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COVID-19 Updates, Restrictions, Cancellations - More information

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International Students and Scholars

125 Wright Hall
Smith College
Northampton, MA USA

Phone: 413-585-7598
Fax: 413-585-4982
Email: interstu@smith.edu

Open office hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 2:30–4 p.m.

 
 
A group of international students sit by fountain, Smith College

The ISSO regularly holds information sessions and programming throughout the year. Please check out our Facebook page and subscribe to our e-newsletter to follow our events and receive updates throughout the year. You can read a copy of our latest newsletter by clicking the button below. As always, the ISSO is here to help understand new policies as they emerge. If you have any questions, please contact our office.

Continuity of F-1 Student Visa Status During COVID-19 Crisis

The ISSO is closely monitoring guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Guidance from SEVP on Monday, March 9, 2020, stated in a broadcast message to school officials that they could take measures to ensure that “nonimmigrant students are able to continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations. SEVP intends to be flexible with temporary adaptations.” SEVP reiterated that the health and safety of students should be the priority. 

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, there were some conflicting messages circulating, which indicated that F-1 students would need to have their SEVIS records terminated if they exited the country to pursue online learning options. This was in direct conflict with the earlier stated guidance. NAFSA (National Association of International Educators) contacted SEVP directly for clarification of its guidance, and SEVP released the following statement:

“SEVP is committed to remaining flexible in allowing schools to make temporary procedural adaptations so nonimmigrant students can continue to make normal forward progress in their program of study. They can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19. SEVP will provide updated guidance as the scope and length of this situation becomes more clear.”

The ISSO will continue to monitor and adhere to official guidance from government agencies, and, as always, we will advocate on behalf of our students. F-1 students will maintain their status while engaging in online course work, either in the US or abroad, and the ISSO will take necessary measures to update SEVP about these changes in Smith’s structure, as well as those of our partner schools in the US and abroad.


Immigration & Travel Updates

May 2020 Restriction for Travelers from Brazil

On May 24, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order restricting travel for individuals who have been present in the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14 days prior to US entry. This restriction will once again be limited to non-US citizens who are not immediate family member of US citizens. The restriction will take effect Tuesday, May 26th at 11:59pm. To read more about the Proclamation and those individuals whom it affects, please visit the White House's announcement site.

April 2020 Presidential Proclamation

On April 22, 2020 President Trump signed an executive order to limit visas issued to certain immigrant-based categories. It suspends entry for 60 days for certain new immigrants who have not yet been approved for a visa. The order goes into effect at 11:59pm on April 23, 2020.

This proclamation does not affect non-immigrant visas, like F-1, J-1, and H-1B visas.  It also does not affect adjustment of status cases, where a candidate is applying for permanent residency from within the US.  

For more detailed information about this executive order, please visit NAFSA's information page: Coronavirus Proclamation of April 22, 2020 Limits Entry of Certain Immigrants.

Suspension of Routine US Visa Services Worldwide

As of March 20, 2020, the US Department of State announced that it would suspend all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services at all U.S. consulates and embassies until further notice. Find more information on the Department of State website.

Joint Travel Restrictions with Canada & Mexico

As of March 21, 2020, the US and Canada agreed upon a joint restriction in travel. Non-essential travel (i.e. tourism and recreation) has been suspended between the two countries. The measure was put into place for 30 days for the US-Canadian land border, and it was then renewed on April 20, 2020 for another 30 days.

Similarly, the US and Mexico agreed to restrict non-essential travel as well. This went into effect on March 21, 2020, to be reviewed in 30 days. 

More information about these travel restrictions, as well as classifications for "essential travel" can be found on the US Department of Homeland Security Fact Sheet site.

COVID-19 Travel Bans

On January 31, 2020, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the novel coronavirus represents a public health emergency. HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced that a travel restriction would take effect on February 2, 2020, at 5 p.m. EST pertaining to individuals returning from China. All foreign nationals who were physically present in the People’s Republic of China (excluding special regions Hong Kong and Macau) during the 14-day period before entry will be denied entry to the U.S. Citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. traveling in China will be subjected to mandatory quarantine or monitored self-quarantine for up to 14 days, depending on the location of their travels. For more information, visit NAFSA’s Critical Updates site.
On February 29, 2020, the Trump Administration updated its COVID-19 travel ban to include foreign nationals who traveled in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the last 14 days. See the presidential proclamation.
On March 11, 2020, President Trump announced another proclamation with regard to the spread of COVID-19 in Europe. Starting Friday, March 13 at 11:50 p.m. EST, any foreign national who has traveled within the Schengen Area in the 14 days prior will be denied entry into the US. On March 16, this expanded to the UK and Ireland as well. As with prior travel restrictions due to coronavirus, this restriction does not apply to US lawful permanent residents, immediate family members of US citizens and permanent residents, and a few other categories. Please also note that the UK and Ireland are not included in the Schengen area.

Other Travel Restrictions

Two travel restriction policies were announced by the Trump Administration. Proclamation 9983 is an expansion of Travel Ban 3.0, which restricted certain visa issuance to seven countries: Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. In the new expansion, commonly known as Travel Ban 4.0, immigrant visas will now be restricted in six new countries: Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan and Tanzania. This new restriction went live at 12:01 a.m. on February 21, 2020. Please note: this ban does not affect non-immigrant categories (such as tourist visas and F-1 student visas). For more information visit NAFSA’s resource website.


Public Charge Rule Change

USCIS and the US Department of State will implement a new “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” rule beginning on February 24, 2020. The new rule will mean that international students and scholars may be deemed inadmissible to the U.S. if they use, or are deemed likely to use, a specific list of public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period. If someone uses two benefits simultaneously, they will both count individually toward this 12 month limit. This new rule is expected to specifically affect low-income international students and scholars making immigration filings such as adjustment and change of status applications, entry visa applications through the US Department of State, and reinstatement applications for a terminated F-1 record. More details regarding specific benefits, and  additional applications/applicants affected by this new rule, as well as parameters for enforcement of this rule, can be found on NAFSA’s summary website.


Unlawful Presence Memo Update

On February 6, 2020 the US District Court issued a nationwide permanent injuction for the August 8, 2018 policy from USCIS looking to change the way that Unlawful Presence would be counted for F, J and M status. More details about the policy, and its history in the US District Court, can be found on NAFSA’s update site.


Beware of Phone Scams

Every year college students in the US are the target of a variety of fraudulent phone and email scams. All students should remain cautious and wary of suspicious communications. Remember that no U.S. government agency will contact you by phone regarding money you owe or problems with your visa. The same is true for most international governments as well. If you receive such a request, contact Campus Police and/or an office on campus you trust, and we can help you follow up to make sure that everything is OK. Report any Social Security scam directly to the Social Security Administration.

Here are some other helpful resources in identifying phone scams:


International Events Calendar