On July 24, 2020, the government agency the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued clarifying questions that confirm the options F-1 students have for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This guidance largely explains when we can keep an F-1 student’s immigration record “active.” Keeping an active F-1 immigration record (also called a “SEVIS record”) is important for a few reasons:
- An active F-1 record means you are legally able to remain in the US in F-1 status. Outside of COVID times, students that leave the US for a semester must have their F-1 record closed, but can later get a new one to return to the US.
- To be eligible for CPT or OPT, you need to complete two full-time semesters under the same SEVIS ID – your SEVIS ID will change in most cases if your F-1 record is no longer active for a period of time, so you would need to again complete two semesters to be eligible for these work permissions.
- To return to the US after your F-1 record is no longer active, you would need a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID and a new SEVIS fee.
Please click on the questions below or scroll through to read more information on each topic:
What types of courses can I take and keep an active F-1 record – online or hybrid?
Where can I take my classes from and keep an active F-1 record?
Continuing F-1 students can enroll from outside of the US, or from inside the US – in Baltimore near campus or anywhere else in the US.
Do I have to enroll full-time to keep an active F-1 record?
Yes. There are no changes to the enrollment requirements. F-1 students must be enrolled full-time, unless it is your last semester as reflected on your I-20. For more information on what is required for a full-time semester, or what possible exceptions exist, please review the information here: https://ies.umbc.edu/international-students-f-1/current-students/f-1-enrollment-requirements-and-exceptions/
If I decide to enroll online from outside of the US, what do I need to do?
- First, please review the considerations on this page to help you decide if this is a good choice for you, including international travel considerations: https://ies.umbc.edu/what-if-i-decide-to-go-home/
- Prepare your documents:
- Check that your passport and F-1 visa are valid for when you are ready to return.
- Check your I-20 for a valid travel signature – this is on page 2 of your I-20. The date next to the signature is valid for one year. To request an updated travel signature on your I-20, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the best address where we can mail it to you. Alternatively, we can send you an electronic copy when you are preparing to return to the US, to print and use for your return.
- Please note that current students should be able to leave and enter the US as they see fit, throughout the semester, with valid immigration documents, aside from any international travel restrictions imposed on the country you are travelling to or from.
What work options do I have from outside of Maryland or the US?
- Graduate Assistants and on-campus work: please note that the Graduate School and other campus partners are reviewing if students can legally be employed as GA’s, TA’s or RA’s from outside of Maryland or outside of the US. You will receive guidance from the Graduate School on this issue soon.
- CPT: F-1 students with active F-1 immigration records can be approved for CPT, even if outside of the US.
- Students working for a US company remotely from outside of the US will still need CPT work permission, and should discuss this option with the company in advance.
- Students remaining in the US but working remotely for a non-US company will also still need CPT work permission
- OPT: If this is your last semester and you are considering leaving the US for the semester, please contact the IES office at email@example.com to discuss the complications involved in applying for OPT from outside of the US.
Will I be enrolled in UMBC’s Health Insurance Plan if I leave the US for the semester?
Students that are physically present in the US in the first week of the semester will be enrolled in UMBC’s health insurance plan. Those that have already left the US by the end of the schedule adjustment period (February 9) will NOT be enrolled in UMBC’s health insurance unless they contact firstname.lastname@example.org to enroll.