In the midst of this global pandemic, international Grinnellians are facing unique challenges related to visa services and status compliance; border restrictions and quarantine requirements; time zones and technology access; etc. We are dedicated to supporting you!
Many of you have remained on campus, or relocated within the U.S., throughout the entire pandemic! Others are outside of the U.S. and will continue to study online from home. If/when international and global nomad students are invited and able to come to campus, you will become a candidate for extended/continued residency through the remainder of the academic year. If you are living on campus and you are unable to return home for winter break, you will be allowed to stay – though campus services will be minimal.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has extended COVID-19 accommodations for Fall 2020 and the information below is offered for F-1 students. Guidance depends on your status (initial vs. active); your location (inside vs. outside the U.S.); and the College’s academic and residential plan. Your individual situation, nationality, and class year may also impact your options.
Please consult with the Office of International Student Affairs. Send questions to OISA or set up a Calendly/Webex appointment with: Karen Edwards, associate dean and director, PDSO/RO; or Brenda Strong, assistant director of international student affairs, DSO/ARO.
The information below was updated on 8/31/2020.
COVID-19 Updates for International Students
The OISA is here to help and support your unique path to become a Grinnellian in the midst of a global pandemic - regardless of the timeline! Some of you have chosen to enroll this fall, and others have deferred your enrollment until February. Grinnell’s residency plan invites first year students to campus for Spring Term 1. International students who come for Spring 1 will be able to seek extended/continued residency through the academic year.
All new students participate in New Student Orientation. In addition, the OISA has assigned new international students to an IPOP Mentor, and we will invite you to participate in IPOP [online] in mid-September. During IPOP, you will learn valuable information about F-1 status, cultural transitions, and academic success. [U.S. citizens who live internationally may also participate. Please contact the OISA if you are interested.]
If you already hold F-1 status (because you attended a U.S. high school) or if you hold a different visa status, please consult directly with the OISA regarding your individual situation and options. The OISA is also a recourse to U.S. students who live internationally.
If you are seeking an F-1 visa:
- Please act promptly to arrange the earliest available visa appointment at your nearest U.S. Consulate. Prepare for your visa appointment by reading the guidance we provided in your IPOP Planning Packet, and review the posted information at Travel.State.Gov and/or Education USA.
- This fall you can study online from outside of the U.S. — part-time (pdf, login required) or full-time. You will not hold F-1 status until you physically enter the U.S. to study on campus.
- The OISA revised and distributed I-20 forms for all new F-1 students, confirming a program start date of Feb. 1, 2021 — with a notation to confirm hybrid courses at that time (F-1 program transfers have also received appropriate updates). The U.S. government’s Fall 2020 COVID-19 accommodations do not allow new (initial) or transfer students to enter the U.S. to study fully online in F-1 status. We will keep you informed if there are updates or changes to the government’s rules or to the College’s plans.
- Do let us know (OISA) when you receive your F-1 visa!
For fall 2020, F-1 students who are inside the U.S. are allowed to continue your studies remotely, and you will maintain active status in SEVIS. This includes F-1 students (new or returning) who were enrolled full-time during spring 2020 – either at Grinnell College or through another U.S. secondary or post-secondary institution.
You must enroll full-time. You must be registered for at least 6 Grinnell College credits per block (Fall 1, Fall 2, Spring 1, and Spring 2). Summer term is optional, but enrollment can be counted toward your eligibility for practical training benefits. *Exception: Reduced Course Load (pdf, login required) authorization is available for a documented medical condition or for seniors in your final term. RCL authorization must be approved via the OISA.
If you are not living on campus, you are required (per your F-1 status) to report your current physical address to the OISA within 10 days of any move.
Other things to consider:
- If you secure an internship (paid or unpaid, remote or in person) you are required to secure CPT authorization (pdf, login required) because you are inside the U.S. in F-1 status — regardless of the location of the employer.
- Grinnell students who live inside the U.S. may work remotely for the College.
- If you are living outside of the State of Iowa, please visit the SHAW website to learn more about your access to medical assistance, counseling services, and to seek advice regarding your Grinnell Student Health Insurance.
- If you are a continuous on-campus resident, but you need to depart the U.S. during the fall semester, please report your departure to Karen Edwards and Ben Newhouse. You may lose priority for on-campus housing until you are invited to return based on your class year.
If you are considering a personal leave (login required) please consult Academic Advising and the OISA, and review F-1 Mid-Program Departure and Return (pdf, login required). This will necessitate a departure of the U.S., or a Change of Status application.
For Fall 2020, F-1 students with active SEVIS records who continue to enroll online from outside of the U.S. can maintain active status. You must enroll full-time! Register for at least 6 Grinnell College credits per block (Fall 1, Fall 2, Spring 1, and Spring 2).
Summer term is optional, but enrollment can count toward your eligibility for practical training benefits.
Exception: Reduced Course Load (pdf, login required) authorization is available for a documented medical condition or for seniors in your final term. RCL authorization must be approved via the OISA.
The OISA added a notation in your SEVIS record confirming that ‘this student departed the U.S. temporarily due to COVID-19 and will continue to enroll full time.’
Other things to consider:
- You may prefer to enroll part-time (pdf, login required) or to apply for a personal leave (login required) — however, in either scenario 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.’]. You will still be able to return to the U.S. (and to campus) when you are invited, as long as the College has returned to hybrid or in-person learning — but you will need to secure a new initial I-20; submit a new $350 SEVIS fee; and enroll in active status for two consecutive semesters in order to [re]gain access to practical training benefits. You only need a new F-1 visa if your current document expires prior to your return (or if you transfer to a different school).
- As an online student from outside the U.S., you still have access to nearly all campus offices and services — including Academic Resource Centers, Careers Life and Services, Student Affairs, etc. There are two exceptions:
- SHAW is not able to offer direct services to students who are outside of the U.S. due to compliance/licensure limitations. You can seek general advice or referrals, and other confidential services are available (Title IX; CRSSJ; Ombuds).
- You may not be employed by the College. This includes any paid campus jobs, leadership positions, and/or paid research or tutoring.
- When you are outside of the U.S. you are not subject to the limitations of practical training authorization. If you pursue an internship experience, you do not need to seek CPT (for example). Feel free to contact the OISA with related questions.
- If/when you return to the U.S. you must:
- Report your current physical address to the OISA within 10 days of your re-entry or relocation!
- Purchase into the Grinnell Student Health Insurance Plan (if you waived it because you are outside of the U.S.). The cost will be pro-rated based on the term of your re-entry. Contact the Cashier’s Office for assistance.
If you are enrolling following a personal leave or suspension, please communicate with the OISA about your options! You may enroll online (part- or full-time) from outside the U.S. but as an ‘initial status’ student, you may not enter the U.S. to enroll fully online, and F-1 status will not begin until you enter the country. Full-time enrollment in active status for two consecutive semesters (or 4 blocks) is required in order to gain eligibility for practical training benefits.
Returning (active status) F-1 visa holders who enter the U.S. must present a date-valid passport, F-1 visa, and their I-20 (with a valid DSO travel endorsement). Alum authorized for post completion OPT must also present an active EAD.
Travel restrictions vary by country.
Potential resources include:
- NAFSA Association of International Educators (announcement re. visa services, status compliance requirements, and U.S. entry restrictions for travel from China, Iran, Schengen, UK, Ireland, and Brazil. *As of July 16, F-1 visa holders from Schengen Area, UK, and Ireland are offered a “National Interest Exception” from the entry ban.
- The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- The U.S. Department of State posts Travel Advisories for global destinations.
The following links might also be helpful:
- Global Dashboard on COVID-19 Government Policies
- Kayak [entry] Restrictions by Country
- TravelCentre Travel Regulations Map
Feel free to contact the OISA to recommend additional resources.
- All F-1 Grinnellians should use the OISA’s SEVIS Address Update form (login required) 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 and 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, login required) — 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, login required).
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.