Spring 2021 International Student FAQ

This FAQ is based on the information we have available as of December 1 and assumes DHS COVID-19 provisions remain in place. If DHS releases new guidance, the FAQ will be updated accordingly. New information will be added as it becomes available.
 

What is GW’s plan for the spring semester?

On October 9, GW made the determination that virtual instruction will continue in the spring 2021 semester, with some exceptions. As such, the university will not be 100 percent online. More information can be found here.
 

I am a J-1 student. Can I take online coursework this spring?

The Department of State continues to accept online coursework for J-1 students that remain in active SEVIS status. J-1 students taking coursework online outside of the U.S. will continue to have an active SEVIS record until they are able to return to the U.S. to continue program objectives. Please be mindful of the validity dates of your J-1 visa; you may need to renew it before returning to the U.S. if it expires while you are abroad. More information for J-1 visa holders can be found here. Students beginning their studies in J-1 status must have in-person coursework.  Please contact your Academic Advisor to determine available in-person coursework for spring 2021.
 

I am a new F-1 student in initial status in the United States. Can I attend coursework this spring at GW? 

If you will be physically present as an F-1 student in the United States for the spring 2021 semester, you must be enrolled in at least one in-person course at GW. Please work with your Academic Advisor or School to determine in-person coursework opportunities. If you cannot enroll in in-person coursework, you will be out of status, and need to depart the U.S.
 

I am a new initial student outside of the United States. Will my F-1 status be active if I do not come to the U.S. for coursework this spring?

No, under current guidance if you do not enter the U.S. your F-1 record will not be activated until you enter the U.S. If new information becomes available, we will share it as soon as possible. If you are outside the U.S., you may still enroll in online courses if your program allows it, but you will not have a non-immigration F status until you enter the U.S.
 

I am a transfer student. What do I need to know?

Transfer students coming to the U.S. for the pring 2021  semester: If you were actively enrolled since March 9, 2020 in any U.S. institution, and otherwise maintained status, then you are considered to be in continuing F-1 status, and can enroll in online coursework at GW while in the U.S. with no limitation.

Transfer students inside the U.S.: Transfer students inside the U.S. must complete the check in process through isogateway within 15 days of your program start date.If you were actively enrolled since March 9, 2020 in any U.S. institution, and otherwise maintained status, then you are considered to be in continuing F-1 status, and can enroll in online coursework while in the U.S. with no limitation.

Transfer students who will remain outside of the U.S.: For students outside of the U.S. who are currently in initial Transfer status and who will remain outside the U.S., please contact the ISO to arrange a record correction with DHS when you decide to enter. The time period for correction may vary and is outside of the ISO’s control. If new information becomes available, we will share it as soon as possible.
 

How will the five-month rule apply to student transfers?

Current DHS guidance notes that the five-month rule related to student transfers will not apply to students affected by COVID-19. For transfer students that exceed the five-month period, please contact the ISO to arrange a record correction with DHS. The time period for correction may vary and is outside of the ISOs control. We encourage you to not book flights to the U.S. until the correction is approved. If new information becomes available, we will share it as soon as possible.
 

I am student changing academic levels. What do I need to know?

Students changing academic levels who were actively enrolled as an F-1 student on March 9, 2020, and who have otherwise maintained status are considered to be in continuing F-1 status, and can enroll in online coursework while in the U.S., with no limitation.
 

I started at GW in fall 2020 and took an in-person course to maintain status. Do I need to take an in-person course in spring 2021?

No. Per current guidance, if you were in active F-1 status as a new student in fall 2020 and took an in-person course, you will be a continuing F-1 student in spring 2021 and will be able to take all coursework online.


I am a continuing student in the United States and am otherwise maintaining F-1 status. Can I enroll in online coursework this spring?

Yes, per the current guidance in place, you can enroll in online coursework with no limitation as long as you have not otherwise violated status since March 9, 2020.


I am a continuing student outside of the United States. If I enroll in online coursework and remain outside of the United States, will my F-1 status remain active?

If you are a continuing student who decided to remain abroad for fall 2020 and/or will be abroad for spring 2021 and continue coursework online, your F-1 status is considered active under current DHS guidance. You will need to be enrolled full time (12 credits for undergraduate students and 9 credits for graduate students) to maintain active F-1 status. You should have received an email asking you to confirm you are abroad during the fall 2020 semester so the ISO can notate that information in your electronic SEVIS record. A new I-20 will NOT be issued for you. If you have questions please contact the ISO. If new information becomes available, we will share it as soon as possible.


How can I tell if a class is going to be in person or virtual?

This information is made available to students in the schedule of classes through the meeting location fields or on Banner. In-person classes note the physical location of the class meeting. Courses offered virtually only, are designated as REMOTE INSTR.


I am a continuing international student and am considering taking a leave of absence for spring semester 2021. Is this possible?

Yes, this is possible. After you consult with your Academic Advisor to determine if a leave of absence is possible, please contact your ISO Advisor for guidance on how to handle this process in regards to your immigration record.

Undergraduate Students

Incoming international undergraduate students should work with the academic advising team in their school to select courses that meet their needs, whether that is on campus or online for the spring 2021 semester.

Graduate Students

For your spring 2021 semester, our schools/colleges have different options for graduate students to accommodate starting from abroad. Please consult your school or see below for more information:

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Elliott School of International Affairs

School of Business

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

GW Law School

Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Milken Institute School of Public Health

 

Work Authorization Questions 

If I begin my full course of study from outside the United States, can I count that time towards the CPT or OPT 1 year requirement?

An F student accrues eligibility for practical training whether they are inside or outside of the U.S. during the COVID-19 emergency if the student is in Active status in SEVIS.


I am on OPT but working fewer than 20 hours a week due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Am I maintaining status?

Yes. Current SEVP guidance states that "for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT".


Is there an extension or suspension of the allowed period of unemployment for OPT and STEM OPT during the COVID-19 pandemic?

DHS has not made any exceptions at this time regarding the period of unemployment allowed for students on OPT and STEM OPT. Students must abide by the standard 90-day/150-day period of unemployment for OPT and STEM OPT respectively.


I have left the U.S. and will no longer use my OPT/STEM OPT, is there anything I need to do?

You must report any changes of your plans to the ISO so that we may properly maintain your immigration record by emailing us at [email protected]. Please include in your email your confirmed date of departure from the U.S. and your understanding that you are forfeiting your OPT/STEM OPT authorization for the education level you are currently approved for.


Am I exempt from employment reports during COVID-19 pandemic?

No. You must report any changes of the following within 10 days:

1.       Current employer changes name and/or address

2.       Any termination of employment

3.       Any change in employment (e.g. employer name and/or address changes)

4.       Change of Visa Status (e.g. to H-1B)

5.       Change in physical/residential address

6.       Any updates to your biographical information

7.       Leaving the U.S. and foregoing your OPT/STEM OPT

 

Travel and Visa Questions

How can I obtain a travel signature on my immigration document when I am not in Washington, D.C. or I am abroad?

To request a travel signature, log into ISOGateWay and select Travel Signature Request. ISO will issue you a new document with a travel signature. For F-1 students, your document with travel signature will be emailed to you. For J-1 students, the document will be mailed to you at the address you provide.


Will my current and valid F-1 visa stamp be cancelled if I am studying from my home country in spring 2021?

No. If you have a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport, your visa should not be cancelled or revoked because you are studying from your home country.


My F-1 visa stamp is expiring/expired and I am in the U.S. I am currently unable to travel to my home country. What should I do to renew it?

The F-1 visa stamp does not control your stay in the U.S. The Form I-20 controls how long you can stay based on your program end date and/or OPT/STEM OPT recommendations. The F-1 visa stamp is only is a document used to enter the US and must be valid when entering the U.S. It does not matter if it expires while you are in the U.S. You will only need to obtain a new visa stamp to reenter the U.S. after traveling internationally. You can only renew an F-1 visa from outside the U.S. Please note that Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.


Can I re-enter the U.S. on an expired F-1 visa stamp?

No. Your F-1 visa must be valid at the time you enter the U.S. 


Which countries are prohibited from entry to the United States due to COVID-19?

The U.S. Center for Disease Control maintains the list of prohibited travelers. After arriving to the United States from one of these countries, the CDC recommends that travelers stay home and monitor their health for 14 days.


What are GW’s plans for testing returning international students (and/or U.S. Citizens) living abroad?

GW has COVID-19 testing available on arrival to campus for the community. Anyone who tests positive will receive guidance about specific steps to take from the D.C. Department of Health (or local health department where you reside, e.g., Virginia or Maryland). The University’s Campus COVID Support Team (CCST) will reach out to offer assistance and can help answer questions and provide support as well.

Anyone who tests positive will be required to isolate. Students who live in residence halls on campus will be housed in a separate facility reserved solely for isolation. Off-campus students will isolate in their residence.

The U.S. government may require those traveling from abroad to quarantine for some period of time. In general, both on and off-campus students will quarantine in their residence. The CCST will work with students to provide any support necessary during that time.