As you review the College plans for 2020–21, this page offers additional considerations for international students. We know that you face hurdles related to visa services, quarantine requirements, border restrictions, and flight availability. F-1 students also face the burden of compliance with SEVP regulations. It is our goal to help you navigate these hurdles so that you can make informed decisions about your progress toward degree completion in compliance with the regulations.
SEVP published a Broadcast Message for Fall 2020 on July 6. The guidance is disheartening. It contradicts Grinnell’s message that #YouAreWelcomeHere and it hinders our health and safety priorities. You are important to the Grinnell community of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and FIS hosts. We are working hard to navigate this challenge and to support and advise you well.
*Most of the information below is specific to F-1 students, but we know that travel and border issues also impact other non-immigrants and U.S. students who live abroad.
*The information below was updated on 7/8/2020.
COVID-19 Updates for International Students
We certainly wish that all students could join us on-campus in August, but we will support your unique path to become a Grinnellian in the midst of a global pandemic - regardless of the timeline!
New international students who plan to enter the U.S. in F-1 status and enroll in-person this fall must either a) already hold F-1 status, or b) secure a confirmed visa appointment at a U.S. Consulate scheduled on or before July 24, 2020. F-1 students may not enter the U.S. to study online. Individuals who enter the U.S. in B-2 status (tourist) cannot enroll at Grinnell. If you already have F-1 status or if you hold a different visa status, please consult the OISA regarding your options.
If you will not be able to join us in August, you must to request a deferral of your arrival by July 15, 2020. Students who delay their in-person arrival may enroll online this fall (part or full-time) from outside of the U.S. F-1 status for ‘initial arrival’ students does not begin until you enter the U.S. in February, even if you enroll online from outside the country.
Even if you can secure an F-1 visa to arrive in August, the option to enroll online this fall and defer your entry of the U.S. until February is a valid choice – considering health and safety concerns; the cost and challenges of international travel; and evolving F-1 compliance limitations.
All F-1 students must secure a revised I-20 from Grinnell, and we will issue them as soon as possible. For students who defer your in-person arrival, the new I-20 will reflect the spring term start date (classes begin on Feb. 1, 2021). Your SEVIS number will not change, so if you already submitted your I-901 SEVIS fee, the payment will remain valid for one year.
All new students will have the opportunity to speak with your academic adviser to develop your academic plan. In addition, the OISA will invite all first year international and global nomad students to participate in IPOP [online] this fall. You will get to meet the IPOP Mentors and we will share important information about F-1 status and facilitate helpful conversations about cultural transitions and academic success.
When the time is right, #YouAreWelcomeHere!
SEVP did not extend the temporary accommodations that were issued for the spring and the summer. Our advice below is based on the SEVP Broadcast Message (July 6, 2020) as applied to Grinnell College’s current plans for Fall 2020.
Our guidance is contextual because it depends on your SEVIS status (initial vs. active) and your physical location (inside vs. outside the U.S.). Your personal situation, nationality, and class year might also impact your options.
F-1 students who are inside the U.S. must return to Grinnell this fall:
F-1 status requires full-time enrollment during the academic year, so you must enroll in at least 6 credits per block (Fall 1, Fall 2, Spring 1, & Spring 2). SEVP guidance for schools with a hybrid model (like Grinnell) requires our confirmation via SEVIS (and a new I-20) to verity that “the program is not entirely online.” Grinnell will help facilitate your compliance with this requirement.
- Reduced Course Load (RCL) authorization is still available for a documented medical condition or for seniors in their final term – but in the case of an approved RCL, all credits must require in-person components.
F-1 students who are currently inside the U.S. must return to on-campus housing in August. If you did not already petition to return to campus housing, we will collaborate with Residence Life to help facilitate your return. Please watch your email.
- The only exception is for students with prior approval to live off-campus within 10 miles of the College. You must report your residential address to the OISA within 10 days of any move, and you must also comply with the enrollment requirements listed above.
Depending on your access to flights and/or the status of the borders in your home country, you could leave the U.S. and continue to enroll online or apply for a personal leave via Academic Advising. In either scenario, you would need to depart the U.S. promptly (within 15 days of any related SEVIS action). The OISA would terminate your SEVIS record [as an ‘authorized early withdrawal’ with a notation that ‘we anticipate this student’s eventual return to the U.S. to complete their degree at Grinnell College.’]. Please read the section below, for students who are outside of the U.S., and see our handout, F-1 Mid-Program Departure and Return.
F-1 students who are outside of the U.S.:
The SEVP Broadcast Message was especially challenging for F-1 students who departed the country, but we will do our best to support you. You cannot re-enter the U.S. using your current I-20. We will issue a new I-20 if you have permission to live off campus or once you have been invited to return to campus. In addition, the Broadcast Message confirms that students who are inside the U.S. must depart “if a school changes its operational stance mid-semester … and moves entirely online.” Considering the SEVP guidance, Grinnell’s health and safety priorities, and a potential resurgence of COVID-19 - we cannot in good faith encourage you to return to the U.S. at this time. We are exploring a few potential additional options, but please review the information offered below.
F-1 students who did not petition to return to campus for 2020-21, or do not already have permission to live off campus in the town of Grinnell, can continue to enroll online (part-time or full-time) from outside of the U.S. You also have the option to apply for a personal leave via Academic Advising, if this is the best alternative for you. Unfortunately, we cannot help you to maintain an active SEVIS record in either scenario.
For students who enroll from outside the U.S., or who take a personal leave, the OISA will need to ‘terminate’ your SEVIS record [as an ‘authorized early withdrawal’ with a notation that ‘we anticipate this student’s eventual return to the U.S. to complete their degree at Grinnell College.’]. When you are able to return to campus, and to the U.S., the OISA will issue you a new ‘initial status’ I-20. This will require a new $350 SEVIS fee, and you will need to enroll in-person for two consecutive semesters in order to [re]gain access to practical training benefits (CPT, OPT). If your current F-1 visa is still valid when you return to the U.S., you will not need to secure a new one. If your current F-1 visa expires prior to your return, you will need to renew it with the support of the new ‘initial’ I-20.
We do, however, offer the following options to F-1 Seniors who are outside the U.S. and plan to apply for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training:
- Access to practical training requires U.S. based enrollment (with an active SEVIS record) for two consecutive semesters (4 blocks) immediately prior to using OPT. In a strange twist of fate, enrolling online from outside the U.S. will help you progress toward degree completion, but it will also place your post completion OPT at risk. You might consider requesting a personal leave to preserve your access to OPT, or;
- Depending on where you live, whether borders and flights would allow for your re-entry, and whether or not you are prepared to cover the financial and logistical risks of another potential hasty departure, Ben Newhouse, Dean of Students, has kindly agreed to briefly re-open the petition process to you. Instructions will be sent to you directly, and you will need to respond promptly to articulate the reason for your petition to return to campus, along with your confirmation that you understand the risks outlined above. If you are approved, the OISA can issue an updated I-20 confirming Grinnell’s invitation to allow you to return and enroll in accordance with the regulations. Most coursework will be remote, but Grinnell will help facilitate your compliance with the SEVP enrollment requirements.
F-1 students who have been approved to return to the College following a leave or suspension:
Because your request to re-enroll at Grinnell has been approved, it is assumed that you will enroll online this fall from outside the U.S. If you stay outside of the U.S. your F-1 program does not begin - and your SEVIS record will not be activated until you enter the U.S. and report to Grinnell College. You must enter the U.S. in “initial” F-1 status in order to be eligible to study inside the U.S. – and your physical presence at the College is then required.
- If you wish to defer your online enrollment following a suspension, please contact Jason Maher, Registrar immediately to make this request;
- If you wish to defer your online enrollment following a personal leave, you must apply immediately to request a Personal Leave of Absence for the fall, via Joyce Stern in the Office of Academic Advising.
- If you wish to enroll part-time or full-time from outside of the U.S. this fall – you may do so!
If/when you are invited to return to campus in person (based on your class year or academic priorities), you must notify the OISA immediately so that we can promptly issue a new ‘initial status’ I-20 to reflect the start date of the applicable block. You may not enter the U.S. until you have secured the I-20 to present in conjunction with your Passport and F-1 visa. An invitation to enroll in-person will also require your return to College housing. Full-time enrollment from inside the U.S. for two consecutive semesters (or 4 blocks) is required in order to gain eligibility for Curricular or Optional Practical Training.
- May graduates who did not apply for OPT or graduate school: your 60 day grace period ends July 17. If you are unable to depart the U.S., you must take action so that you will not be unlawfully present in the U.S. Please contact OISA immediately.
- Alumni who will attend a U.S. graduate school, please read and process the SEVIS Transfer Release (PDF) on GrinnellShare. You must request the SEVIS release within 60 days of your program completion (your graduations date or the end of your EAD card). The new program must begin within 5 months.
- Alumni with Post-Completion OPT (PDF) or STEM OPT authorization (PDF) on GrinnellShare.
- Address and employment reporting requirements are very important.
- All OISA communication (receipts, RFEs; EADs, etc.) goes to your @grinnell.edu account.
- You are responsible for the information posted on our GrinnellShare OPT (PDF) and/or STEM OPT (PDF) handouts. Please reach out with related questions.
- Contact Brenda Strong if you are in danger of exceeding the unemployment days that are allotted to you.
If you graduated in May and you need health insurance to fill the gap between the College’s plan (which ends Aug. 14) and your new school or employer-based coverage, or between jobs, there are many options on the open market, but we will also offer a referral to Cultural Insurance Services International (which is the provider we use to support Short Term Scholars at the College).
Flights to and from the U.S. are limited — and in some cases, non-existent. Information about borders and travel is changing every day, all over the world.
COVID-19 related restrictions on U.S. entries and visas are posted on the NAFSA site. This includes:
- a general suspension of U.S. visa services;
- Essential Travel Only on the U.S. borders to Canada and Mexico;
- Travel-Related Entry Restrictions from Specific Countries (including China, Iran, Schengen Area, Ireland and the U.K., Brazil).
Foreign nationals traveling from these countries cannot enter the U.S. For those who can enter, there may be quarantine requirements on the part of the U.S. government and/or Grinnell College.
- All F-1 Grinnellians should use the OISA’s SEVIS Address Update form to report a new U.S. and/or international address within 10 days of your relocation. (You do not need to complete the SEVIS Address Form if you stay in College housing.)
- The OISA GrinnellShare page includes handouts about a variety of important topics. We have worked to infuse post-COVID policy shifts, but you can contact the OISA if you are unsure.
- Standard F-1 travel reminders apply for domestic and/or international travel:
- I-20 travel endorsements are valid for 12 months (6 months if you are OPT/STEM OPT);
- Your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months into the future (students are responsible to monitor the life of this document);
- Any time that you leave Grinnell, you should carry your Passport/Visa & I-20;
- When crossing the U.S. border, electronic devices and/or social media are subject to search by U.S. Customs.
We also encourage students to carry their State of Iowa ID or License; and to carry evidence of your Health Insurance plan.
- If your feet are on U.S. soil, F-1 practical training requirements apply to you. In order to pursue an internship, you must first secure F-1 Curricular Practical Training (PDF) — regardless of the location of your employer. Some U.S. employers will have additional residency requirements so it is also important to comply with their requirements, of course.
- If you carry the Grinnell Student Health Insurance plan, visit SHAW’s website to access a card and/or to download the United Health Care app on your smart phone. Read the FAQ to learn about the plan — which offers global, year round coverage; a preferred provider co-pay of $10; and a maximum out of pocket expense of $2,000. Testing and treatment for coronavirus is covered as an illness. SHAW will continue to offer guidance regarding prevention, symptoms, and medical care.
- On 3/20/2020, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that the 2019 federal tax return filing deadline was extended to July 15. Instructions are posted: Non-Immigrant and U.S. Tax Returns: Reporting on 2019 (PDF).
Under the CARES Act, Congress has provided for a one-time, $1,200 payment to eligible individuals. Nonresident tax payers are not eligible — so if you receive it in error, contact the OISA and return the payment via the IRS guidelines. If you have become a resident for tax purposes, you are eligible for the payment.
- As of March 20, 2020, an Iowa driver’s license with an expiration date of Jan. 16, 2020, or later will be considered not to expire until the state-declared disaster has ended. License regulations vary by state.
As of June 3, the Jasper County DMV in Newton is open by appointment only. You can call Warren at 641-792-3815, extension 2, to schedule an appointment.