We know you all have been receiving a LOT of e-mails regarding Covid-19. Our hope is that this page helps you to find all recent information pertaining to students with F-1 visas in one place:
Fall 2020 plans
The previous guidelines published by SEVP on July 6, 2020 have been rescinded and we have reverted to the guidance provided in March 2020. We are awaiting further clarifications for grey areas, but for the moment, returning students who are studying remotely will be able to preserve their active SEVIS status. We are still unclear on If new students are beginning their courses online from their home country, they will need to defer their SEVIS start dates until Feb. 1, 2020.
*All EPIC funded internships have been cancelled for this year. This includes both in and outside of the U.S.
Summer finance options that you still have:
1. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work authorization for work/internships in the U.S. directly related to your major that meet a major or graduation requirement
2. Apply for Economic Hardship Work Authorization (Adjudicated by USCIS for students whose economic circumstances have significantly changed due to unforeseen reasons beyond your control)
3. Internships outside of the U.S. (it just won't be EPIC funded)
- The deadline for filing and paying both Federal and Indiana taxes has been extended to July 15th.
- We can no longer hold tax sessions but have sent directions and attachments through email. We recommend that you contact Sprintax with your questions, but you are welcome to contact us with any questions that do not get answered through Sprintax. We can answer questions anytime before July 15th.
- If you need us to resend the email with the Sprintax info to you, please request that by replying to this shared email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- While the Earlham post office is closed to students, you can mail your tax documents from the Richmond post office at 400 N. A Street (within walking distance from campus). To comply with social distancing advice, we strongly recommend that you wait until after the statewide "shelter in place" policy (see below) has been lifted to mail your tax forms.
- We have heard some reports through our networks of the IRS sending out stimulus checks or making simulus payments by direct deposit to international students in error because these students may have improperly filed their taxes as Residents for Tax Purposes using the 1040 or 1040EZ tax form rather than the 1040-NR or 1040-NR EZ, which are specifically for Nonresident Aliens. International students who have been in the U.S. for 5 years generally convert to 'Residents for Tax Purposes' (determined by the Substantial Presence Test, which Sprintax will calculate for you) and would qualify for these stimulus payments if they were a Resident for Tax Purposes by the previous tax year. However, if you had not reached that 5 year mark in 2018 or 2019, and if you had not been informed Sprintax of a change in your tax filing status when you attempted to file your taxes nor by your employer, then you may have received this payment in error.
- If you or someone you know has received this payment in error, there are two very important things that must occur.
File an amended tax return as soon as possible for whichever year(s) you filed incorrectly. See here for some guidance on filing an amended return: http://blog.sprintax.com/filed-incorrect-tax-return-how-to-amend/
- DO NOT spend the money. RETURN the money as soon as possible to avoid the accrual of interest*. Use the information on this IRS webpage to find out how to return the money: https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc161
*It is important to note that if the Nonresident Alien does not immediately return the erroneously received stimulus payment, he or she may be subject to interest accrued until the payment is returned. Also, until such time as the incorrectly filed federal income tax return is amended to submit the correct federal income tax return, the Nonresident Alien is subject to a filing penalty and/or loss of any otherwise applicable deductions or allowances, including income tax treaty exemptions. It is important to note that failure to file a correct federal income tax return and/or filing a fraudulent federal income tax return are violations of U.S. tax law and may potentially impact current or future immigration status.
If you have questions, feel free to reach out to us with your concerns or questions.
- Be aware of IRS impersonation calls, texts, and fraudulent emails about stimulus payments under the CARES Act. It's important to know that the IRS will not call, email or text an individual to verify financial, banking, or personal information.
- The official IRS website is www.IRS.gov; please be aware that there are fake websites attempting to obtain personal and/or banking information. These calls, emails, and texts target individuals by offering assistance to a taxpayer with obtaining a tax refund or stimulus payment faster; the taxpayer is asked to verify personal and/or banking information. Please DO NOT click on internet links or open attachments in suspicious-looking emails.
- For more information, please see https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/coronavirus.shtml
Maintaining F-1 status
You are still maintaining F-1 status, whether you are in the U.S. or not, as long as you follow the F-1 visa regulations and continue to participate in all of your classes, regardless of whether they are hybrid, online, or in-person.
• You need to send us updated mailing addresses in order to maintain status. Per the regulations, you need to update your address with us anytime you move. Please update your address in Self-Service. Please note that current students should update the "Exempt" address category in Self-Service for off-campus addresses within the U.S. Students who have graduated should update the "Home" address category in Self-Service.
• Let us know if you will reach the end of your grace period (60 days beyond graduation or OPT) and cannot leave the U.S. due to border closures, lack of flights, etc. While we cannot extend your program, we need to document the reason in SEVIS with the hopes of avoiding negative consequences in the future. You could also consider applying for a Change of Status to a B2 Visitor visa. Your application must be received before your grace period ends and you can find information on how to apply here: https://www.uscis.gov/visit-united-states/change-my-nonimmigrant-status
• Electronic signatures by school officials have been approved by all pertinent government organizations (SEVP, USCIS, CBPT) and will be valid until the student needs a new I-20 or a new travel signature. Therefore, we are now issuing I-20s with digital signatures and sending them via Box. You will get an email notification with a link to the file in Box. Please let us know if you do not have the ability to print it and be aware that electronic signatures by students are not accepted - you still need to sign your I-20 in ink.
• Students on OPT are allowed to work remotely, even from outside the U.S., during COVID-19 crisis
U.S. Embassies or Consulates have stopped processing any non-emergency (i.e. COVID-19-related) visas and a have slowly issued information about when they will resume visa processing.
For those of you who are still in the U.S. and have a visa that is either already expired or that will expire before the fall semester begins in August:
- Consider this fact if you may leave the U.S.
- Remember that, as long as you follow all of the F-1 visa regulations and have a valid I-20, you are able to stay in the U.S. and maintain your F-1 student status with an expired visa.
For those of you who are already outside of the U.S. with an expired or expiring visa:
- We have raised this concern to the Earlham cabinet and we will be in touch with any news from them or from the U.S. Department of State.
- We assume that there will be a flood of requests once the decision is announced to start processing visa applications again, so we recommend that you prepare your documents now and periodically check the website of the consulate or embassy where you apply for your visa so that you may submit your visa renewal application as soon as possible.
- Please also carefully read any notifications they have posted about the process of applying for visas, as it is possible that they may make changes or accommodations due to the circumstances.
- On April 22nd, Trump signed an executive order regarding immigration. Read the details here. Currently, the order does NOT affect F-1 students
- Trump has banned all passenger flights on Chinese airlines, both to and from the U.S., effective June 16th. However, this appears to be a stand-off of sorts with the Chinese government, and there are hints that it could change.
- On April 24, 2020, Trump signed an executive order barring the entry of individuals who had been in several countries including the UK and Schengen area within the 14 days prior to their attempt to enter the U.S. There are rumors that the Department of State is trying to ease these restrictions, but we have not had confirmation of this definitively yet.
Travel Restriction Updates
Living on campus
For those of you who will remain on campus for the rest of the semester, keep in mind of the following:
- Indiana is in phase 4.5 of the reopening plan until at least July 17th. See what that means here
- However, Earlham still requires social distancing and mask-wearing, encourages students to continue these practices off-campus as well, and asks students to be judicious in any decisions about leaving campus.
- With the reopening of campus in fall semester 2020, masks are going to be required on campus at all times except when in your own residence hall room or apartment or when eating in the dining hall. Students are expected to supply their own masks, and reusable/washable cloth masks are best.
Resources for housing in Richmond, IN
- Facebook group in which community members post available rentals
- Google Sheet in which Earlham community members are offering housing, food, transportation and other types of aid - in Richmond and throughout the U.S.
- Search "rentals 47374" to find a list of rental agencies in town
- You can register for the Earlham Miscellaneous email list at https://lists.earlham.edu/mailman/listinfo/earlham_miscel. This list is used for everything from selling items to requesting/advertising rooms for rent, political discussions, etc.
- Google Sheet in which Earlham community members are offering housing, food, transportation and other types of aid - in Richmond and throughout the U.S. If the link doesn't pop up for you right away, try reloading the page a couple of times and it should come.
- Earlham Mutual Aid - a resource created by Earlham community members
Contacting International Student Advisers