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March 12, 2020

To the International Student Community at Virginia Tech,

In follow-up to the most recent university communication from President Sands regarding the university’s response to COVID-19, we are writing to address some questions that we hope will help you determine whether or not to remain in the United States (on-campus or off-campus) or leave at this time.

REMAINING IN THE UNITED STATES

  • International students will be able to complete the semester fully online/remotely if they remain in the US.
  • International students will not jeopardize their immigration status if they choose to remain in the United States to complete the semester fully online/remotely.
    • The university has been granted broad discretion from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to accommodate international students and waive the limits on online enrollment that would normally preclude an international student from being enrolled solely online.
  • International students who currently live in on-campus housing should follow the instructions provided by the university and Housing and Residence Life.

LEAVING THE UNITED STATES

  • International students will be able to complete the semester fully online/remotely if they leave the US.

Choosing to leave the US is a complex decision that must include a careful review of the following considerations on a case-by-case basis. In general, international students should be cautious about leaving the US at this time because it may be more difficult than usual to get back into US until this crisis abates (and right now we don’t know when that will be). If an international student leaves now, it is possible that you may not be able to return for the Fall semester.

We recommend considering the following factors and consulting with an International Student Advisor/Immigration Specialist, as well as an Academic Advisor:

  • US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Travel Health Notices
    • If the CDC issues a "Warning Level 3, Avoid Non-Essential Travel” for a country, this invokes provisions of University Policy 1070 that would prohibit all travel to/from that country to the Virginia Tech campus, thus meaning an international student would not be able to return to campus until and unless the CDC changes its warning to below Level 3.
    • Countries may be elevated to Level 3 at any time.
  • University Policy 1070: Global Travel Policy
    • If the CDC issues a "Warning Level 3, Avoid Non-Essential Travel” for a country, this invokes provisions of University Policy 1070 that would prohibit all travel to/from that country to the Virginia Tech campus, thus meaning an international student would not be able to return to campus until and unless the CDC changes its warning to below Level 3 and/or until the university makes an exception to University Policy 1070.
  • US Government Travel Restrictions on US Visas and Entry to US
    • The President of the United States has issued three COVID-19-related proclamations to limit travel to the United States that may prevent international students traveling from certain countries from entering/reentering to the US. Please review this information carefully.
  • Federal Regulations Related to Re-Entry to the US After an Absence of More Than 5 Months
    • Federal regulations allow an international student in F-1 visa status to be readmitted to the US after “a temporary absence of five months or less.” This has generally been interpreted to mean that after an absence of more than five months that is unconnected to study, a student could not be readmitted to the US to resume their F-1 status, but rather would have to enter with a new Form I-20 under a new SEVIS record, and would also have to pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee again.
    • International students who leave the US at this time and do not plan to return until the start of Fall semester may find themselves being absent from the US for more than five months; however, we will consider the time outside of the US from the time you depart until the end of the Spring semester to be an absence from the US that is “connected to study” since you will be completing the Spring semester online/remotely. As long as you remain enrolled full-time while you are outside of the US and completing your classes online/remotely, this time outside of the US will not count towards the absence of more than five months.
    • An International Student Advisor/Immigration Specialist will need to issue international students an updated Form I-20 that has the following annotation on it: “Student approved for Study Abroad program from 3/23/2020 to 5/15/2020 with authorized annual vacation immediately following from 5/16/2020 to 08/23/2020. Student will be enrolled full-time while participating in Study Abroad program.”
      • International undergraduate students may request an updated Form I-20 by logging into the IntlHokies Portal and submitting the "Replace or Reprint Form I-20" E-form. You will need to choose "Emergency Departure" as the reason for the request. If you are unable to pick up the updated Form I-20 in person, we will send it to you via express courier (e.g. UPS, FedEx) to the address you indicate.
      • International graduate students should contact the Graduate School at the contact information below.
  • Internet Speed and Reliability
    • International students should also consider the Internet speed and reliability in the location they will be traveling outside of the US since you will need to complete your classes online. In some countries, a VPN may be required to access the university’s Learning Management System, email, etc.

We realize the COVID-19 outbreak and related university changes, as well as travel restrictions, have impacted you and/or your family members in significant ways, so we want you to know that we are here to support you. There are many resources available at Virginia Tech to answer your questions and help you through any difficulties you may be experiencing:

As the situation continues to evolve, please be sure to check the University Status website regularly for updates specific to the university campus.

David Clubb
Director, Instructor, and Licensed Qualified Administrator*
Cranwell International Center
* Intercultural Development Inventory
* Intercultural Conflict Style Inventory

Byron A. Hughes, PhD
Dean of Students
Office of Dean of Students

Monika Gibson
Assistant Dean and Director
of Student Services
Graduate School