This page outlines the impact of COVID-19 & how it affects F-1/J-1 immigration status. SEVP COVID-19 guidance will no longer be in effect starting Fall 2023.
During the COVID-19 emergency, guidance issued by SEVP permitted online enrollment exceeding the standard limitations, as well as other flexibilities. SEVP is expected to rescind these flexibilities for international students effective Fall 2023.
This means online study options for F-1 students will be limited to the options described on Maintaining F-1 Status.
If you have questions after reviewing our information contact us for assistance.
First be sure to consider the late arrival deadline for the semester. For details on that refer to our New Students section.
Please also stay in contact with your academic department and/or admissions team for updates specific to your academic program.
The University at Buffalo is issuing electronic I-20s in accordance with SEVP Guidance. An original I-20 should not be required for your visa interview, at the Port of Entry or for most purposes once you arrive in the U.S. We highly recommend that you print the I-20 when you receive it by email, since not all agencies will allow you to show an electronic I-20 on your phone or computer.
|100 % ONLINE STUDY ACCEPTABLE FOR:||MINIMUM 1 CREDIT P, HY, HE REQUIRED FOR:|
Current UB F-1 students continuing in current program, if they were engaged in full-time study on March 9, 2020
|New F-1 students who intend to enter the US for the 2022-2023 academic year. |
|Current UB F-1 students starting new program at UB, if they were engaged in full-time study on March 9, 2020||F-1 students who began their program online outside the U.S. without F-1 status and who will enter the U.S. as a new F-1 student to continue studies.|
|F-1 students engaged in full-time study on March 9, 2020 who are transferring from another SEVP-certified U.S. school to UB for the 2022-2023 academic year.||F-1 students who entered the U.S. to begin a new program after March 2020 and were not enrolled in F-1 status on March 9, 2020.|
|New international students who intend to remain outside the U.S. for the 2022-2023 academic year. ||Former UB students currently on OPT returning to begin a new degree program (if they were not enrolled on March 9, 2020)|
|F-1 students currently on OPT transferring from another SEVP-certified U.S. college or university to UB (if they were not enrolled on March 9, 2020)|
|Current UB students changing status to F-1 for Fall 2022 and Spring 2023.|
|UB F-1 students who are re-entering the U.S. after a leave of absence or status violation with an “initial” I-20|
Students must review their course instruction modes carefully. The specific UB Instruction Modes that will be considered “on-campus” are:
Department of Homeland Security announced that they will extend the guidance issued in March 2020 into the 2021-2022 & 2022-2023 Academic Year.
The March 2020 guidance applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, and are otherwise complying with the terms of their nonimmigrant status, whether from inside the United States or abroad. This implies that you must have been enrolled on March 9, 2020 to qualify for all online study. We recommend that any student who was NOT enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9 be prepared to enroll in at least 1 in-person course to maintain status while studying inside the U.S.
There are still some situations (transfer students, for example) where we need additional guidance before we can advise on specific student situations.
If you meet the eligibility requirements for all online study (see the chart above), then you are permitted to study entirely online. You must continue to meet the academic requirements while engaging in distance education, and maintain a full time course load to maintain F-1 status.
If you are required to enroll in at least 1 in-person course, but prefer to depart the U.S. and study online from home, you must report your departure to ISS. To do so, log in to UB Global, click F-1 Student Services and complete the Departure from UB eform. Since you will not be complying with the in-person enrollment requirement, ISS is required to terminate your SEVIS record.
On March 13, the U.S. government announced that as long as you maintain full-time enrollment online during the COVID-19 emergency, there will be no negative impact on your immigration status, even if you depart the United States and complete your UB classes via distance education from elsewhere. Again, not all students are eligible to complete their studies without an in-person course, so be sure to check your eligibility by referencing the chart above. This temporary provision remains in effect for the 2022-2023 Academic Year.
The 5-month rule does not apply as long as you maintain full time enrollment. This applies for Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters.
If you will be in the US in F-1 status you must have at least one in-person class on campus. The current guidance does NOT permit F-1 students with initial I-20s to enroll exclusively in online courses. In person courses are coded as In-Person, Hybrid, or Hybrid with In-Person Exam.
Online courses are coded as HyFlex, Online: real-time, Online: real-time and recorded, Online: recorded not real-time.
If you decide to take all online courses from outside the U.S., instead of returning to the U.S. for your studies, please report your plans to ISS so we can update your SEVIS record and I-20.
The Exchange Visitor Program issued information for J-1 students that is available on their website. For Fall 2022 & Spring 2023 ISS recommends new J-1 students to take at least one in-person credit. Continuing students can study online without impacting their J-1 status.
For exchange visitors who are currently in “active” status in SEVIS and are continuing programs that were underway when the pandemic reached the United States, a J-1 exchange visitor’s immigration status is not in jeopardy.
J-1 exchange visitors are eligible to continue their program of study, regardless of the mode of instruction, provided they are continuing to maintain program objectives. This means J-1 exchange visitors can continue to study in the US via all remote classes, in-person coursework, or a combination of both.