COVID-19 FAQ for International Students & Visiting Scholars

COVID-19 FAQ for International Students and Visiting Scholars

Contacting Our Offices | Current Students | Immigration & Visa | Optional Practical Training | Newly Admitted Students | Other Related FAQs


How do I get in touch with staff in the international offices?

Due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, the best way to contact an international office staff member is by email.  Contact information for each office is listed below:

International Degree Seeking Students

Short-Term Study Students

Are the International Offices open?

Currently the International Student Services Office is working remotely, however we are still available to assist, you can reach us via phone or email, Monday through Friday, from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

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I want to return to my home country, what should I do?

Please contact your international office to inform them of your plans to return to your home country.

I am a continuing student, and I am unable to re-enter on time to resume my classes. What should I do?

Contact your appropriate international office (see first FAQ above) as soon as you are aware that you will not be able to return. An international advisor will assist you with immigration advising. Since CSUDH classes for Fall will mainly be taught remotely, you can continue your coursework online from your home country.

If you do wish to withdraw until a later date when classes resume on campus, the advisor will connect you with your college advising center for support on course withdrawals and filing an educational leave of absence through Enrollment Services. When you are ready to return to campus, you will need to let the advisor know at least 3 weeks in advance of your flight so that we can issue you a new I-20.

If I leave the US, can I leave without a travel signature on my I-20 or DS-2019?

Degree Students: If you leave without receiving a travel signature, please fill out the Travel Signature Request form and email your request to the ISS office:

Exchange Students/Scholars: Please contact your international advisor to obtain a travel signature before you depart the US. If you leave without receiving a travel signature, please contact your International advisor as soon as possible. If you are returning home and will not return to the U.S., you do not need a travel signature on your DS-2019 to leave. However, please inform your advisor if you are leaving before your program end date.

How do I receive a travel signature on my I-20 or DS-2019 if the international offices are telecommuting?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is currently allowing school officials to sign the I-20 or DS-2019 form digitally.

Degree Students: Please fill out the Travel Signature Request form and email your request to the ISS office:

Exchange Scholars: Please contact your International Advisor to obtain a signature on your DS-2019.

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My I-20 or DS-2019 is expiring, but I need more time to complete my degree or program. What should I do?

Contact the appropriate international office for advising, as listed in the first FAQ above. 

My I-20 or DS-2019 form is expiring and I cannot leave the U.S. due to flight issues. What can I do?

Contact your appropriate international office listed above for advising on your immigration options. For flight assistance, you should contact your country’s embassy officials in the United States for support. Find your country’s embassy or consulate at the Department of State: Contact Info for Foreign Embassies & Consulates.

I will be outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months. Will I need a new visa? Will I have any problems re-entering the U.S. again as a student?

As long as your SEVIS record is “active”, you may re-enter the U.S. with an unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa. Contact your appropriate international office to notify staff of your return. You will still need a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 form to re-enter. If you need a travel signature, one can be provided digitally for you. Please fill out and email your Travel Signature Request form to:

Degree Students: Please fill out and email your Travel Signature Request form to:

Exchange Scholars: Please contact your international advisor at

Will changing my grading option to CR/NC impact my student visa status?

Exchange Students: No, it will not affect your visa status. However, we do not encourage exchange students to take CR/NC. This is because not all our partner universities recognize CR/NC as a grading system, which can lead to issues when you return to your home university. However, if you wish to consult with your home university about CR/NC, they will be the ones to decide whether or not to allow this type of grading.

Study Abroad America Students: No, it will not affect your visa status. You have the choice to select which courses you wish to change to CR/NC.

ISS Degree Students: No, it will not affect your visa status. You have the choice to select which courses you wish to change to CR/NC. Please contact the University Advisement Center or your major advisor to be informed of the minimum passing grade requirement for your courses.

If I need to submit a request to CIE for processing a document such as a new I-20 for changing my major, how do I do that?

Please visit the ISS student Forms page for details on request options. ISS will communicate with you on delivery options. 

What do I do if my I-20 is about to expire?

You need to apply for a program extension BEFORE your I-20 expires using the I-20 Extension Form. This form for extension requires approval from your academic advisor. Program extensions also must be accompanied with new financial statements.

What do I do if my DS-2019 is about to expire?

If you want to extend your current program, please contact your international advisor two months prior to the expiration of your DS-2019.

I moved, how do I update my address?

Students are required by immigration to update their address within 10 days of moving. Please submit the Address Update Form to the ISS office:

My passport will be expiring soon. What should I do?

Each passport has an expiration date listed. As a student or scholar, it is your responsibility to keep your passport valid at all times. If your passport expiration date is approaching, you must contact your embassy or consulate in order to have your passport renewed. You must provide the ISS office with a copy of your valid passport once renewed.

My visa is about to expire. Will I be out of status?

No. It is legal for you to be in the United States with an expired visa as long as you are in good F-1 status and have a valid I-20 or DS-2019. However, you must have a valid visa to re-enter the United States if you travel. If you will be traveling outside of the United States and have an expired visa, we recommend that you travel during the summer or winter breaks so that you will have a better opportunity to renew your visa in time to return.

What documents do I need to renew my visa?

You will need to contact the U.S. Consulate in your home country for a complete list of requirement.

Degree Students: You should have the documents listed on the F-1 Visa Renewal document form. Please visit: for more information about visa renewal and fees.

Exchange Visitors/Students: Please visit: for information about visa renewal and fees.

What if I decide to transfer to a different university?

Degree Students: You will need to provide an acceptance letter to the new university and fill out the SEVIS Transfer Request Form.

Exchange Visitors: Please contact your International Advisor for assistance in transferring your program to another university.

What is the expiration date on my I-94?

As an F-1 or J-1 student, your I-94 does not have an expiration date. Your I-94 should contain the phrase “D/S” which stands for “Duration of Status.” This designation means that as long as you are satisfying all the legal requirements of your student status and making normal progress toward completing your degree, you are legally allowed to stay in the United States.  For more information on I-94 visit the US Customs and Border Protections I-94 Frequently Asked Questions.

I am taking a semester break from studies. Who do I need to notify?

Under the F or J status, you are required to be enrolled full-time during the Fall and Spring semesters. If you decide to take a semester break and return to your home country, you must contact ISS and make an appointment with an advisor. Email for scheduling information.

When may I take a vacation or holiday from my academic study?

Many students travel during December holiday, spring break, and summer break, as enrollment is not a requirement during these breaks. If you intend to travel for a short period of time while classes are in session, please communicate with your instructors and make sure that you can complete any missed coursework. If you are not able to complete all of your courses for the semester, please consult with an international student advisor.

How can I apply/renew for my driver’s license?

F-1 students will need to request a Verification of Enrollment letter from ISS. For additional information on receiving a driver's license please see the How To Apply for a California Driver’s License Handout.

I have changed my name. How do I update my documents?

Begin by updating your passport in your home country or at your country's embassy or consulate here in the U.S. Once you receive the updated passport, please submit a copy of it to the ISS office. Your name will be updated in the university system and on your I-20. You will receive a new I-20 in the new name.

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I am graduating, can I still apply for OPT?

Yes, you have 60 days after your graduation to submit an OPT application to USCIS. Please fill out the OPT Request Form and submit it to the ISS office: The ISS office will then contact you to assist with your application.

I’m currently on F-1 OPT but working fewer than 20 hours a week due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Will this affect my status?

No, it will not affect your F-1 status. For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT with fewer than 20 hours a week as actively engaged in OPT.

What if I cannot find an employer within 90 days of the start date of my OPT?

Post-completion OPT rules have not changed due to COVID-19. If you know that you will exceed the 90-day unemployment time, you should seek alternatives to continue to maintain F-1 status. These options include: departing the U.S., transferring to a new school or beginning a new academic program or seeking a change of visa status. SEVP is still considering options for this if COVID-19 continues and we will update students if any changes are made.

I have already applied for my post-completion OPT. Will my OPT processing be delayed due to the COVID-19 situation?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is continuing to perform duties that do not involve face-to-face contact with the public and has not announced any further delays on the processing of OPT applications. USCIS has indicated that individuals may still submit applications and petitions during this time. You may track the status of your application or submit a Case Status inquiry online at For general I-765 application processing times, you can check: Case Processing Times.

I am currently on OPT, can I apply for a STEM extension? If so, how?

Yes, if you are on Post Completion OPT and graduated with a degree that is approved for STEM OPT on the Designated STEM OPT List, you can file a 24-month extension to work in a field directly related to your program of study. Extensions can be filed up to 90 days before your OPT end date. Please contact the ISS team to assist with the application.

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Will classes be taught online for the Fall 2020 semester?

Most classes for Fall 2020 will be delivered remotely, either fully online or through alternative modes of instruction. A limited number of classes that require in-person activities—such as nursing clinical sessions, science and engineering labs sections, and some performing and creative art classes—will be held on campus with strict physical distancing guidelines.

I am a newly admitted student for Fall. Since most classes will be offered remotely or online, can I still come to the U.S. on an F-1 visa?

According to current Department of Homeland Security guidelines, new F-1 students should not enter the U.S. if all courses are delivered remotely. However, new SEVP guidance is expected for Fall programs. As soon as any new guidance becomes available, we will keep all new students informed about their ability to participate in Fall programs.

Continuing or transfer students can remain in the U.S. as long as they maintain their F-1 visa status.

Will there be on-campus housing available?

Housing policies for Fall are still being finalized. A limited number of housing units are expected to be available on campus. Your advisor in the international office will be able to recommend some off-campus housing facilities that are nearby if you prefer to live off-campus.

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COVID-Adjacent FAQs


I am graduating this semester, how do I find out how to apply and when to apply?

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation! Please visit the Graduation Frequently Asked Questions page for information pertaining to graduation.

How do I invite my family or friends for graduation?

Please refer to the guide Regarding Invitation Letters for Family & Friends. Also, a request for a letter of verification of enrollment can be requested.  You will be notified by email when the letter is ready to be picked up.

How long will it take to get my requested document from the international office?

We ask that you allow at least 7-10 business days for documents and requests to be processed. Notice of processed documents will be sent through e-mail addresses provided on the forms.

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