We know this time presents you with an extra set of stressors. You likely have concerns about your visa, your ability to travel, academics and more. Our top priority is your health, safety and well-being. We are here to support you, and we will continue to update the information below as new developments take place.
Contact WSU’s International Programs Office (IPO)
- Since the building for WSU IPO is currently closed, how can I request and receive documents?
While the International Programs office physical office is closed, staff are working remotely to continue providing essential services and information to the international community at WSU. You may email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org We will process your request and respond promptly. As authorized by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will email an electronically signed document in certain cases.
- I want to speak with an advisor from WSU's International Programs Office. What should I do?
Please email email@example.com and include your name, student ID number, Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) number, phone number, current location and a description of your inquiry. An advisor from WSU’s International Programs Office (IPO) will contact you. Please know that we are currently receiving a very high volume of emails, and this may result in a delayed response. Our staff members are working as quickly as possible to review and respond to all inquiries.
Below are the answers to frequently asked questions for international students. You should also view the Academic FAQs for Students For health-related information, view the http://www.westfield.ma.edu/student-life/health-services
- What is the latest guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regarding the fall 2020 semester?
On July 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) clarified that for the fall 2020 semester, F-1 students should abide by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance originally issued in March 2020. This guidance allows distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19.
- I am a continuing student. What are my academic options for the fall semester?
Continuing students in the United States or abroad can take classes from either location. As long as you enroll in a full course load and maintain your immigration status, WSU will continue to keep your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record in active status.
Continuing students who are currently outside the United States but would like to return to the United States remain eligible to do so as long as they have a valid visa, an I-20 endorsed for travel and all other documents. However, given the continuing public health crisis in Massachusetts and the uncertain guidance from state and local authorities, the university is not recommending that students travel back to campus at this time.
- What if I become detained by U.S. immigration officials at an airport or land border port of entry?
If you are detained by U.S. immigration officials at an airport or land border port of entry, you may call the International Programs Office at (413) 572-8834 and leave a detailed message with your name, date of birth, nationality, current location, airline and flight number, phone number and email address. A representative from the IPO will provide initial guidance.
- I am a continuing student. Do I need an updated I-20?
Students do not need a replacement I-20 with special language about the mode of instruction offered by WSU.
- Will WSU keep students’ Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records active if they are outside the United States for more than five months?
As long as continuing students enroll in a full course load and maintain their immigration status, WSU will continue to keep their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records active even if they are outside the United States for more than five months.
- I am an incoming student in the United States. What are my academic options for the fall semester?
Newly admitted students who are already in the United States (undergraduate transfer students or new graduate students coming directly from another degree program at WSU) can remain in the country and maintain F-1 status while completing a full course load online this fall. The WSU International Programs Office will assist these students. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have not already received your WSU transfer I-20.
Students must complete Passport Verification/SEVIS registration and enroll in a full course load for fall 2020. You are permitted to take online classes while in the United States and can study in F-1 status since your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record will be activated after you have check in with the International Student Advisor and register in SEVIS. To avoid complications at the port of entry, do not depart the United States until your SEVIS record has been activated.
- What are the fall 2020 academic options for new students, transfer students, students returning from a Leave of Absence (LOA), students traveling to reinstate status, and all other students with an initial attendance or transfer pending I-20 who are currently outside the United States?
New students, transfer students, students returning from a Leave of Absence (LOA), students traveling to reinstate status, and all other students with an initial attendance or transfer pending I-20 who are currently outside the United States are not eligible to enter the United States and enroll in 100% online classes.
These students have two options for the fall 2020 semester:
- Begin your studies from abroad as a non-F-1 student. New and transfer students should email the WSU International Programs Office at email@example.com to obtain a new I-20 for the spring 2021 semester.
- Contact your admissions or academic advisor to inquire about the possibility of postponing your studies to a future semester.
- If I take all of my classes online from my home country in the fall, can I enter the United States for the spring semester?
Students can take their classes online for the fall semester. We cannot predict how things will progress in the coming months, although we hope that normal operations will resume in January and that all WSU students will be able to return to campus at that time. New students will need an updated I-20, and continuing students should contact International Programs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Are international students required to maintain a full course load, even though most classes are online in fall 2020?
To maintain active F-1 status, continuing students and new students currently in the United States are required to maintain a full course load during this temporary transition to alternative instructional methods. Continuing students outside the United States must maintain a full course load if they wish to retain an active Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.
There is no immigration enrollment requirement for new students outside the United States. However, students should confirm with their academic advisor regarding the minimum course enrollment requirement for their program.
To maintain your SEVIS record, you should not fall below the full course requirement unless you have been permitted to do so either through a Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Leave of Absence (LOA) approval from your academic advisor in International Programs Office.
Note: No extra academic difficulty RCLs are available due to COVID-19, but a final semester RCL is still possible.
Below are the full-time credit requirements: Undergraduate students: 12 credits; Master’s students: 9 credits
- Will you offer classes asynchronously to accommodate students living in different time zones?
Just like we did this past spring, professors will record classes and make them available to students to watch whenever it is convenient for them. Courses may also be offered in time zone-friendly hours for your location. Please consult with your academic advisor to discuss enrollment options for your program. For more information please see http://www.westfield.ma.edu/safe-fall-opening/faqs Academic section
- Can admitted students defer their enrollment to the spring 2021 semester or the 2021-2022 academic year?
Graduate students should check with the department or school to which they were admitted.
Undergraduate students could be granted deferrals in specific cases relating to medical issues, religious obligations, and required military/national service and, in the case of international students who will attend classes online from another country, the inability to construct a reasonable online course schedule that is compatible with their home time zone.
New students who have committed to enroll at WSU but fail to do so will forfeit their spot in the entering class and will need to reapply (with no guarantee of admission) should they wish to attend the university in a future term.
New students living outside the United States who plan to complete their WSU coursework online should work with their academic advisor to construct a course schedule that is compatible with their home time zone. If a reasonable schedule is not feasible, students may request a deferral to a future term.
In such cases, WSU’s academic advisors will notify the Office of Admission and IPO, staff will then send a deferral form to the student. Once the student completes and submits this form, the Office of Admission will follow up with further information.
- My visa is expiring, and I am unable to travel to my home country at this time. What should I do?
Students may remain in the United States on an expired F-1/J-1 visa as long as they maintain their immigration status by being in possession of a valid I-20/DS-2019 and an I-94 Arrival/Departure record, and by meeting normal enrollment requirements.
- I want to leave the United States immediately, but my I-20/DS-2019 is not endorsed for travel. What should I do?
An I-20/DS-2019 is not required to depart the United States. Travel signatures are valid for one year, so please check your current I-20/DS-2019 before requesting a new one. For students on Optional Practical Training (OPT), your travel signature is valid for six months. Please contact IPO email@example.com for more information
In response to COVID-19, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has allowed Designated School Officials (DSOs) to electronically sign and email I-20s to students U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (WSU IS), U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the U.S. Department of State confirmed they will accept electronically signed I-20/DS-2019s. International Student Advisor will email I-20s to students for travel.
Travel Restrictions and Guidance
- What are the latest governmental travel restrictions that impact international students? Are we still required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival?
At this time, no changes are anticipated to the fall academic calendar. Classes are scheduled to begin Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.
We understand that the decision to travel to the United States during the pandemic is a personal one and should be considered carefully. Although continuing students remain eligible to return to the United States to resume their studies, below are some additional considerations that may impact the decision to travel:
The U.S. government is currently enforcing an entry ban on foreign passport holders who have been in certain countries, including China, Iran, the United Kingdom, Brazil and many European countries, within 14 days of their arrival to the United States. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for more information and a full list of countries.
With specific exceptions, students residing in any of these restricted countries will need to spend at least 14 days in a different, unrestricted country before traveling to the United States.
Effective July 16, 2020, F-1 student travelers from the Schengen Area, the UK and Ireland who are applying for or have valid visas may now travel to the United States, even though the current presidential proclamations regarding travel remain in effect. F-1 students traveling with valid F-1 visas do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel to the United States, but students traveling from these countries may experience delays at inspection from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) upon entering the United States. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 visa may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.
All travelers from international destinations are required by the MA Department of Public Health to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the United States before arriving on campus or residing in campus housing. Please consider these safety restrictions imposed by the U.S. government and plan your travel carefully. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-travel-order
- Does WSU provide any local support for students who are currently in their home countries?
International students who are currently in their home countries can contact their International Student Advisor for support.
- Where can I find information about university-related and personal travel within the United States?
Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions put in place by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on March 10, 2020, for all state employees is still in effect. These restrictions were communicated to the campus community on March 11, 2020. Additional travel order requirements from the Baker-Polito Administration will take effect August 1, 2020.
The initial executive order is referenced in Governor Baker’s March 10, 2020, press release, headlined “Governor Baker Declares State of Emergency to Support Commonwealth’s Response to Coronavirus.” The new travel order is referenced in Governor Baker’s July 24, 2020, press release, headlined “Baker-Polito Administration Issues New Travel Order Effective August 1st.”
All travelers should take note of the new travel order, effective August 1, 2020. All visitors and returning residents entering Massachusetts must complete a Massachusetts Travel Form prior to entering/reentering the Commonwealth and should be aware of the impact of non-compliance.
Updates and current information will continue to be available on Westfield State’s Safe Fall Opening webpage.
Employment, Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- I need to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Is it possible to apply while I am abroad?
Current regulations state that you must be present in the United States when submitting your Optional Practical Training (OPT) and OPT STEM applications. You cannot mail your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from abroad. You must be present in the United States at the time USCIS issues a receipt number to acknowledge acceptance of your packet.
The application requires an I-94 number, which is only valid while you are in the United States. If you depart the United States, you will not have a valid I-94 and your application will likely be rejected. If you are able to re-enter the United States before your I-20 program end date, you can apply for OPT up to 60 days after the program end date listed on your I-20.
WSU and other universities have made this issue known to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and have urged the agency to provide special accommodations for OPT application rules due to the COVID-19 situation. We will share any updates as soon as they become available.
- I need to apply for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM extension. Is it possible to apply while I am abroad?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not released any changes to its existing STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension application instructions. Therefore, students must be physically present in the United States to apply for a STEM OPT Extension.
- I am currently on Optional Practical Training (OPT), and my employer told me to work from home. Am I in violation of my immigration status?
Employers may ask their Optional Practical Training (OPT) employees to work from home. This will not affect their F-1 status. Students must still report their employment information to ensure they do not accrue days of unemployment in their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.
- How many hours to I need to work while on Optional Practical Training (OPT) to meet the employment requirements? Can I work abroad?
For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will allow students to work less than 20 hours per week and still meet the Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment requirements. SEVP did not specify a minimum number of hours, only that students should still be working and reporting employment to SEVP as required. Students on OPT can work remotely in the United States or abroad.
- I am currently on Optional Practical Training (OPT), but I haven't found a job yet. I am nearing the end of my 90 days of unemployment, but I am unable to leave the United States. What should I do?
While students are normally required to work full-time while on Optional Practical Training (OPT), the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) stated that temporarily due to COVID-19, any work (even less than 20 hours per week) will be sufficient for OPT students to maintain their status. All employment must be related to a student’s field of study. Students may work on an unpaid basis or as unpaid interns where this does not violate any U.S. labor laws.
In the event you are unable to find paid or unpaid employment and you are nearing the 90th day of unemployment on OPT, you have the following options:
- Depart the United States.
- Transfer to another school in the United States to begin a new degree program. (This will end your OPT approval.)
- Change your visa status to another visa category. Please contact an immigration attorney for this option.
- I mailed my Optional Practical Training (OPT) application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) two weeks ago, and I haven’t received a receipt notice. Is USCIS still open and processing applications? What should I do?
It usually takes 1-3 weeks for students to receive an I-797 receipt notice from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you haven’t already done so, please check your bank/credit card statement to verify if USCIS has withdrawn the funds from your account. If you don’t receive the I-797 receipt notice by the third week, please contact International Programs office at firstname.lastname@example.org
As of March 18, 2020, USCIS has suspended all in-person services, but benefits that do not require in-person appointments with USCIS such as Optional Practical Training (OPT)/STEM OPT applications are still being accepted.
- Can I participate in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) remotely?
For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will allow students to engage in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) remotely in the United States or abroad – provided the student is enrolled in the appropriate WSU internship course – and either the employer has an office outside the U.S., or the employer has a means to assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives remotely.
- What is the status with on-campus work?
Due to the high volume of applications they are receiving, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) will only take in-person appointments for urgent cases, and on-campus work does not currently qualify as an urgent case.
If you do not meet the criteria to apply during this round, you can quickly apply once the SSA reopens to the public since you will have all of the required documents in hand. We are hopeful that the SSA will open soon.
- Will fall 2020 semester enrollment count toward the one academic year requirement for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) eligibility?
For new and continuing students currently in the United States and continuing students outside the United States, fall 2020 semester enrollment will count toward the one academic year requirement for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) eligibility.
- Where can I find the latest information about WSU Housing access, policies, contracts, etc.?
If you have any WSU Housing-related questions or concerns, please contact Residential Life