NAFSA has assembled these resource links to help you navigate issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
ICE and SEVP
Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) COVID-19 guidance and FAQs for F-1 and M-1 schools.
Department of State COVID-19 guidance and FAQs for J-1 Exchange Visitor Program sponsors and participants.
Latest COVID-19-Related Updates
Looking for non-COVID-19-related immigration news? Go to the Adviser's Manual 360 Home Page.
- COVID Viral Tests Required for Boarding All U.S.-Bound Flights Effective January 26, 2021. (January 13, 2021)
- Trump Extends H, J, L Entry Ban Until March 31, 2021. On December 31, 2020, President Trump extended Proclamation 10052 until March 31, 2021. It had been set to expire on December 31, 2020. Proclamation 10052 suspends entry of certain H, J, and L nonimmigrants because of the Trump administration's assertion that their entry "presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak."
- Expansion of Renewal Visa Interview Waivers. On December 29, 2020, the Department of State extended until March 31, 2021 the temporary expansion of statutory and regulatory provisions that allow consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying to renew a visa in the same nonimmigrant visa classification and category if not more 24 months have passed since the prior visa expired. See NAFSA's page for additional details.
- USCIS Provides Application Support Center Appointment Updates. (December 29, 2020)
- Significant USCIS Lockbox Delays in Processing of Receipt Notices. (December 15, 2020) A December 15, 2020 Stakeholder Message from the USCIS Public Engagement Division confirms the many reports of significant delays in processing of receipt notices for applications for benefits such as OPT that are filed at USCIS lockboxes.
- NAFSA and Others Ask SEVP to Issue Flexible Guidance for Spring 2021. (December 4, 2020) NAFSA signed on to a multi-association letter led by the American Council on Education (ACE), asking SEVP to issue COVID-19 guidance for the Spring 2021 term "as soon as possible," and to provide for "maximum flexibility."
- USCIS Extends I-9 Reverification Date of Limited I-797 EAD Approval Notice Accommodation. (November 23, 2020) USCIS extended the I-9 reverification date to February 21, 2021 in its temporary policy allowing limited use of I-797 EAD Approval Notices. This affects only the required I-9 reverification date. Approval notices must still be dated between December 1, 2019 and August 20, 2020 in order to qualify. I-797 approval notices with notice dates outside this range will not qualify.
- U.S.-Canada and -Mexico Land Border Restrictions Extended. (November 20, 2020) The restrictions that allow entry to the United States through land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S. Mexico borders for "essential travel" only have been extended through December 21, 2020.
- USCIS Extends COVID-19 RFE Response Flexibility until January 1, 2021. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) extended until January 1, 2021 the COVID-19 flexibilities it established for responses to Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and other similar response-based notices and requests, and filing date requirements for filing Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
- DHS and TSA Terminate Designated COVID-19 Airport Restrictions Effective September 14. (September 11, 2020) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will publish notices in the Federal Register that terminate COVID-19 designated arrival airport restrictions, effective September 14, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The restrictions had required all flights to land at one of 15 designated U.S. airports if they carried persons who within the last 14 days traveled from, or were otherwise present within, one of the countries designated in the five country-specific Presidential Proclamation coronavirus bans. The country-specific coronavirus proclamations themselves remain in place, however, subject to specific exemptions.
- USCIS Allows Limited Temporary Use of I-797 Approval Notices Due to COVID-19 EAD Production Delays. (August 19, 2020) USCIS posted a notice on its I-9 Central site, authorizing the temporary use of an I-797 EAD approval notice (not a receipt notice) as a List C # 7 document that establishes employment authorization (but not identity) for I-9 purposes. To qualify, the I-797 approval notice must have "a Notice date on or after December 1, 2019 through and including August 20, 2020." I-797 approval notices with Notice dates outside this range will not qualify. Employers who use this flexibility will have to reverify the employee on Form I-9 with the actual EAD (or suitable other combination of documents) by December 1, 2020.
- CBP Announces Extension of Canada and Mexico Land Entry Restrictions. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will publish notices in the Federal Register to extend through September 21, 2020 the COVID-19 restrictions that allow entry to the United States through land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S. Mexico borders for "essential travel" only.
- Resource on Fall 2020 COVID-19 Guidance. (August 18, 2020) NAFSA and the Student Subcommittee of NAFSA's Committee on International Student and Scholar Regulatory Practice (ISS RP) have developed a scenario-based resource on what's clear and unclear about SEVP's COVID-19 guidance and "clarifying" FAQs.
- Update on Nonimmigrant Visas in India. (August 18, 2020).
- EVP Adds Two New FAQs. (August 17, 2020) The Exchange Visitor Program added two new FAQs to its Future Programs FAQ. Both deal with case-by-case eligibility for national interest waivers under presidential COVID-19 proclamations.
- NAFSA Signs on to Letter to DHS and DOS in Support of Hybrid Programs. (August 12, 2020) On August 12, 2020 NAFSA co-signed a letter coordinated by the American Council on Education (ACE) and also co-signed by the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) to urge the Departments of State and Homeland Security to work together to ensure new and returning international students enrolled in hybrid academic programs at U.S. institutions are able to have their visas processed and enter the country.
- National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations 10014 & 10052. (August 12, 2020). A Department of State posting provides guidance on national interest waivers under Coronaviarus Proclamations 10014 (immigrant visas) and 10052 (H-1B, certain J-1, and L-1 visas).
- A July 24, 2020 Information Sheet from CBP's Carrier Liaison Program contains a good summary of the national interest exception for F-1 and M-1 students and their F-2 and M-2 dependents who are traveling to the United States from the Schengen area, UK, or Ireland. It also contains a list of the 15 U.S. airports authorized to receive flights from those countries. This 2-page PDF from CBP would be a good thing for students to carry with them as they board flights and present themselves at ports of entry upon arrival. See NAFSA's page for more background on the geographic COVID-19 proclamations.
- Nationwide Injunctions on Public Charge Rules During COVID-19 Emergency. (July 29, 2020) The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued two nationwide preliminary injunctions that block implementation and enforcement of the current USCIS and DOS public charge rules and policies during the declared national emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. USCIS says applications or petitions are postmarked on or after July 29, 2020, should not include the Form I-944 or provide information about the receipt of public benefits on Form I-485, Form I-129, or Form I-539/I-539A.
- Exchange Visitor Program Additional COVID-19 Fall 2020 Guidance
- August 4, 2020, two new COVID-19 FAQs. The first informs sponsors that EVP will not waive the requirement to submit a timely redesignation application with the required fee. The second states that EVP will look favorably upon requests from programs to have fewer than five actively participating exchange visitors during the annual reporting cycle.
- July 31, 2020 FAQ update. EVP continues to allow remote Academic Training for continuing J-1 college and university students
- July 29, 2020 letter to academic program sponsors
- SEVP Post-Rescission "Status Quo" Guidance
- August 7, 2020 broadcast message. New Process: Reporting School Procedural Adaptations to SEVP. SEVP changed the email address for submitting school COVID-19 operational plans and updates, as well as several other particulars regarding the process.
- August 7, 2020 FAQs. SEVP posted a revised set of COVID-19 FAQs dated August 7, 2020 at www.ice.gov/doclib/coronavirus/covid19faq.pdf, which appears to merge the July 24 "Clarifying Questions" and the July 15 FAQs into a single document, revising some of the FAQs "to reflect the fall 2020 semester," and to archive and rescind certain FAQs that were "specific to the spring or summer semester."
- SEVP Begins to Clarify its Application of March Guidance to Fall 2020. On July 24, 2020, SEVP posted a broadcast message to clarify certain aspects of applying the March 2020 "status quo" guidance in the context of the Fall 2020 term.
- Multi-State Plaintiffs Tell Court DHS Must Provide Revised Fall 2020 Guidance. (July 24, 2020) A status report filed by the plaintiffs in the multi-state suit led by Massachusetts informed the court that further guidance from DHS is needed to "to provide clarity and additional details—to our schools and students, as well as to consular officials and CPB officers at the country’s borders—as to how the flexibility provided by the March policy will be applicable to new and returning students."
- SEVP COVID-19 Guidance Sources contains links to the SEVP directives from March 9 and 13, 2020 and the FAQs associated with those directives republished on July 15, 2020. Together these represent the "status quo" guidance to which DHS has returned pursuant to an agreement between DHS and the plaintiffs in the Harvard/M.I.T. case.
- NAFSA Town Hall: SEVP Fall 2020 Guidance. On Thursday, July 16, 2020, NAFSA hosted a virtual Town Hall that featured a discussion of the status of SEVP guidance for Fall 2020 following the July 14, 2020 decision to rescind SEVP's July 6 directive and July 7 FAQs. It reviewed litigation, advocacy efforts, and some key aspects of the guidance to consider as you plan for Fall 2020. Two Directors of ISSS offices also shared their ideas and issues as they plan for the upcoming semester.
- BREAKING NEWS. 3:09 pm July 14, 2020. Fall 2020 SEVP Guidance Rescinded. In a Tuesday, July 14, 2020 hearing in the Harvard/M.I.T. case, the judge said that "the government has agreed to rescind the July 6 2020 policy directive and the frequently asked questions, the FAQs, that were released the next day on July 7. They also agreed to rescind any implementation of the directive. They will return to the status quo as established by the March 9, 2020 policy directive and the addendum issued on March 13, 2020... that moots the TRO/preliminary injunction motion and will preclude the enforcement of the July 2020 policy directive and frequently asked questions on a nationwide basis."
- Updates on Visa Processing
- On July 14, 2020, DOS announced the beginning of a phased resumption of visa services on a post-by-post basis.
- On July 16, 2020, DOS announced national interest waivers of the Schengen Area, UK, and Ireland COVID-19 proclamations for F and M students and the possibility of waivers for some J exchange visitors.
- Lawsuits Filed Against SEVP Fall 2020 Guidance. On July 13, 2020, 18 more states plus the District of Columbia joined in suits against SEVP's Fall 2020 Guidance. NAFSA's page keeps track of the litigation.
- USCIS Expands 60-Day Grace Period to Respond to RFEs, NOIDs or to File I-290B. (July 1, 2020)
- White House Amends H, J, L Proclamation. (June 29, 2020)
- EVP Issues FAQ on Teaching and Studying for Fall 2020. (June 25, 2020)
- USCIS Describes Budget Woes That May Lead to Furlough of USCIS Staff. (June 25, 2020)
- Presidential Proclamation Suspends Entry of Certain H, J, and L Nonimmigrants Through End of Year. (June 22, 2020)
- EVP Communication to Student Intern Program Sponsors on Special Extensions. (June 22, 2020)
- Canada-Mexico Essential Travel Restrictions Extended. (June 22, 2020)
- OFLC Announces Extension of Issuance of Electronic PERM Labor Certifications Through September 30, 2020. (June 16, 2020)
- Status of Passenger Flights by Chinese Airlines to and from the United States. (June 15, 2020)
- NAFSA Letters to the Agencies. (June 12, 2020)
- June 11, 2020 Updates to Exchange Visitor Program COVID-19 FAQs. (June 11, 2020)
- DOL Issues Round 4 COVID-19 FAQ. (June 3, 2020)