Immigration and Scam Alerts
This webpage is for important alerts related to immigration matters and common international student scams. Please visit it on a regular basis to avoid missing important announcements.
Immigration News Alert:
OPT/STEM OPT DELAYS
If you filed your OPT application with the US government in the fall or in January of this year, the government has informed ISSS that there will be long delays in getting your receipt notice and in processing your application. Here is a link to the government webpage that provides information regarding these delays.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that your TTU international student counselor can do to help you expedite the application.
Letter from the Director of International Student and Scholar Services regarding updated U.S. government rules for spring 2021
Dear TTU International Students,
I'm writing to you as the Director of International Student and Scholar Services. As you know, in the fall and spring of this year, because of the COVID 19 pandemic, the U.S. government allowed F-1 non-immigrant to take more online courses than the F-1 regulations allow. We have been waiting for guidance from the U.S. government regarding the spring semester of 2021. I'm happy to notify you today that the U.S. government has extended the exceptions it made in 2020 into the spring semester of 2021.
So, F-1 international students are allowed to maintain their legal status in the U.S. as long as they continue to enroll full-time at the institution listed on their I-20 document. Students can maintain their status with a full course load even if the course work is online-only or a mix of face-to-face and online coursework.
Students that have already departed the U.S. or will depart the U.S. at the end of the Fall semester can maintain their F-1 immigration status while residing outside the U.S. To maintain F-1 status while living outside the U.S., however, a student must take a full course load of online classes.
Please be aware that other factors, such as travel bans to the U.S., are still in effect. In addition, U.S. embassies around the world are still closed for regular visa processing. This may make it difficult for international students to re-enter for the spring 2021 semester to resume in-person studies at TTU. Students that plan to leave and re-enter should speak with their international student counselor before departing.
All the best,
Richard Porter, Director of International Student and Scholar Services
Letter from the Vice Provost of the Office of International Affairs regarding travel outside the US during the winter break:
I understand many of you feel like you are stranded in a foreign country during one of the worst pandemics in history. I know the frustration of being unable to go home for an extended period of time, and the excitement of the opportunity to travel over winter break to visit friends and family. Wouldn't that be nice! However, I must advise you against traveling outside of the U.S. at this time because of the rapidly changing COVID landscape.
If you must travel internationally, I advise you to take the following actions and to consider carefully the following scenarios.
- Inform your department/program (major advisor, graduate program director) of your intention to travel.
- Complete all your course responsibilities/job duties, if applicable, before you depart.
- Register for spring 2021 classes prior to departure.
- Consult with your international student counselor to assess your immigration risks regarding travel and regarding the required immigration documentation for your return.
- Keep abreast of COVID-related travel guidance, available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html.
- Be informed that if you are unable to return to the US:
- You are still required to maintain enrollment in the spring (at least one credit) to maintain your academic standing with the university;
- At this point, we believe that the temporary rules that applied to you in the fall as F-1 students (regarding online course work) will remain the same for the spring. We cannot confirm this at this point and will notify you if any official guidance from US government is published that impacts you as an F-1 student. Assuming the status quo, you will be required to maintain full-time online enrollment in the spring to retain your F-1 immigration status. There are a few exceptions to this requirement; please consult with your international student counselor for additional information.
- If serving as a TA, RA, or GPTI, you will not be allowed to work and be paid while outside the US.
Regardless of where you end up spending your winter break, I hope you enjoy a wonderful holiday season. May your holiday be filled with lots of joy, tranquility, and love!
With good wishes,
Dr. Sukant Misra
CDC Guidance Updated for International Travelers
CDC has published updated guidance for "After You Travel". This guidance recommends that travelers take precautions for 14 days to reduce the risk to family friends and community, but it does not require that travelers quarantine at home for 14 days. These standard precautions include:
Wearing a mask when outside your residence
Washing your hands
Monitoring your health for symptoms
The CDC "After you Travel" web page also recommends additional precautions for travelers that have participated in what they define as "Higher Risk Activities" during their travels. For travelers that were involved in these higher risk activities, CDC recommends the following additional precautions for 14 days (in addition to the precautions listed above).
Stay home as much as possible.
Avoid being around people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.>
Consider getting tested for COVID-19.
Temporary Final Rule is Rescinded in Federal Court
The Temporary Final Rule regarding online classes, published on June 6, was rescinded in a federal court on Tuesday, July 14. International students are now bound by the guidance from the Department of Homeland Security that was published on March 9, 2020.
In this earlier guidance, the Department of Homeland Security provided a certain amount of latitude in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this guidance, F-1 international students are allowed to maintain their legal status in the US as long as they continue to enroll full-time at the institution listed on their I-20 document. Students can maintain their status with a full course load even if the course work is online-only or a mix of face-to-face and online coursework.
Students that have already departed the U.S. or will depart the U.S. before the fall semester can maintain their F-1 immigration status while residing outside the U.S. In order to maintain F-1 status while residing outside the U.S., however, a student must take a full course load of online classes.
Please be aware that other factors, such as travel bans to the U.S., are still in effect. In addition, U.S. embassies around the world are still closed for regular visa processing. This may make it difficult for international students to re-enter for the fall semester to resume in-person studies at TTU. Students that plan to leave and re-enter should speak with their international student counselor before departing.
Announcement About Online Courses and International Students in the Fall
Date: July 7, 2020
From: Sukant Misra, Vice Provost for International Affairs
Michael Galyean, Provost and Senior Vice President
To: Texas Tech University Students, Faculty, and Staff
Re: Temporary Exemptions for Nonimmigrant Students
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications on Monday (July 6, 2020) to temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to publish these new procedures and responsibilities in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.
The purpose of this memorandum is to give a quick update on how this rule might affect our international student population. Texas Tech University plans to resume in-person teaching and learning for the Fall 2020 semester using a blend of face-to-face, hybrid (combination of face-to-face instruction and online learning), and online modalities. Our course modalities will remain flexible with approximately two-thirds of our courses being taught using some degree of face-to-face instruction. As long as international students are not registered for an online-only degree program and are not taking an entirely online course load for Fall 2020, they will be able to meet the requirements of this Temporary Final Rule and we will be able to maintain appropriate student records. This will allow international students to return to or to remain at Texas Tech University for the Fall 2020 semester.
We will continue to monitor the situation as the semester progresses and adapt to any further changes in the rule that might be announced. Please feel free to contact Dr. Richard Porter, OIA's Director of International Student and Scholar Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org with additional questions. Thank you.
President Trump's recent proclamation will not directly impact F-1 and J-1 Exchange Visitors at TTU.
A proclamation by President Trump will extend foreign worker restrictions through the end of December 31, 2020. This act is intended to "protect the US market" for American citizens and permanent residents during the COVID 19 and will make it impossible for prospective/initial H-1B workers to get visas from June 24th until the end of December. This action does not impact F-1 students or J-1 Exchange Visitors at TTU. As soon as the US embassies open up again for regular processing, F-1 and J-1 students are eligible to make an appointment to apply for student visas.
The International Student and Scholar Service office is open for virtual appointments!
While our office is physically closed, your international student counselor is available via email and through virtual appointments between the hours of 8-5, M-F. Your counselor will work with you after you set up your virtual appointment online. The best way to connect during your virtual appointment will be through Zoom or SKYPE for Business either on your phone or on your computer. For SKYPE for Business, you will log into your TTU account using your user name and password. The Zoom and SKYPE for Business apps can be downloaded online for both Android and Apple phones, and for your computer.
Travel signatures on your I-20 or DS2019 will have to be provided via the postal service but your international student counselor can work with you in case of an emergency. In all but emergency cases, your counselor will mail your signed I-20 for re-entry to your US address. When it is not possible to receive your signed I-20 before you depart the US, your counselor will send you a new I-20 with a travel signature to your home country address (via eShipGlobal). In all cases, please consult with your international student counselor before departing the US. If it is possible, please do what you need to do, working with your counselor, to get your document signed for re-entry before departing.
COVID 19 and Travel - Given the circumstances surrounding the current pandemic, all students should exercise extreme caution when deciding to travel and should meet with their international student counselor before departing the US to discuss some of the risks related to re-entering the US to continue your studies. Many of the US embassies around the world are currently closed, so it will not be possible to apply for a new visa until further notice. In addition, departing flights from the US and return flights to the US are severely limited or unavailable. For helpful information and links please view our website on How to Get and New Visa.
The Department of Homeland Security's Study in the States website also has a helpful page for students with COVID 19 updates. This page was updated on May 14th.
For questions about travel while applying for OPT approval or after you have been approved, please visit our OPT FAQ page
The OIA is currently open for emergency visits by international students:
The Office of International Affairs is currently maintaining its regular business hours but for emergency visits only. We discourage you from coming in unless you have an emergency. Your international student counselors will be working from home but will still be available via emails and phone calls during regular business hours. You can also make a virtual appointment with your counselor. They can also mail documents to your home so that you don't need to come to pick them up at the International Cultural Center
Do not hesitate to reach out to your counselor for immigration advice during this time. They are on duty, virtually, to assist you.
Please carefully review the information below as they pertain to your legal status in the U.S. in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Online Courses and Maintaining Status:
As you all already know, online classes do not typically fulfill the full course of study requirements to maintain your immigration status. However, the Department of Homeland Security has provided a certain amount of latitude in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (see the COVID-19 guidance from DHS's department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement). In light of TTU resuming classes online after March 30th, all international students will be considered lawfully present if they are taking a full course load online. However, we would like to remind students that these measures are temporary. Once the University resumes face-to-face classes, the standard rules for maintaining status and a full course load will also resume.
During this indefinite time of resuming courses online, the Department of Homeland Security expects international students to maintain their physical presence in Lubbock. If you leave Lubbock, you will be required to update your international counselor about new address in the US. This will require an update to your SEVIS record as a change of address. If you decide to depart the U.S. before the Summer Intercession, you will be able to maintain your current immigration status and re-enter the U.S. in the fall with your current I-20. In that case you will need a re-entry travel signature. Please be aware that other factors, such as travel bans to the US, may still be in effect in the fall. This would make it impossible for you to re-enter for the fall semester to resume your studies at TTU. Students that plan to leave and re-enter for the fall are taking this risk.
Travel Ban Reminder:
Please check with the U.S. Department of State if you plan on departing the U.S. anytime during the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel bans into the U.S. may be in effect for certain countries. This situation is fluid and travel bans may change throughout this situation. Traveling to a country that is restricted or may become restricted could result in you being unable to reenter the U.S.
Student Employment Questions:
Please consult with your supervisors for answers regarding your on-campus employment and various assistantships. Our office will only be able to answer employment questions as they relate to your immigration status.
News Alert: International students are being scammed!
Unfortunately, unsuspecting international students are increasingly being targeted in scams. Please check out the ISSS web page that provides information about these incidents and how to avoid becoming a victim of these crimes.
See also the following web sites for updated immigration and travel information: