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COVID-19: FAQs for International Students


All non-essential workers are directed to work from home, and everyone is required to maintain a 6-foot distance from others in public. This includes most SUNY Geneseo staff, including the ISSS Office.  We can still be contacted by email and phone, and video chat is available through Skype and Zoom.  

As an international student, can I remain in the U.S. while completing my courses online?  Will this impact my visa? 

SEVP recognizes that the current situation is extremely unusual. SEVP has agreed to temporarily consider online courses toward full-time enrollment for F1 students. Your visa will not be impacted. The ISSS Office will continue to update international students as the situation evolves.

As an international student, if I return to my home country and continue taking my courses online, how will this impact my status? 

The most recent guidance from SEVP indicates that F1 students who return home and continue pursuing their courses online may remain in "Active" status. In the event that this changes, the ISSS Office will notify impacted students and will work diligently to resolve any complications that may arise as a result.

If I return to my home country during this period of "distance learning" will I be able to return in Fall 2020? 

Travel restrictions are changing frequently. At this time, we cannot predict what will happen. Please check your Geneseo email frequently for updates from the ISSS Office.  If you are currently outside the U.S. or plan to travel outside the U.S., we recommend that you continue to monitor travel updates by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

As of March 18, 2020 routine U.S. visa issuance has been suspended worldwide and daily restrictions on travel are being implemented.

Will the five-month rule apply to my visa if I go back home until the Fall semester?

If you are maintaining full-time status until the end of the Spring Semester, then you are entitled to your annual summer vacation. According to the immigration regulations, an F-1 or J-1 student is in status during the annual (or summer) vacation if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term. If you maintain your immigration status, the 5-month rule does not come into effect. Remember that when classes resume in person, you must return to campus to maintain your immigration status.

My visa is expiring, and I am unable to travel to my home country currently. What should I do?

You may stay in the U.S. on an expired F-1 or J-1 visa as long as you maintain your immigration status by being in possession of a valid I-20 or DS-2019 and by meeting normal enrollment requirements. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.)

I am graduating this semester, how can I apply for Optional Practical Training?

The ISSS Office can assist you with preparing your OPT application.  At this time, it appears that USCIS is continuing to process applications, although no official guidance has been issued pertaining to OPT applications.  To begin the application, please visit the ISSS website for details about how to proceed at this time.

Classes have moved online and I have returned home to my home country.  Can I still apply from OPT from outside the U.S.?  Will this affect my application? 

We are still waiting for more guidance about this, but at this time it does appear that USCIS will accept OPT applications from outside the U.S. and leaving the U.S. while your OPT application is pending should not have a negative impact.  The remaining question is the best time to return to the U.S. for your OPT if you have been out of the country.  SEVP has reached out to CBP about this and we hope to have more information soon.

I am on OPT and I have been laid off.  Can I apply for unemployment?

So far, the guidance is very vague.  You may be eligible for unemployment benefits, but at this time we do not recommend that you apply for them.  It has not been specified if accepting unemployment will be considered by USCIS / Dept of State as a public charge.  Until this is clarified, we do not recommend that you accept unemployment.

Does the SUNY UHC International Student Health Insurance plan cover Covid-19 testing and treatment?

Yes.  We have been assured that both testing and treatment are covered by your insurance plan.  For specific information about Covid-19-related plan coverage, please download this UHC Covid-19 Highlight Brochure


Please continue to check SUNY Geneseo's COVID-19 information page for future updates and information related to COVID-19.

Additional Critical Resources for International Students:

Study in the States


Department of State

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Please email if you have additional questions.