COVID-19 Update from Esther D. Brimmer, NAFSA CEO & Executive Director
Recorded March 12, 2020
Following the release of this video the U.S. travel ban was extended to include the United Kingdom and Ireland.

NAFSA has assembled these resource links to help you navigate issues arising from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China." According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans."

The respiratory disease caused by the virus is designated as COVID-19. The virus itself has been named SARS-CoV-2.

ICE and SEVP

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) COVID-19 guidance and FAQs for F-1 and M-1 schools.

DOS EVP

Department of State COVID-19 guidance and FAQs for J-1 Exchange Visitor Program sponsors and participants.

U.S. Visas and Entry

NAFSA is actively tracking the U.S. visa and entry restrictions related to COVID-19.

Latest Updates

  • NAFSA Writes to DHS and DOS on COVID-19 Regulatory Matters. (April 8, 2020) NAFSA sent a letter to the Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS), NAFSA asking the agencies to continue developing creative flexibilities and to work collaboratively during and after the COVID-19 crisis to ensure efficient visa and immigration processing and the smooth entry this fall of returning and newly-arriving international students and scholars.
  • DOS EVP Updates FAQs with Questions Arising From Automatic 60-day Extensions. (April 7, 2020) The DOS Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) updated its set of Frequently Asked Questions to clarify continued obligations for health insurance and program participation during the automatic 60-day J-1 program extension it implemented on April 2, 2020.
  • SEVP Clarifies Telework OK to Continue On-Campus Positions. (April 6, 2020) The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated its COVID-19 FAQs to clarify that: "If the current on-campus employment opportunity has transitioned to remote work or the employment can be done through remote means, students may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely. Schools should be able to explain how the students are providing services associated with the employment while not at the location of the employer."
  • USPS COVID-19-Related International Service Interruptions. (April 6, 2020) As of April 3, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting any items destined for 22 countries that are experiencing COVID-19-related service disruptions, unless the item is being sent through the Global Express Guaranteed (GXG) service. "As of April 3, 2020, we cannot accept at any Post Office™ facility any items, except GXG, destined for the affected countries listed below. Please do not attempt to send an item addressed to any of these countries. If you do, the item will be returned to you."
  • Questions and Answers Related to Temporary Policies for Form I-9 and E-Verify. (April 3, 2020) A USCIS Q and A summarizes the various accommodations it has made for I-9 and E-Verify compliance in the context of COVID-19.
  • DOS Implements Automatic J-1 Program Extensions for Some in Response to COVID-19. (April 2, 2020)
    ECA emailed exchange visitor program sponsors to inform them that DOS "will now push a two-month extension to program end dates in SEVIS on active records with a program end date between April 1 – May 31, 2020 in order to provide exchange visitors the opportunity to complete either their educational or training programs, or continue to finalize travel plans to return home."

Recent Updates

View All Previous Updates
NAFSA Statements and Resources

NAFSA Statements

  • NAFSA Writes to DHS and DOS on COVID-19 Regulatory Matters. (April 8, 2020) NAFSA sent a letter to the Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS), NAFSA asking the agencies to continue developing creative flexibilities and to work collaboratively during and after the COVID-19 crisis to ensure efficient visa and immigration processing and the smooth entry this fall of returning and newly-arriving international students and scholars.
  • NAFSA Writes to Congressional Leadership on Economic Stimulus and COVID-19. On March 20, 2020 NAFSA sent letters to U.S. House and Senate leadership requesting as part of any federal stimulus or relief measures considered by Congress support for international education programs and activities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (March 20, 2020)
  • March 16, 2020 NAFSA Letter to DHS. In a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Esther Brimmer requested DHS exercise its discretion to allow for flexibility in adjudication of benefit requests and status determinations for international students and scholars who are impacted by COVID-19 and the measures institutions of higher education are taking in response to it. (March 16, 2020)
  • NAFSA Signs on to ACE Higher Education Association Letter to DOS and DHS on COVID-19. (March 16, 2020)
  • NAFSA Special Update on COVID-19, by Dr. Esther Brimmer, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO (Video - March 12, 2020)
  • SEVP Responds to NAFSA Inquiry, OKs Temporary Online Coursework Taken Abroad Under School's COVID-19 Policy (March 12, 2020)
  • NAFSA Advocates for Use of Online Study in Context of COVID-19. On March 5, 2020, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Esther Brimmer contacted SEVP leadership and Bureau of Educational and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) leadership about the COVID-19 contingency planning that institutions have been doing. She asked SEVP and ECA to recognize the recent guidance from the Department of Education (Guidance for interruptions of study related to Coronavirus (COVID-19)) and take a similar proactive approach by issuing guidance to the field on temporary closures and by modifying and adapting some current restrictions. She specifically requested that they enable schools facing temporary closure to use online and distance education delivery strategies to continue providing instruction without compromising school certification or students' and exchange visitors' SEVIS status or immigration status. She made several more detailed suggestions about this and also asked the agencies to consider every other possible measure within their authority to ameliorate potential problems for students and exchange visitors and their institutions. Both agencies responded the following day. SEVP stated that they anticipate SEVP guidance to be released shortly, which will be largely based on the Department of Education guidance (Note: SEVP issued guidance on March 9, 2020). ECA stated that they are closely monitoring the situation and will continue to provide guidance informed by common sense to mitigate potential adverse consequences (Note: EVP issued guidance on March 9, 2020).
  • Message from NAFSA President Ravi Shankar on the Coronavirus (March 3, 2020)
  • NAFSA 2020 Conference Corona Virus Update
  • NAFSA Statement (January 31, 2019): Coronavirus Travel Ban Impacts International Education
  • NAFSA has asked the Department of State to exercise favorable discretion and to give all due consideration to requests to assist affected J-1 students and scholars.

NAFSA Crisis Management and Other Resources

Additional Resources

Government Links and Advisories

Quick-Reference Agency Guidance

SEVP Guidance DOS ECA Guidance

Department of State (DOS)

  • DOS EVP Updates FAQs with Questions Arising From Automatic 60-day Extensions. (April 7, 2020) The DOS Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) updated its set of Frequently Asked Questions to clarify continued obligations for health insurance and program participation during the automatic 60-day J-1 program extension it implemented on April 2, 2020.
  • DOS Implements Automatic J-1 Program Extensions for Some in Response to COVID-19. (April 2, 2020) ECA emailed exchange visitor program sponsors to inform them that DOS "will now push a two-month extension to program end dates in SEVIS on active records with a program end date between April 1 – May 31, 2020 in order to provide exchange visitors the opportunity to complete either their educational or training programs, or continue to finalize travel plans to return home."
  • March 27, 2020 EVP Sponsor Call Questions and Answers. The Department of State Exchange Visitor Program questions and answers arising out of their March 27, 2020 teleconference with Exchange Visitor Program sponsors.
  • Update on Visas for Medical Professionals. On Thursday, March 26, 2020, the travel.state.gov website posted: "We encourage medical professionals with an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019), particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to review the website of their nearest embassy or consulate for procedures to request a visa appointment..." The Washington Post reported that on Friday, the Department of State clarified that they were "only processing people already accepted for jobs or studies in the United States." The Post quoted Ian Brownlee, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, as saying that "we are not going out looking for others. These are people who were ready to come in." DOS later tweeted this clarification: "Please note that you must have an approved U.S. non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor program (DS-2019) to apply."
  • DOS ECA Exchange Visitor Program Resources on COVID-19. This Department of State Bureau of Educational Exchange Exchange Visitor Program page links to the latest guidance for Exchange Visitor Program sponsors and participants.
  • DOS Raises Global Health Advisory to Level 4 - Do Not Travel. The Department of State (DOS) advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.
  • General suspension of visa services announcement from travel.state.gov. "In response to worldwide challenges related to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of State is suspending routine visa services in most countries worldwide." (March 18, 2020)
  • ECA Asks Academic and Government Programs to Follow Guidance Governing ECA-Funded Programs (March 13, 2020)
  • DOS ECA Guidance on Exchange Visitor Program Online Class and Telework Reponses to COVID-19 - "We anticipate a range of changes to program circumstances that will affect exchange visitors. ECA asks sponsors and exchange visitors to consult with host organizations to seek alternative ways to maintain program objectives and/or employment, such as telework, online classes, or other arrangements, while preventing unnecessary exposure to the disease and its spread. A temporary modification along these lines for exigent circumstances beyond a sponsor’s or host entity’s control does not undermine a program’s consistency with the regulations." (March 11, 2020)
  • Reduction of Consular Services in Italy. The U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Italy website reported on March 10, 2020: "Due to reduced staffing that went into effect March 11, only emergency American Citizen Services and emergency visa services are available at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and Consulates General Milan, Naples, and Florence." (March 10, 2020)
  • COVID-19 Country Information from DOS Visa Office. The Department of State provides links to country-specific information related to COVID-19. (March 9, 2020)
  • U.S. Visa Services in China Remain Suspended, except for emergency visa appointments for individuals who might qualify for an exemption under Proclamation 9984 (e.g., diplomats, etc.). NAFSA confirmed with the Department of State that the February 8, 2020 Mission China announcement remains in effect. (March 5, 2020)
  • U.S. Department of State China Travel Advisory: "Level 4: Do Not Travel" (February 2, 2020)
  • Mission China Regular Visa Services Temporarily Suspended (February 8, 2020). "As of February 10, 2020, regular visa services at the U.S Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulates General in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang are suspended. Due to the ongoing situation relating to the novel coronavirus, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates have very limited staffing and may be unable to respond to requests regarding regular visa services."

Department of Homeland Security

  • SEVP Clarifies Telework OK to Continue On-Campus Positions. (April 6, 2020) The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated its COVID-19 FAQs to clarify that: "If the current on-campus employment opportunity has transitioned to remote work or the employment can be done through remote means, students may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely. Schools should be able to explain how the students are providing services associated with the employment while not at the location of the employer."
  • Questions and Answers Related to Temporary Policies for Form I-9 and E-Verify. (April 3, 2020) A USCIS Q and A summarizes the various accommodations it has made for I-9 and E-Verify compliance in the context of COVID-19.
  • USCIS Announces 60-Day Grace Period to Respond to RFEs and NOIDs. In response to COVID-19, USCIS announced that: "For applicants and petitioners who receive an RFE or NOID dated between March 1 and May 1, 2020, any responses submitted within 60 calendar days after the response deadline set forth in the RFE or NOID will be considered by USCIS before any action is taken." (March 27, 2020)
  • SEVP Updates FAQ on Sending Electronic Versions of Form I-20 to Students. On March 26, 2020, SEVP updated its COVID-19 FAQ document to allow DSOs to send scanned versions of physically signed Forms I-20 or electronically signed Forms I-20 to student email addresses listed in SEVIS. The FAQ describes acceptable methods.
  • SEVP Clarifies That "Five Month Rule" Not Applicable While COVID-19 Measures In Place. In its Frequently Asked Questions for SEVP Stakeholders about COVID-19, SEVP clarifies: "Under current conditions, if an active F student leaves the United States to complete the spring term online, their SEVIS record should remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status." The FAQ is among the materials available on ICE’s master page of COVID-19 guidance, under “Nonimmigrant Students and SEVP-Certified Schools," which also includes links to SEVP's recent Broadcast Messages and other guidance.
  • USCIS Announces Temporary Suspension  of Premium Processing for All I-129 and I-140 Petitions. USCIS has temporarily suspended premium processing service for all Form I-129 (including cap-exempt petitions) and I-140 petitions until further notice due to COVID-19. (March 20, 2020)
  • USCIS Announces Flexibility in Submitting Required Signatures During COVID-19 National Emergency. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 National Emergency, USCIS will accept all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures for submissions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond.
  • DHS announces some limited flexibility in requirements related to Form I-9 compliance. ICE announced that it will "exercise discretion to defer the physical presence requirements associated with Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9)," but only for "employers and workplaces that are operating remotely." ICE notes that "If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9." (March 20, 2020)
  • ICE Guidance on COVID-19. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's compendium of links to the agency's COVID-19 guidance, including SEVP's guidance on nonimmigrant students.
  • USCIS Suspends In-Person Services at Local Field Offices and Application Support Centers. On March 19, 2020, USCIS announced: "As of March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1 to help slow the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public." Most applications and petitions filed by schools, students, and scholars are filed at USCIS Service Centers and Lockboxes, not in person at local Field Offices. However, actions that are impacted by the suspension of in-person services are biometric appointments at USCIS Application Support Centers (required, e.g., for change of status, F-1 and M-1 reinstatement, and other benefits requests filed on Form I-539), and adjustment of status interviews. On March 30, 2020, USCIS clarified that it would continue to process Forms I-765 extension requests, by reusing previously submitted biometrics.
  • Coronavirus and Public Charge Rules. On March 14, 2020, USCIS placed a Coronavirus alert on its public charge page, that begins: "USCIS encourages all those, including aliens, with symptoms that resemble Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services. Such treatment or preventive services will not negatively affect any alien as part of a future Public Charge analysis." The alert clarifies: "To address the possibility that some aliens impacted by COVID-19 may be hesitant to seek necessary medical treatment or preventive services, USCIS will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination, nor as related to the public benefit condition applicable to certain nonimmigrants seeking an extension of stay or change of status, even if such treatment is provided or paid for by one or more public benefits, as defined in the rule (e.g. federally funded Medicaid)." Read the entire alert for additional details.
  • Follow-Up COVID-19: Guidance for SEVP Stakeholders (March 13, 2020). SEVP published a follow-up to its March 9, 2020 guidance, identifying three common scenarios related to emergency procedures implemented by SEVP-certified schools: 1) A school completely closes and does not have online courses or other alternate learning procedures; 2) A school temporarily stops in-person classes but implements online or other alternate learning procedures and the nonimmigrant student remains in the United States; and 3) A school temporarily stops in-person classes but implements online or other alternate learning procedures and the nonimmigrant student departs the United States.
  • SEVP Guidance on COVID-19 Impact on School Operations. ICE's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) sent Broadcast Message 2003-01 to SEVIS users, providing guidance on potential procedural adaptations for F and M nonimmigrant students, including adaptations to online coursework policies. (March 9, 2020)
  • DHS Office of Academic Engagement Campus Resilience Program Epidemic/Pandemic Resource Library
  • DHS Issues Supplemental Instructions For Inbound Flights With Individuals Who Have Been In China (February 2, 2020)
  • USCIS Response to the 2019 Coronavirus (February 5, 2019). This page also links to USCIS's standard Special Situations webpage (which is non-coronavirus-specific, last updated 10/25/2019).

Department of Labor

Department of Education

World Health Organization (WHO)

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

White House

Department of Health and Human Services