OIA website; and for current H-1B or J-1 scholars/employees, you may update your address per the instructions on this OIA webpage.

OPT/CPT/Academic Training (AT)

  1. I still need to apply for OPT. Can I do this remotely from elsewhere in the U.S.? Can I do it from outside the U.S.?
    You must be physically in the U.S. at the time you submit your Optional Practical Training (OPT) application to USCIS. OIA will continue to process OPT applications and will communicate with you about how to receive your OPT recommendation (new I-20) and mail your application to USCIS. If you have not applied for OPT yet, but plan to do so, we strongly encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible to start that process. More OPT information is available on the OIA website.
  2. If I am in the U.S., can I submit my OPT application to OIA remotely?
    Yes. If you will be in the U.S., but not in the Chicago area, you can still submit your application to OIA and then to USCIS once ready. If you are completing your program in June, the earliest date USCIS will accept your application is March 16, 2020. Please do not send your application any earlier or you risk the application being rejected. For more on this process, the application and timing see the link in the question above.
  3. I have not submitted my OPT application to USCIS just yet, but notice the address I used on the I-765 is my friends, and now they are leaving. What should I do?
    Please confirm that the address you indicated on the I-765 when applying for OPT will be valid for the estimated time it may take USCIS to approve your OPT application. If you previously listed the address of a friend who is now planning to leave the U.S., you should identify another recipient within the U.S. who is planning to remain here and can receive correspondence on your behalf from USCIS.
  4. Once I submit my application to USCIS, can I leave the U.S.?
    Yes. You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you put your application in the mail. Once you’ve mailed your OPT application to USCIS, you may depart the U.S. without incident to your OPT application.
  5. Will USCIS processing times for OPT be affected by coronavirus closings?
    At this time we have no way of knowing what might be affected as the situation is constantly changing.
  6. I will graduate in June 2020—what are my options to stay in the U.S. after graduation?
    You have three options:
    a) Remain in the U.S. and apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) (for F-1 students) or Academic Training (for J-1 students).
    b) Remain in the U.S. during the grace-period after your program end date (which you can find on your I-20 or DS-2019), and then depart the U.S. The grace period is 60 days for F-1 students and 30 days for J-1 students.
    c) Pursue another degree in the United States and transfer (if eligible) your SEVIS record to another institution. See this OIA webpage for further information.
  7. Can I apply for CPT and receive CPT authorization virtually? 
    Yes. You may submit your CPT application online and have the new I-20 reflecting CPT authorization shipped to you. 
  8. My employer registered me for H-1B lottery. Can I leave the U.S. now?
    If your employer is planning to register or has already registered you for the H-1B lottery, please consult your employer and their immigration counsel before you make any international travel plans. OIA advisers cannot answer travel related questions regarding your H-1B petition sponsored by your employer.

Please continue to check back here for updates and they become available.