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Special Messages from the Director of OISS

Special Message: National Interest Exceptions and Fall Semester 2021

Dear international students,

I am writing to share two important announcements with you regarding Fall Semester.

 

National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of State (USDOS) announced that students subject to the restriction on entry to the US due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE) if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later. On April 30, 2021, the USDOS issued a second announcement saying students from India may qualify for an NIE.

Due to the pandemic, the U.S. has not allowed people who are not US Citizens or Permanent Residents to enter the U.S. if they have been in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa during the fourteen days immediately prior to the day they want to enter the U.S. The same restriction for travelers from India was announced April 30, 2021, and goes into effect May 4, 2021. 

The statements issued on April 26 and April 30 announced an exception for F-1 students. New international students with a valid F-1 visa may enter the US directly from China, India, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa without traveling to another country if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later. New F-1 international students DO NOT need to apply to their local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a NIE. F-1 students may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start of their studies at MSU. MSU Fall Semester classes will begin on Wednesday, September 1, 2021.

Current students are asking how these announcements affect them. For example, OISS has received multiple questions from current students asking if they may enter the US prior to August 1, 2021, without obtaining an NIE. Students have also asked if their dependents are eligible for an NIE. At this time, OISS is seeking clarification on these questions. Current students should contact the US Embassy or Consulate in their region for guidance before finalizing any travel plans prior to August 1. OISS will send an update when more is known.

As a reminder, F-1 international students still need to have a valid passport, valid U.S. F-1 visa, and current Form I-20 to enter the U.S.

 

SEVP Guidance for Fall Semester 2021

On April 26, 2021, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated their guidance for F-1 international students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The updates extend the existing guidance for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Key points are as follows:

  • MSU will continue to have a hybrid operating stance offering classes both online and in-person for Fall Semester 2021.
  • F-1 international students entering the U.S. for the first time to attend MSU are required to have at least one in-person or hybrid course. This includes F-1 students admitted to MSU for Fall 2021 as well as students admitted to MSU for Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 who were enrolled online from outside the U.S. during Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.
  • Continuing F-1 international students who attended MSU prior to the start of the pandemic can enroll full-time in all online classes and still maintain their immigration status if they are in the U.S. or not.

 

If you have questions about either of these announcements, please contact your OISS Advisor

For current information about MSU’s response to the pandemic, please visit the Together We Will website.

 

Krista McCallum Beatty, Director
Office for International Students and Scholars

Special Message: Fall Semester 2021 Updates

Dear international students and scholars,

On Friday, March 5, President Stanley sent a message to the MSU community sharing plans for the Fall 2021 semester.

Plans to return to a more typical semester may leave you with questions about enrolling for fall semester. While MSU will be offering more in-person classes fall semester, the university will continue to operate under a hybrid model, offering a mix of in-person, hybrid (partially in-person), and online classes. Although the U.S. Federal Government has not issued guidance for the fall 2021 semester, we are hopeful that the fall 2020 and spring 2021 flexibilities will continue. As a reminder, the guidance issued for fall 2020 and spring 2021 was:

  • Continuing students need to maintain their F-1 status with a full-time course load. The modality of the courses does not matter—online, in-person, or hybrid. However, the number of credits required to be full time remains the same as in previous semesters. 
    • Undergraduates: 12 credits per semester 
    • Master’s without assistantship: 9 credits per semester 
    • Master’s with assistantship: 6 credits per semester 
    • Doctoral without assistantship: 6 credits per semester 
    • Doctoral with assistantship: 3 credits per semester 
    • Doctoral students who have passed all required comprehensive exams: 1 credit per semester. 
    • Read more about full time enrollment requirements on the OISS website. 
    • If you will be enrolled in fewer than the required number of credits for your degree level, you must be approved for a Reduced Course Load. These approvals are limited to first semester, final semester or for medical reasons. 
  • International students who are graduating in either the Fall 2021 or Spring 2022 semester are strongly encouraged to talk with an OISS advisor very soon about their plans.
  • Continuing international students (those who started attending MSU before Fall 2021) are eligible to apply for a visa if needed to re-enter the U.S., even if they are taking only online courses.
  • New international students attending MSU for the first time are eligible to apply for a visa and enter the U.S. However, new students may not enroll in 100% online courses if they will be in the U.S. for the fall semester.
  • New international students attending MSU for the first time who will not be entering the U.S. may take all online classes as long as they remain outside the U.S. for the entire semester.
  • If MSU transitions to all online instruction during the Fall 2021 semester, international students will maintain their immigration status and be able to remain in the US.

If you are currently outside the U.S. and plan to return to the campus for fall semester, please check current travel requirements for entering the U.S. and make sure your immigration documents are in order. For current information about returning to campus, please visit the Together We Will – Travel website.

Finally, please continue to monitor your email message for updates from OISS and contact us if you have questions.

Krista McCallum Beatty, Director
Office for International Students and Scholars

Special Message on Proposed DHS Rule on September 28, 2020

Dear international students and scholars, 

On September 24 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule that would set new limits on the length of time an international student or scholar may be in the U.S. and would change the process to apply for an extension. OISS strongly opposes this proposed rule. If finalized, the rule would create an additional unnecessary burden on international students and exchange visitors. We stand with President Stanley who issued a statement this afternoon.Read President Stanley, Provost Woodruff, and Dean Hanson’s statement on the Office of the President website.

The document DHS published is an initial draft of a PROPOSED rule; the changes may or may not go into effect. Because this is a proposed rule, there is a 30-day period during which the public may comment. For additional insight, I encourage you to review the information prepared by NAFSA Association for International Education, which may be found here. I encourage anyone affected by this proposed rule or concerned about it to submit a public comment on the Regulations.gov website.

This proposed action by DHS is extremely concerning. International students and exchange visitors bring many valuable contributions to the U.S.  You should be encouraged to come to the U.S. and not have to face unnecessary barriers to achieving your goals at MSU. OISS is closely monitoring this proposed rule and will continue to advocate for international students and scholars.

As always, please contact OISS advisors if you have concerns about your immigration status. You can reach OISS through email, by scheduling a Zoom appointment or by attending Live Chat Advising between 1-3pm, Monday through Friday.

 

Update on ICE guidance for Fall 2020 Semester on July 27, 2020

Dear international students, scholars, campus and community partners,

I am writing with another update on immigration guidance for Fall 2020. On Friday, July 24, SEVP released a document that provides information clarifying their earlier guidance. As before, this guidance differentiates between universities that are offering at least some in-person classes and those that are fully on-line in fall semester. MSU has adopted a hybrid model for fall, offering a mix of in-person, hybrid (partially in-person), and online classes.

 

I want to emphasize the need to make sure you are getting reliable advice and information that is relevant to your situation. Please do not rely on friends for immigration information as their situation may be different from yours. Also, please be a critical consumer of media. For example, last week The State News published the following article: New ICE guidance bars 1st-year international students with all online classes from entering US. This article gave an overview of the guidance issued Friday. However, it did not give specifics as to how this guidance applies to international students attending MSU. Because MSU is not an “institution fully online”, new international students will be able to apply for visas to enter the US and attend a mix of in-person and on-line classes.

 

Here is how this new guidance applies to MSU international students in F1 status:

  • Continuing international students (those who started attending MSU before Fall 2020) are eligible to apply for a visa if needed to re-enter the US, even if they are taking only online courses.
  • New international students attending MSU for the first time are eligible to apply for a visa and enter the US because MSU is not fully online. New students, however, may not enroll in 100% online courses if they will be in the US fall semester. (MSU is offering a wide selection of in-person and hybrid classes for new students.)
  • New international students attending MSU for the first time who will not be entering the US may take all online classes as long as they remain outside the US for the entire semester.
  • Continuing international students may enroll full-time in all online courses and maintain their status whether they are in the US or outside the US.
  • International students who are graduating in either the Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 semester are strongly encouraged to talk with an OISS advisor very soon about their plans.
  • If MSU moves to all online instruction during the Fall 2020 semester, international students will maintain their immigration status and be able to remain in the US.
  • International students no longer need an updated Form I-20 with language about MSU’s plans for fall semester. However, OISS has issued a letter about the university’s plans for fall semester. Students applying for a visa or traveling are advised to print a copy and carry it with them in case they are asked about MSU’s plans. The letter is available on the OISS website.

 

If you have questions about this guidance or simply want to review your plans, please schedule an appointment with an OISS advisor or join our LiveChat Monday through Friday from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM.

 

Remember, “Together We Will” get through this.

 

Go Green!

Krista

 

Fall 2020 Enrollment Reminders for Continuing Students on July 17, 2020

I hope you have heard the good news from Tuesday afternoon that ICE has rescinded the guidance issued on July 6, 2020 for the Fall 2020 semester. Read more on the State News website. In addition, the government agreed that universities may operate under the special guidance issued on March 9, 2020, that allows flexibility in the number of online classes that continuing F-1 students may count toward full-time enrollment. 

OISS is still waiting on further guidance from the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) on what fall semester will look like for new international students. We will be reaching out to new students soon with more information.  

For continuing students, OISS wants to share the following updates 

Continuing students need to maintain their F-1 status with a full-time course load.  
The modality of the courses does not matter -- online, in-person, or hybrid. However, the amount of credits required to be full time remains the same as in previous semesters. 

  • Undergraduates: 12 credits per semester 

  • Masters without assistantship: 9 credits per semester 

  • Masters with assistantship: 6 credits per semester 

  • Doctoral with assistantship: 3 credits per semester 

  • Doctoral students who have passed all required comprehensive exams: 1 credit per semester. 

The five-month rule will not apply to students who remain in active status.   

  • The five-month rule refers to the termination of a student’s record in SEVIS based on the student being away from classes or not in status for five months. This typically applies to students who have spent more than five months outside of the U.S. during an absence from school. 

  • SEVP stated in March that “Under current conditions, if an active F student leaves the United States to complete the spring semester online, their SEVIS record should remain in Active status and not be terminated.” OISS will continue to follow this guidance. 
     

With the newly rescinded guidance, all continuing F-1 students do not need a new I-20 document to reenter the U.S.  
You may still need a new I-20 if any of the following apply to your situation: 

  •  You are changing degree level (for example, from Bachelor’s to Master’s level) in Fall 2020. You must also get a new I-20 from OISS if your source of funding changes (for example, from Scholarship to Family Funds). Submit an F-1 I-20 Request Form for Students (PDF) to OISS. 

  • You need a new travel signature on your I-20. Travel signatures should be less than one year old on the date you enter the U.S. If you need a new travel signature, submit the Travel Signature Request Form through the MyOISS system 

Finally, I want to thank all of you for your patience as we continue to interpret new policies and guidance about the upcoming Fall 2020 semester. We have appreciated hearing your stories and questions, seeing you advocate for your fellow students, and learning more about how we can help you succeed. 
 
If you were unable to join the webinar with President Stanley yesterday afternoon, you can view the full video on the International Students Association Facebook page. 

Remember that in OISS we are here for you, and we are fighting for you. 
 
Thank you, 
 
Krista 

UPDATE on SEVP Guidance for Fall 2020 

Published on July 14th, 2020 

Dear international students, scholars, campus and community partners, 
 
I am writing with good news! As you may have already heard, ICE rescinded the guidance issued on July 6, 2020, for Fall 2020 semester. In addition, the government agreed that universities may operate under the special guidance issued on March 9, 2020, that allows flexibility in the number of on-line classes that continuing F1 students may count towards full-time enrollment.

MSU President Stanley said today in reaction to this news, “This is welcome news for all international students who come to our country to study at our colleges and universities. We appreciate the federal government’s heeding the call of hundreds of institutions of higher education throughout our country. MSU will continue to advocate on behalf of our international students, who are an essential part of our Spartan community.”

Please watch for further updates from OISS about how this decision affects your plans for Fall Semester and how it will affect new international students.

Krista McCallum Beatty, Director
Office for International Students and Scholars

Special Message on SEVP Guidance for Fall 2020

Published on July 7th, 2020 

Dear international students and scholars, campus and community partners,

On Monday, July 6, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued a broadcast message about enrollment options for international students in F-1 status. Read the entire broadcast message.

OISS has reviewed this guidance very carefully.  Much of the guidance is straightforward, however, there is a lack of clarity in some areas. 

Here is what we do know: 

  • The announcement groups universities into one of three categories:
    • those offering only online classes;
    • those offering only in-person classes; and,
    • those offering a mixture of on-line and in-person classes, also known as a hybrid model. 
  • MSU is in the third category, as the university will be offering a mix of in-person and online classes for Fall 2020.
  • MSU international students who choose not to or are unable to return to campus for Fall 2020 will not be able to maintain their F-1 immigration status with online only courses. OISS will need to issue you a new Form I-20 to return to the U.S. in the future.
    • Graduate students with research or dissertation credits may be considered for exceptions. 
  • Please keep in mind your F-1 immigration status is independent from your ability to study at MSU. Students who are outside of the U.S. and are not maintaining status are still eligible for enrolling in online courses.
    • Consult with your academic advisor about how online courses will count toward your degree.
  • MSU international students who are in the U.S. are required to enroll full time. International students will need to enroll in at least some in-person or hybrid courses to maintain their F-1 immigration status. There will be flexibility related to the number of online classes that count toward full time enrollment.
    • At this point, it is unclear how many in-person or hybrid classes may be required for international students in the U.S. to maintain their status. OISS is seeking clarification on this issue.

Per this broadcast message, OISS is required to issue updated Form I-20 documents to students who will be in the U.S. certifying that:

  1. the school is not operating entirely online;
  2. the student is not taking an entirely online course load for the Fall 2020; and,
  3. the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.

OISS is seeking clarification on the details of this as well.

What you should do now:

  • Watch for further communication on this issue from OISS. Please do not rely on sources such as the media or friends at other schools for immigration advice. Keep in mind, your friend may be attending a school that is not offering a mix of in-person and online classes for Fall 2020 like MSU.
  • Review your plans for fall semester and your class schedule. If you plan to be in East Lansing in the fall, are you enrolled in at least some in-person or hybrid courses?
  • Please do not request an updated Form I-20 at this point. OISS will need to issue several thousand Form I-20 documents and our staff is developing a process to do so in an organized manner.

If you have questions specific to your situation, please get in touch with OISS through the following methods:

Remember to read all emails from OISS and to follow OISS on social media for updates.  

Finally, remember Spartans Will… navigate this latest immigration challenge together.

Go Green!

Krista McCallum Beatty, Director
Office for International Students and Scholars