International Student Programs

International Services & Programs office is monitoring the rapidly changing information about the current coronavirus outbreak.

What F-1 students need to know right now?

Please know that ISP is working with SEVIS to ensure you will keep your F-1 status through these uncertain times.

  • The U.S. Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regulations confirmed that F-1 students can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country.
  • You may choose to remain in the U.S. or outside the U.S. on remote coursework if provided by the school.
  • ISP will continue to maintain your F-1 record as long as you remain enrolled full-time (or are authorized for a reduced course load).

 

We encourage you to use the information and resources on this webpage. We will post updates here as soon as more information is available.

International Student COVID-19 Resources and Information

Contacting ISP and Accessing Services

We will continue providing essential services and information to F-1 students. Below are the services provided while our office is working remotely.

  • All workshops: (OPT, Reinstatement, Change of Status, etc.) will be presented as webinars and required documents will be submitted online via student’s checklist.
    • Optional Practice Training (OPT): students can still apply for OPT, however, OPT face-to-face workshops are cancelled and will be provided virtually as webinars. Please refer to the OPT link and follow the instructions.
    • Change of Status (COS): Students can still apply for COS; however, COS face-to-face workshops are cancelled and will be provided virtually as webinars. Please refer to the COS link and follow the instructions.
  • Processing new applications: ISP is reviewing all new applications and processing initial I-20s. Students should continue uploading the required I-20 documents in the F-1 student checklist.
  • Advising: We will work with students electronically using webcams and webinars. Information will be provided via email and published on the ISP website. You can access your assigned international advisor’s email here.
  • Distribution of Original Documents/Mail: Because HCC has restricted student and employee presence on campus, ISP is limited in our ability to distribute original documents to the students. However, per SEVP guidance, we have started distributing electronically signed SEVIS Form I-20s in secured .pdf format via email.
  • For our F-1 current students: ISP will continue to provide services as outlined on the ISP website.

 

For further guidance, please contact your assigned DSO/International Student Advisor and International Academic Advisors.

 

Financial Assistance for International Students

F-1 students can apply for the SWOOP to the Rescue Emergency Fund. It is an online application for each student to complete. You don’t need FAFSA or TAFSA on file to complete the application. After submission, a team member from financial aid will follow-up with you on your submission. Here is the link to learn more about the SWOOP fund and how to apply:  https://www.hccs.edu/applying-and-paying/financial-aid/emergency-help/

 

Pass/Fail Grade Option Impact for International Students

HCC has temporarily changed its grading policy for the Spring Semester to include a Pass/Fail grade option. You can also still choose to receive a Traditional Letter Grade for your Spring courses.

If you elect to use the Pass/Fail option, the following will apply:

Pass Grade Option

Once final grades are posted, you may request a grade of “Pass” if you earned a passing grade per the defined passing grade in the course syllabus. This option has both positive and negative consequences.

  • Will count for credit earned.
  • Will count toward HCC academic progress with exceptions to some specific programs (e.g. health sciences, public safety, etc.).
  • Will count toward HCC degree completion with exceptions to some specific programs (e.g. health sciences, public safety, etc.).
  • Will appear on transcript as (P).
  • Will fulfill a prerequisite course requirement for a future HCC course.
  • Will fulfill financial aid, veteran benefits and SEVIS requirements.

 

Consult your faculty or advisor to help you carefully consider whether this option is in your best interest. This grade will not affect your F-1 student status as it will count for credit earned.

Fail Grade Option (NRC – no credit)

  • Will not impact F-1 status
  • Will not impact GPA
  • Will appear on transcript as (NCR)
  • Will not be considered as W (withdrawal)
  • Will not fulfill a pre-requisite requirement for a future HCC course.
  • Will not count toward HCC degree completion
  • Will not count toward HCC academic progress.

Do not to drop/withdraw (W) your Spring 2020 classes—you have the option to change F grades to NCR and still remain in status!

Note: Students with W and FX grades will not be able to change those grades to Fail option (NCR)

 

International Travel

Will I be able to return to the United States if I am continuing my studies outside of the country as a result of COVID-19?

Students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission into the United States. However, because of the changing array of travel restrictions, nonimmigrant students should refer to their local embassy’s website through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance. Also, DHS and CDC websites both provide information about current travel restrictions to the United States. https://www.ice.gov/covid19#wcm-survey-target-id

 

Will I be able to come back to the U.S. if I travel for Spring break, or later this summer?

As of today, it is impossible to predict if any further restrictions will be put in place by the U.S. You will need to check the travel and visa restrictions that may be in place at the time you are planning to travel as the situation is changing daily. 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. ISP is carefully monitoring updates from the CDC, SEVP, USCIS, and the US Department of State, as well as updates from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the leading professional organization dedicated to international education and exchange, which is providing comprehensive and up-to-date information relevant to travel, consulates, and visas.

Check your SEVIS I-20 for a valid travel endorsement signature.

If you choose to return to your home country, please contact your DSO beforehand to discuss your options.

 

Can/should I travel internationally? How will this impact status, courses and graduation?

We understand that there may be several reasons you or your family would want you to be home or you need to travel internationally in a time of pandemic response. However, please keep in mind the following considerations:

  • Travel Guidance:Please keep in mind the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) general guidance regarding domestic and international travel.  
  • Return to the U.S.:Please understand that there are currently indefinite entry restrictions for noncitizens traveling to the U.S You need to check the travel and visa restrictions that may be in place at the time you are planning to travel as the situation is changing daily. 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. If you travel internationally, understand that there may be some uncertainty in terms of how quickly you would be able to return to the U.S.
  • Graduating in May 2020 or Summer 2020:If you plan to complete your degree in May 2020 or Summer 2020 and wish to apply for OPT, you must physically be in the U.S. at the time of application.  Please consult with your assigned DSO/International Student Advisor about travel during the OPT process for more information.
  • Visa status/“5-month rule”:The “5-month rule” refers to the interruption of a student’s F-1 status due to the student being outside of the United States for more than five months. However, according to the Nonimmigrant Students section of the ICE COVID FAQ (ICE is the agency which manages SEVIS), “nonimmigrant students can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19.” In addition, “students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission into the United States.” The ICE COVID-19 FAQ also states that updated guidance will be provided “as additional information concerning the scope and length of this situation becomes clearer.” If you are currently abroad or go abroad, we recommend you consult your ISP advisor prior to being abroad for more than 5 months so we can give you the most up to date information at that time.

 

Visa

My visa is expiring, and I am unable to travel to my home country at this time to renew it. What should I do?

Students may stay in the United States on an expired F-1 as long as they maintain their F-1 status by being in possession of a valid I-20 and an I-94 Arrival/Departure record, and by meeting normal enrollment requirements.

 

Will the 5-month rule apply to my visa if I go back home and stay away from HCC until the Fall semester?

The “5-month rule” refers to the interruption of a student’s F-1 status due to the student being outside of the United States for more than five months. 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 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 F-1 status.

However, according to the Nonimmigrant Students section of the ICE COVID FAQ (ICE is the agency which manages SEVIS), “nonimmigrant students can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19.” In addition, “students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission into the United States.” The ICE COVID-19 FAQ also states that updated guidance will be provided “as additional information concerning the scope and length of this situation becomes clearer.” If you are currently abroad or go abroad, we recommend you consult your ISP advisor prior to being abroad for more than 5 months so we can give you the most up-to-date information at that time.

 

My visa is expiring/has expired. If I leave the U.S. now, but must come back after the expiration date of my visa, will I need a new visa, or can I re-enter on an expired visa?

If you leave the U.S. and your visa will have expired by the date you wish to re-enter the U.S., then you will need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.).  

You need to check the travel and visa restrictions that may be in place at the time you are planning to travel as the situation is changing daily. 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. OISS is carefully monitoring updates from the CDC, SEVP, USCIS, and the US Department of State, as well as updates from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the leading professional organization dedicated to international education and exchange, which is providing comprehensive and up-to-date information relevant to travel, consulates, and visas.

 

Immigration Status and Online Classes

How will the transition of classes to online instruction affect my immigration status?

HCC will assist all our F-1 students with switching to online classes, based on guidance from the Department of Homeland Security. F-1 students will be allowed to continue this semester’s courses online without jeopardizing their immigration status. F-1 students will need to continue being enrolled full-time and make normal progress toward their degree.

 

Can I participate in online classes from outside the U.S. and still maintain their F-1 status?

Yes, current F-1 students can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19. This initial guidance is not intended for new or initial-status students who have not yet entered the U.S. SEVP will provide updated guidance as additional information concerning the scope and length of this situation becomes clearer.  For more information, visit https://www.ice.gov/covid19#wcm-survey-target-id

 

Defer Attendance

I am a prospective student. I received my I-20 for the summer 2020 semester, but I am concerned to travel amidst the current COVID 19 situation. Can I defer my I-20 to the Fall 2020 semester instead?

ISP is waiving the defer application fee for all students with issued I-20s for the summer semester who wish to change their initial attendance at HCC for Fall 2020. For more information, visit Defer Attendance Application.

 

Insurance and Medical Resources

Can F1 students who paid for their insurance use their coverage in the Covid-19 period?

  • Yes, your insurance is active. If you have any kind of illness, please call your doctor immediately.

 

Are there any new updates for those insured through Aetna under COVID-19 period?

  • No Co-pay for COVID-19 | Aetna will waive co-pays for all diagnostic testing related to COVID-19. This policy will cover the test kit for patients who meet CDC guidelines for testing, which can be done in any approved laboratory location. Aetna will waive the member costs associated with diagnostic testing at any authorized location. In addition, CVS Health announced that it is waiving cost-sharing and co-pays for in-patient hospital admissions related to COVID-19 for Aetna’s commercially insured members. This policy is effective immediately for any such admission through June 1, 2020.
  • No Cost Telemedicine | Aetna members should use telemedicine as their first line of defense in order to limit potential exposure in physician offices. Cost-sharing will be waived for all video visits through the CVS MinuteClinic app, Aetna-covered Teladoc offerings and in-network providers delivering synchronous virtual care (live video-conferencing).
  • CVS Pharmacy will waive charges for home delivery of prescription medications. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraging people at higher risk for COVID-19 complications to stay at home as much as possible, this is a convenient option to avoid coming to the pharmacy for refills or new prescriptions.

 

Visit the website for Aetna’s COVID-19 Updates: https://hccs.myahpcare.com//covid19updates