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.

While 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  (updated November 16, 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 Spring 2021

CSUF will continue with a hybrid mode of instruction, with courses delivered in primarily virtual mode of instruction and a few courses taught in person or in hybrid instruction mode.

Based on current guidance from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ISS will issue CSUF Form I-20 to admitted students who are enrolled in at least one (1) in person or hybrid Spring 2021 course as part of their full course load for Spring 2021, and to admitted F-1 students already in the U.S. who have their SEVIS records transferred to CSUF. All admitted international students must complete the New Student Questionnaire in order to assist ISS in determining eligibility for a Form I-20. 

Please note that you do not need the Form I-20 to enroll in Spring 2021 fully online/web courses to begin your CSUF academic program remotely from outside the U.S.

Yes, you can enroll full time in fully online/web courses for Spring 2021 and study remotely from your home country. Please be sure to inform ISS of your Spring 2021 plans by submitting the New Student Questionnaire

Please be sure to complete the New Student Questionnaire to inform us that you are transferring your SEVIS record to CSUF and you are currently outside the United States. If you are enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid course as part of your full course of study for Spring 2021, then ISS will issue you the CSUF Form I-20. Please note that the Form I-20 is a certificate of eligibility for the F-1 status. Entry to the U.S. remains at the discretion of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

You can still begin your CSUF academic program by enrolling in fully online/web courses for the Spring 2021 semester, studying remotely from outside the U.S. This will allow you more time to obtain the F-1 visa. Please note that your CSUF admission offer is specific to the Spring 2021 semester. For questions related to your CSUF admission offer, please send an email directly to the Admissions Office:

For questions related to your CSUF admission offer, please send an email to the Admissions Office:

Continuing Students

Continuing students are international students actively enrolled at a U.S. school or on approved OPT/STEM OPT since March 9, 2020 (based on SEVP Broadcast message).

Maintaining Immigration Status

Yes, you can remain in the US as long as you maintain a full course of study for the Spring 2021 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 and follow instructions from your Professors to complete course requirements, your SEVIS record will remain in Active status.

Please note that if your SEVIS record was tranferred to CSUF, you must be in the U.S. at the start of your first semester in order for your SEVIS record to 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. Please consult with ISS Advisors via virtual drop-in advising or virtual advising appointments before making any travel arrangements. 

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 Spring 2021 semester while studying virtually, you are not required to purchase the CSUF International Student Health Insurance Plan for the Spring 2021 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 found on the ISS Health Insurance webpage. You may use this form if you have already purchased the Spring-Summer 2021 health insurance coverage and would like to request a refund or if you have not purchased the Spring-Summer 2021 health insurance coverage and would like to request for your ISS hold to be removed. 

To be eligible for the health insurance exception, 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 Spring 2021 semester and you are not transferring from a SEVIS approved school, you are not required to provide proof of departure. To be eligible for health insurance refunds of Spring-Summer 2021 coverage, requests must be received by ISS before December 24, 2020. Additionally, if you purchased the annual coverage which began on August 1, 2020, you are no longer eligible for health insurance refund.

Effective 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 November 16, 2020