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), Department of State and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) accept digitally signed, electronic copies of the Form I-20, however, the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) may require a wet signed Form I-20. If you need to submit an application to the DMV, you can request a wet signed I-20 by setting up Express Mail here: ISS will then print and ship your I-20 for use with 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 (all but DMV), 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. 

Frequently Asked Questions  (updated April 29, 2021)

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 2021

CSUF is planning for primarily in-person instruction for Fall 2021, with some courses delivered virtually and some delivered as hybrid (mixture of in-person and virtual). Please frequently check your CSUF email and the Titans Return website for more Fall 2021 updates. 

Consistent with current SEVP's COVID-19 guidance for 2021-2022 academic year, ISS will issue CSUF Form I-20 to admitted students who plan to enroll in at least one in-person or hybrid Fall 2021 course. (This in-person course enrollment requirement does not apply to F1 students currently in the U.S.) Please check the ISS New Student webpage for documents and action needed to receive your CSUF Form I-20. You will receive your Form I-20 via CSUF email. 

Please note that you do not need the Form I-20 to enroll in Fall 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 Fall 2021 and study remotely from your home country. Please be sure to inform ISS of your Fall 2021 plans to remain outside the U.S. 

Consistent with SEVP's COVID-19 guidance, ISS will issue your CSUF Form I-20 for Fall 2021 if you plan to enroll in at least one in-person or hybrid Fall 2021 course. 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 Fall 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 Fall 2021 semester. If you do not enroll in Fall 2021 courses, then you must reapply for admission for a future term. If  any further questions related to your CSUF admission, please contact the Admissions Office:

Your CSUF admission offer is specific to beginning your academic program in the Fall 2021 semester. If you do not enroll in the Fall 2021 term, then you must reapply for admission for a future term. If any further questions about  your CSUF admission offer, please contact the Admissions Office:

Continuing Students

Continuing students are international students actively enrolled at CSUF or on approved OPT/STEM OPT since March 9, 2020 (based on SEVP Broadcast messages, March 9, 2020 and April 26, 2021).

Maintaining Immigration Status

Please expect an email from ISS regarding documents needed for your updated Form I-20 for Fall 2021, along with visa and travel information. Based on current SEVP's COVID-19 guidance, if Fall 2021 is your first semester as an F1 student, then you must plan to enroll in at least one in-person or hybrid Fall 2021 course.

In most cases, you can enroll in fully online (100% web) courses for the Fall 2021 semester and study remotely from outside the U.S. To maintain your F1 status, you must enroll in a full course load. If you are not enrolling in Fall 2021 courses, then if eligible, you can request a Leave of Absence. Please meet virtually with an ISS Advisor to discuss your situation, eligibility for Leave Request and explore other options.

Yes, you can remain in the U.S. as long as you maintain a full course of study (or have ISS approved reduced course load) for Fall 2021 semester. If you are unable to maintain a full course of study, please schedule a virtual appointment witn an ISS Advisor before submitting withdrawal requests.

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. Please discuss your situation with an ISS Advisor before any repeated or extended absences from course participation and before submitting withdrawal request from course. 

Health Insurance

If you will remain outside the U.S. for the entire duration of the Fall 2021 semester while studying virtually, you are not required to purchase the CSUF International Student Health Insurance Plan for the Fall 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 Fall 2021 health insurance coverage and would like to request a refund or if you have not purchased the Fall 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 Fall 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 Fall 2021 coverage or annual coverage (August 2021-July 2022), requests must be received by ISS before September 1, 2021. 

Please view your COVID-19 Coverage information on Anthem's Individual and Family webpage:

Health, Wellness & Coping





At this time, we are waiting for clarification on this topic from SEVP and U.S. 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”.

Travel Alerts & FAQs

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. State Department announced that they "made a national determination regarding categories of travelers eligible for exceptions under Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9984, 9992, and 10143 related to the spread of COVID-19....Students and academics subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later." For more info, please check U.S. State Department website and media note.

If you are a CSUF student from one of these countries wanting to enter the U.S., please contact the U.S. Embassy nearest you to seek clarification on whether an NIE is needed for your case.

If entering the U.S. by air travel, you are required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 prior to traveling. Please refer to CDC web for detailed info.

For your health and safety, please see CDC's After International Travel Guidance.

ISS does not recommend non-essential 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 non-essential 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.

Unemployment benefits do not impact your F1 status or eligibility for future benefits.

It is important to note that unemployment insurance 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 regarding return of payment on the IRS website. Be sure to keep a copy of the check and of anything else that you send to the IRS.


Updated April 30, 2021