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. As always, the ISSO is here to help understand new policies as they emerge. If you have any questions, please contact our office.
International Events Calendar
SEVP Discontinued COVID-19 flexibilities as of May 12, 2023
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) ended the flexibilities that it had put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic as of Friday, May 12, 2023. This means that the rules are "back to normal" around, for example, how many online classes F-1 students can take, and how many hours students on OPT need to work to be considered employed. SEVP did clarify that students on OPT can continue to work fully remote when appropriate and permitted by their employer. See their FAQ for more details.
USCIS now extends Premium Processing to OPT Filings
Beginning on March 6, 2023, OPT and STEM OPT applicants who have pending applications with USCIS can file a Form I-907 to request a premium processing upgrade for their pending I-765 application. Form I-907 can be filed online through an existing USCIS account or as a paper file to the Chicago USCIS Lock Box. The cost to file this upgrade is $1500 for F-1 OPT/STEM OPT applicants. Filing such an application will ensure that a decision is made on the case within 30 days of receipt of the I-907, after all prerequisites have been met. Please note: Current processing times (without premium processing) have been approximately 35-50 days).
Vaccine Requirements for Entry into the U.S.
As of June 12, 2022, you no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test before traveling to the United States. However, the previous rule regarding needing to show proof of vaccination is still in effect. Noncitizens who are nonimmigrants and seeking to enter the United States by air are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States from a foreign country. If you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you will NOT be allowed to board a flight to the United States, unless you meet the criteria for an exception under the Proclamation and CDC’s Amended Order. A booster dose is not needed to meet this requirement. The presidential proclamation and CDC order include a very limited set of exceptions from the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals. These include exceptions for certain groups such as children, service members, those medically unable to receive a vaccine, and those who are traveling on non-tourist visas (such as F-1 visas) from countries with low-vaccine availability. The CDC has published a list of countries that qualify as a “country with low-vaccine availability” to qualify for this exception. They will update this list every 90 days. If you qualify for an exception to the vaccination policy, you will need to attest to that exception and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken 1 day before your flight’s departure. The vaccines accepted for entry into the U.S. will include those FDA approved or authorized, as well as vaccines with an emergency use listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization (WHO). For more information, please see the CDC’s website.
Continuity of F-1 Student Visa Status During COVID-19 Crisis
The ISSO is continually monitoring guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Guidance from SEVP for non-immigrant students states that new F-1 students cannot enter the US for a fully remote program of study. Since Smith has elected a remote semester for Fall 2020, all initial status F-1 students must postpone their entry to the US. Any student who was an active F-1 visa holder during March 2020 can continue to maintain status during the Fall 2020 semester, regardless of physical location. For those students transferring their visa status to Smith this semester who are no longer in the US, the ISSO will work closely with you upon your future entry to the US.
Any questions about specific situations should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 safety 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: