COVID-19 Updates & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

International Students and Scholars is committed to supporting you during this COVID-19 pandemic. In observance of California Governor’s “Stay At Home” Executive Order, International Students and Scholars (ISS) is operating remotely and have modified delivery of some services. We are closely monitoring the developments of this pandemic situation and its impact on international students and scholars. This is created to help answer some frequently asked questions and provide additional resources. Please frequently check this ISS COVID-19 FAQ webpage for updates as this global health crisis is rapidly evolving.

ISS Services While Operating Remotely

ISS Advising: International Student Advisors are available for virtual or Zoom appointments. To schedule an appointment, please go to

Please note that ISS’ SEVIS document production services (I-20s/DS-2019s) and processing times are severely impacted by the Executive Order. ISS is severely limited in the number of staff allowed to be on-campus to print and ship out immigration documents.

We are currently accepting all requests, but we are prioritizing requests that are time-sensitive (i.e., OPT, STEM OPT Extensions, extensions of I-20s, or other requests requiring immediate action). Due to high volume and limited resources, processing times have increased. ISS is unable to respond to inquiries about the status of the below listed services/requested received. As we are working remotely, we are unable to accommodate rush requests. Please do not send multiple emails or submissions for the same request. This only adds to our volume and further delays processing of email/request.

Processing times listed below are subject to change without notice, especially during peak request periods.
Requests/emails that are either incomplete or requiring additional follow-up will further extend processing times.

(does not include time frame for shipping of I-20 or other documents from ISS^)
Release of ISS Holds related to health insurance 5 business days* after ISS confirms payment
Letter Requests
Travel Signature Request
Concurrent Enrollment Requests
Reduced Course Load Requests
Leave of Absence Requests
Program Extension Requests
10 business days*
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT Employer Updates
STEM OPT Extension Requests
STEM OPT Employer Updates
STEM OPT Validation Reporting
15 business days*

*Business days are Mondays through Fridays, except CSUF holidays. Processing of requests and emails received after business hours begin on next business day. In other words, if you submit your request/email after 5:00 PM (California Time) on a Friday, then processing will count and begin on the following Monday.

SEVP (Student & Exchange Visitor Program) made some allowance for emailing of electronic copies of Form I-20, it is unclear whether electronic copies of Form I-20 will be accepted by other government agencies including but not limited to Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  If you are requesting an I-20 that will be reviewed by one of these government agencies, you must set-up Express Mail in advance ISS will print and ship your I-20 for use with SSA or DMV. Outgoing shipments will occur on Thursdays and Fridays (subject to change without notice).

If you are requesting an I-20 in which an electronic signature is permitted, ISS will issue it and send it to your CSUF email. Upon receiving the electronic I-20 via email, you need to print it and sign it with black ink in the Student Attestation Section. Please send a signed copy of the electronic I-20 to (Subject: Copy of signed I20, Your Name, CWID).


Frequently Asked Questions for Fall 2020 (updated July 20, 2020)

Here are some frequently asked questions pertaining to maintenance of F1/J1 immigration status during the COVID-19 pandemic, based on available guidance from the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As situations related to the COVID-19 crisis change and more guidance become available, this webpage will be updated. Please continue to check your CSUF email for campus and ISS updates.

New Students for Fall 2020

According to July 15, 2020 guidance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), “If Initial students have not arrived in the United States, they should remain in their home country.” It is advisable that new international students admitted for Fall 2020 who are currently outside the U.S. remain in their home countries and enroll in fully online/web courses for Fall 2020 semester.  The ISS team will issue the Form I-20 with a Spring 2021 program start date, so that you can apply for an F-1 visa to attend CSUF when the University returns to standard operations and in-person instruction mode. You do not need an I-20 to enroll in online/web courses from your home country.

If you are transferring your SEVIS record to CSUF and you are currently in the United States, ISS will issue the form I-20 with a Fall 2020 program start date. Your I-20 will be issued electronically and sent to your CSUF email. As long as you have transferred your SEVIS record within your 60-Day Grace Period, you can remain in the U.S. in valid F-1 status while you wait for your I-20 to be issued.

We are waiting on additional guidance from ICE and Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regarding issuance of Form I-20s for F-1 students who are transferring their SEVIS record to CSUF and are currently outside the U.S. Please stay connected with International Students and Scholars (ISS) for further updates on your Form I-20.

Yes, you can enroll full time in fully online/web courses for Fall 2020 and study remotely from your home country. Please be sure to inform ISS of your Fall 2020 plans and remain enrolled full time for Fall 2020 semester.

ISS is waiting for clarification from ICE/SEVP on new international students overseas who have transferred their SEVIS record to CSUF and wanting to return to the U.S. before or during the Fall 2020. Please continue to stay connected to ISS for updates on this. Until we receive further guidance from ICE/SEVP, we advise you to avoid attempting to travel to the US. Instead, you can enroll full time in fully online/web courses for Fall 2020 and study remotely from your home country. Please be sure to inform ISS of your Fall 2020 plans and remain enrolled full time for Fall 2020 semester.

In response to the COVID19 pandemic, as of March 20, 2020 U.S. embassies and consular offices worldwide cancelled routine visa services. As such, it is highly unlikely that you will obtain the F-1 visa for the Fall 2020 semester. You can still begin your CSUF academic program by enrolling in fully online/web courses in the Fall semester, studying remotely from your home country. This will allow you more time to obtain the F-1 visa once U.S. embassies reopen for visa services. If you would like to start your CSUF academic program in Spring 2021 due to not having the F-1 visa, please send an email to the CSUF Admissions office at (Subject: Deferment Request, Your Name and CWID). In your email, state that you want to defer your admission to the Spring 2021 semester due to inability to obtain F-1 visa and that you will not be enrolling for Fall 2020. Please also inform ISS of your deferment request so that your Form I-20 can be updated.

To defer your Fall 2020 admission to a later semester (Spring 2021), please send an email to the Admissions Office: Please also inform ISS via email ( if you decide to do this.

You will not get a refund for the enrollment deposit; however, your enrollment deposit may be applied to the Spring 2021 semester if you are approved for an admission deferral. Please email your admission deferral request to the Admissions Office: Please also inform ISS via email ( if you decide to do this.

Continuing Students

Continuing students are international students who were admitted before Fall 2020.

Maintaining Immigration Status

Yes, you can remain in the US as long as you maintain a full course of study for the Fall 2020 semester. If you are unable to maintain your full course of study, please schedule a virtual appointment with an ISS Advisor immediately and before requesting any withdrawal(s).

No. As long as you maintain a full course of study for Fall 2020 semester and follow instructions from your Professors to complete course requirements, your SEVIS record will remain in Active status.

Please be sure to clearly communicate your situation with your professor(s) and ask if any accommodations can be made available. If you plan to withdraw from a course, you must discuss your situation with an ISS Advisor if the withdraw will result in you being enrolled in less than a full course load.

Given the current evolving COVID19 pandemic situation, there are several COVID19 related travel restrictions still in place. We are waiting for additional clarification from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in regards to international students in Active SEVIS status who are currently outside the U.S. Please continue to frequently check your CSUF emails for updates from ISS on this matter.

No, international students on F1 or J1 visa status are not eligible to receive this financial aid grant. For more information, please see:

Health Insurance

If you will remain outside the U.S. for the entire duration of the Fall 2020 semester while studying virtually, you are not required to purchase the CSUF International Student Health Insurance Plan for the Fall 2020 semester. Please be reminded that if you decide to remain in the U.S., the CSUF International Student Health Insurance is a condition of your enrollment and F-1 status.

To request an exception to the health insurance requirement based on being outside the U.S., please submit the appropriate form listed below. You may use this form if you have already purchased the Fall 2020 health insurance coverage and would like to request a refund or if you have not purchased the Fall 2020 health insurance coverage and would like to request for your ISS hold to be removed. Please note that health insurance refunds will be processed beginning August 2020.

Request for Exception to Health Insurance Requirement

To be eligible, you must provide proof that you have departed the U.S. (examples of acceptable proof include I-94 Travel History, copy of airline ticket, copy of arrival date stamp in passport). If you have been admitted for Fall 2020 semester and you are not transferring from a SEVIS approved school, you are not required to provide proof of departure.

Effective immediately, Aetna members will have access to the following resources:

  • 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.
  • For the next 90 days, Aetna will offer zero co-pay telemedicine visits – for any reason. Aetna members should use telemedicine as their first line of defense 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).
  • For more information, please visit the Aetna Student Health Page

Beginning August 1, 2020, international students’ health insurance coverage will be under Anthem.

Anthem is waiving the following:

  • Cost-sharing for the treatment of COVID-19 from April 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, for members of its fully-insured student health plans. This includes FDA approved medications for the treatment of COVID-19 when they become available.
  • Cost-sharing for COVID-19 diagnostic tests, including serology tests, for members of our student health plans. This is effective throughout the duration of the public emergency.
  • Cost-sharing for COVID-19 screening related tests (e.g., influenza tests, blood tests, etc.) performed during a visit that results in an order for, or administration of, diagnostic testing for COVID-19 will also be covered with no cost-sharing for members. This is effective throughout the duration of the public emergency.
  • Cost-sharing for visits to get the COVID-19 diagnostic test, regardless of whether the test is administered, beginning March 5 for members of our student health insurance plans. This is effective throughout the duration of the public emergency.
  • Cost-sharing for telehealth visits from in-network providers from March 17 through Sept. 30, 2020, including visits for behavioral health, for our student health plans, and where permissible, Medicaid plans.
  • Cost-sharing for FDA-approved vaccines when they become available. The cost-sharing waiver includes copays, coinsurance, and deductibles.
  • For additional services, members will pay any cost shares their plan requires unless otherwise determined by state law or regulation. Members can call the number on the back of their identification card to confirm coverage.

Health, Wellness & Coping





At this time, we are waiting for clarification on this topic from Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once we receive guidance, ISS will provide updates through emails and the ISS website.

During the COVID19 emergency, SEVP considers employment that is less than 20 hours per week to be valid for OPT employment.

According to the SEVP FAQ released on April 14, 2020, your SEVIS record does not need to be updated if you are working from home due to COVID19. Additionally, students on STEM OPT are not required to update their I-983 if working from home due to COVID19.

Time off work consistent with the employer’s leave-related policies does not count as unemployment. As long as you are expected to resume work after the leave, you do not need to take any action to update your SEVIS record or Form I-20. Please be sure to save any documentation and/or communication from your employer pertaining to the leave. If you are on approved OPT or STEM OPT and your employment has been permanently terminated, you must report the end of your employment to ISS within 10 days.

At this time, there have not been any changes or flexibility in regards to the limit on unemployment days. If you are on OPT and want to avoid exceeding the unemployment limit, you may want to consider a qualifying volunteer position. Unlike OPT, STEM Extension OPT cannot be maintained with volunteer and/or unpaid positions. Otherwise, you must depart the U.S. or transfer to a new school before exceeding the unemployment limit.

At this time, there has not been an official announcement indicating that an electronic signature on the I-983 is permitted. We therefore must defer to the instructions on the I-983 form itself which indicates “sign in ink”.


ISS does not recommend travel due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions for certain foreign nationals, and temporary suspension of visa services in most US Embassies. If you choose to depart the U.S., please be prepared for delays and possible inability to re-enter the U.S.

ISS does not recommend travel within the U.S. due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Various parts of the U.S. have travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders. Please refer to CDC: COVID-19 Cases in the U.S.  If you choose to travel within the U.S., please seriously consider your health and safety. Be sure to follow the recommendations provided by Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

No. While Cal State Fullerton is taking precautionary measures and providing virtual instruction mode for all students, F1 and J1 students can remain in the US if they choose to do so. Students should check the expiration date on their Form I-20 (for F1 students) or Form DS-2019 (for J1 students).

No. Please submit the online Travel Signature Request prior to departure. A new I-20 or DS-2019 will be electronically signed and emailed to your CSUF email address.

A visa is valid until its expiration date. You are not required to apply for a new visa if it has not yet expired or been revoked.

F-1 Visa Holders: If you are unable to depart the U.S. before the end of your Grace Period, your options to extend your F-1 status include receiving admission to another SEVP certified School and transferring your SEVIS record or applying for OPT. Please consult with an ISS Advisor regarding procedures and eligibility. Additionally, we encourage you to also contact your home country’s local consulate or embassy in the U.S. for support and information regarding travel home.

USCIS expects visa holders to be “self-sufficient” while in the United States. Receiving public benefits could result in you being considered a “Public Charge” which may impact your eligibility for future benefits, such as change of status or adjustment of status. However, Department of Homeland Security specifically states that unemployment benefits are not considered a public charge as “these are considered to be earned benefits through the person's employment and specific tax deductions.” (Please see the Final Rule published in the Federal Registrar.)

It is important to note that although unemployment insurance is not considered a public charge by DHS, eligibility requirements vary from state to state. Check with the unemployment insurance agency in the state where you worked regarding eligibility guidelines. Click here to search for your state’s program.

Please see the Economic Impact Payment Information Center students for more details. If you have further questions or concerns, please contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or consult an immigration attorney.

Please follow the instructions in the to return the payment to the IRS. Be sure to keep a copy of the check and of anything else that you send to the IRS.


Updated July 22, 2020