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International Students

A note to our students

Nov. 13, 2020

Lately, we have had a few international students reach out to us as they have begun to prepare for the Spring Semester and they have been asking if they need to be in a minimum of 9 face to face credits or if they will be able to continue to take online course work during the Spring Semester. Unfortunately, we do not have a definitive answer yet. At this time, we are still waiting for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to provide us with guidance on how universities should proceed during the Spring Semester. While we understand that this can be a bit frustrating for students who are attempting to register and make plans for the Spring Semester, guidance from the USCIS should be coming soon. Until then, we will continue to monitor the situation as we wait for this information from the USCIS.  As soon as we have any updates, we will let students know as soon as we can.

Winter Break Travel 2020

Posted Nov. 20, 2020

Travel home over the extended break during COVID-19 Pandemic

From an immigration perspective, international travel is currently very unpredictable. If you are currently maintaining a student, scholar or employee immigration status in the U.S. and you depart, OIA cannot guarantee your ability to return to the U.S. in a timely manner, which could have an impact on your U.S. visa status if you are unable to return to continue your requirements as a student, scholar or employee.

OIA understands that you may have serious personal or health concerns which require you to depart, or that you may feel more comfortable experiencing this crisis supported by family or in your home country. We want to make sure that as you make these important decisions, you understand the possible risks involved — including the fact that you may not be able to re-enter the U.S. at the time you intend. Additionally, many other countries may have travel restrictions of their own, which could impact your ability to enter those countries or move freely.

As the pandemic continues around the world, we do not know whether new travel restrictions will be ordered or whether current restrictions will continue or be extended. As stated above, it may be risky to leave the U.S. for winter break because it is not guaranteed you will be able to return in January. The situation remains very unpredictable. You may want to reconsider your travel plans if you are concerned you may not be able to return to the U.S. If you decide to travel internationally, we strongly recommend you carefully research your plans, be prepared, understand the risks, and be advised you might not be able to travel back to the U.S. before the Spring 2021 semester starts on January 11. Consider the following before making your decision.

Things to consider:

  • Essential travel: Is your travel essential, for example mental health, medical, or family reasons?
  • Risks: Are you comfortable with the travel risks, both health risks and re-entry to the U.S.?
  • Testing: Are you required to provide negative COVID-19 test results before boarding a flight or entering a country? Tests taken on campus have a 24-48 hour results report which is provided securely through your student health portal or jacks email.
  • Visas: Do you require a new F-1 visa? If yes, consider the limited U.S. consulate services and visa delays.
  • Travel restrictions: Are you traveling to a country with current travel restrictions? Be prepared for quarantines and limited flights or additional restrictions that may impact your return to the U.S.
  • U.S. immigration rules: Exceptions were made to the online enrollment rules to keep SEVIS records valid through the Fall 2020 semester. We do not know when or if updated restrictions will be announced before January.
  • Graduating students planning for OPT: Currently, government guidance states you must submit your OPT application to USCIS from within the U.S.

Continue to check the https://www.sdstate.edu/jacksrback/international-students for updates as they become available. You can also monitor the U.S. Government’s Study in the States: COVID-19 Resources for updates.

Winter Travel 2020 FAQs

Will I be required to Self-Isolate or self-quarantine when I return to the U.S. or on Campus?

We recommend you review the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommendations for people after air travel. It is generally recommended that you monitor your health for 14 days from the time you return from domestic or international travel. International flights arrive at specific airports in the U.S. which may have additional screening and requirements. It is recommended you prepare to social distance and monitor your health for 14 days after returning to the U.S. There is currently no requirement to self-isolate when after returning to Brookings; however, this situation is fluid and may change quickly.

What Travel documents are you required to have in your possession to re-enter the U.S.?

At this time, international students must have the following documents in order to return to the U.S. in F1 status:

Valid I-20 with a valid travel signature (signed within the last 12 months) Valid passport that must be valid for 6 months beyond your expected return to the U.S. Valid F-1 U.S. visa stamp (Canadian citizens exempt) Proof of funding or financial evidence (recommended)

 

The U.S. government confirmed institutions are not required to update, re-issue, or add specific comments to the I-20 about the mode of instruction. Continuing students may use their current I-20 for travel to the U.S. as long as it is still valid and you have a valid travel signature.

We recognize it is a highly stressful and unpredictable time, with travel options and restrictions changing daily. Reentry to the U.S. is always at the discretion of U.S. Customs & Border Protection. For more information regarding re-entry requirements and how to prepare for possible questions, please visit the following link: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel

Some students believe that they need an updated I-20 with special language about hybrid instruction to apply for a visa and/or enter the U.S. for hybrid instruction.  Again, this is not accurate.  On July 24th, SEVP updated their guidance for Fall 2020 students informing schools that updated I-20s are no longer needed when applying for an F-1 visa or when entering the U.S.

  • Spring 2020 class schedule showing your courses (recommended)
  • SEVIS I-901 Fee Receipt (recommended)
Are there currently any Travel Bans or Entry Restrictions to the U.S.?

Yes.

Current Travel Bans for Students, Scholars & Non-Immigrant Employees

A travel ban currently suspends entry into the United States of all aliens (except immediate family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and others excluded in section 2 of the proclamations) who were physically present within 1) Brazil 2) United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe) or Ireland* 3) the Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), 4) Iran, or 5) China (excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau) during the 14-day period before their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

* F-1 Student UK, Ireland, Schengen Area Travel Ban Exemption

The Department of State has announced a possible change in the Schengen, UK, and Ireland Travel Ban. Embassies have confirmed that students with F-1 visas do not require an approved national interest exception to be allowed to travel to the U.S. If you have a valid F-1 visa and valid I-20 form, you should be allowed to travel. Admission is subject to determination by Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry and you may be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. OIA recommends downloading and carrying this Customs & Border Protection Guidance document.

Entry Suspensions for New Immigrants (Permanent Residents)

On Wednesday, April 22, 2020 the President issued a proclamation suspending the entry of certain new immigrants for 60 days. The proclamation ONLY impacts pending immigrant visa applications (applications for permanent residency) for persons who: were outside the U.S. on the effective date of the proclamation (04/23/2020); and who do not have an approved immigrant visa or some other already issued official travel document (such as an advance parole document). On June 22, 2020, the April 22, 2020 proclamation was extended to December 31, 2020.

Mexico & Canada Travel Restrictions

Travel restrictions are currently in effect through November 21, 2020 for the U.S.-Canada Border and the U.S.-Mexico Border. Current orders restrict entry along land ports of entry on the U.S.-Canada and U.S. Mexico borders to “essential travel” only. “Essential travel” includes “Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions; Individuals traveling to work in the United States.” A separate order from the CDC also suspends entry along the Canada/Mexico border to those in a “congregate setting” at a Port of Entry or Border Patrol station. The congregate setting order indicates that it is not applicable to travelers holding valid immigration documents. It’s not clear how this could apply for travelers sent to Secondary Inspection, because their documents cannot be verified or if they are missing appropriate travel documentation.

All travel bans are currently set to expire on December 31, 2020 (unless extended).

Winter Break Travel Information (Zoom Recording)

Zoom Link: https://sdstate.zoom.us/rec/share/OgC7d6BZ9i2rJ8qvyO3M32Rhtr974HF_bGGJHgidXgNPO-salfOPFuvVY_7B-ow.ubhL87NJGeroq3Yy

Zoom Passcode: 6+?s=vL3


 

Important Information for International Students

Updated Guidance for International Students/ICE

On July 15, the federal government rescinded its July 6 guidance in regard to temporary procedures for colleges and universities to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the current guidance has reverted back to the guidance that was published in March 2020.

The procedures all colleges and universities must follow remain “temporary” during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that the federal government may change them at any time—reverting to the prepandemic standard procedures or introducing new procedures. SDSU and OIA will do everything to support international students during this extraordinary time, and we encourage students to reach out to OIA by email or by phone at 605-688-4122.

The OIA is providing each group of students with the following updated guidance:

Current SDSU International Students:

  1. Students in the United States are not restricted to the number of online courses they can take. SDSU will be operating in a hybrid model that will be providing face-to-face, hybrid and online courses.
  2. Students should consult with their academic advisors to confirm the location of their classes and monitor for any changes.
    • When possible, students are encouraged to take face-to-face or hybrid courses, if there is a choice between online and on-campus courses.
    • Hybrid courses requiring students’ physical presence for a percentage of class time qualify as “on campus.”
    • Students may enroll in online courses for the fall 2020 semester, as long as the classes count toward their degree requirements (including “total credits,” “major and minor credits” and “general education requirements”). Please note: undergraduate students must have a minimum of 12 credit hours, graduate students without assistantships must have a minimum of 9 credit hours, and graduate students with assistantships must have the minimum number of credit hours that corresponds to the size of their assistantships to maintain full-time student status.
  3. Students whose class schedules are entirely “online” must report this to the Office of International Affairs, along with their current address/location so we can adjust their SEVIS record accordingly.
  4. For graduate students, thesis/dissertation credits are designated as “on campus” classes, and graduate students should work with the Graduate School and their academic advisors to ensure they are registered appropriately.
  5. Should there be a change in the pandemic that forces SDSU to go completely into “online-only” delivery mode, students will be able to complete their classes online for the semester without being required to return home. Students who choose to return home will be able to return to the United States after the pandemic has eased and the SDSU campus is open again for normal operations.
  6. Students currently outside the U.S. can continue to take their courses online and their SEVIS records will remain active for the fall 2020 semester.

New SDSU International Students Beginning New Degree Programs:

  1. Students should continue to monitor the status of their nearest U.S. consulate or embassy to determine if visa applications will be processed.
  2. Students able to obtain visas should make every effort to join us for the fall 2020 semester and take classes the same as any other international student on our campus.
  3. Students unable to secure a visa may take SDSU classes online.
    • These students should work toward obtaining a visa during the fall 2020 semester so that they can join us in spring 2021.
  4. Students may defer their start dates to spring 2021 or fall 2021, should they choose.

Transfer SDSU International Students Completing Degree Programs:

  1. Transfer students currently in the United States are not restricted to the number of online courses they can take. SDSU will be operating in a hybrid model that will be providing face-to-face, hybrid and online courses.
  2. New transfer students coming to the U.S. from international institutions who are unable to join us for the fall 2020 semester can take SDSU classes online.
  3. Students should consult with their academic advisors to confirm the location of their classes and monitor for any changes.
    • When possible, students are encouraged to take face-to-face or hybrid courses if there is a choice between online and on-campus courses.
    • Hybrid courses requiring students’ physical presence for a percentage of class time qualify as “on campus.”
    • Students may enroll in online courses for the fall semester, as long as the classes count toward their degree requirements (including “total credits,” “major and minor credits” and “general education requirements”). Please note: undergraduate students must have a minimum of 12 credit hours, graduate students without assistantships must have a minimum of 9 credit hours and graduate students with assistantships must have the minimum number of credit hours that corresponds to the size of their assistantships to maintain full-time student status.
  4. Students whose class schedules are entirely “online” must report this to the Office of International Affairs, along with their current address/location so we can adjust their SEVIS record accordingly.
  5. For graduate students, thesis/dissertation credits are designated as “on campus” classes, and graduate students should work with the Graduate School and their academic advisors to ensure they are registered appropriately.
  6. Should there be a change in the pandemic that forces SDSU to go completely into “online-only” delivery mode, students will be able to complete their classes online for the semester without being required to return home. Students who choose to return home will be able to return to the United States after the pandemic has eased and the SDSU campus is open again for normal operations.

Additional Communications

Guidance for International Students/ICE - July 10, 2020

On July 6, the federal government issued a modification of its temporary procedures for colleges and universities to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the procedures have potential impacts on international students currently studying OR beginning their studies in the United States. SDSU and its Office of International Affairs (OIA) continue to discuss the modification and provide students with steps to follow.

The procedures all colleges and universities must follow remain “temporary” during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that the federal government may change them at any time—reverting to the pre-pandemic standard procedures or introducing new procedures as it sees fit. SDSU and OIA will do everything to support international students during this extraordinary time, and we encourage students to reach out to OIA at SDSU.IntlStud@sdstate.edu or 605-688-4122.

The OIA is providing each group of students with the following guidance:

Current SDSU International Students:

Students in the United States must return to their SDSU campus and be physically present in South Dakota at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester. Students should consult with their academic advisors to confirm the location of their classes and monitor for any changes.

  • Students need to be enrolled in at least one class where their physical presence in person is required—you will hear the term “on campus” or “face-to-face” instruction used.
  •  When possible, students are encouraged to take face-to-face or hybrid courses if there is a choice between online and on-campus courses.
  • Hybrid courses requiring students’ physical presence for a percentage of class time qualify as “on campus.”
  •  Students may enroll in online courses for the rest of their class schedule, as long as the classes count toward their degree requirements (including “total credits,” “major and minor credits” and “general education requirements”). Please note: undergraduate students must have a minimum of 12 credit hours, graduate students without assistantships must have a minimum of 9 credit hours, and graduate students with assistantships must have the minimum number of credit hours that corresponds to the size of their assistantships to maintain full-time student status.

Students whose class schedules are entirely “online” should work with their academic advisors to add a course that qualifies as “on campus” or they must return home. For graduate students, thesis/dissertation credits are designated as “on campus” classes, and graduate students should work with the Graduate School and their academic advisors to ensure they are registered appropriately.

 

Transfer SDSU International Students Completing Degree Programs:

Transfer students currently in the United States must be physically present in South Dakota at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester in August in South Dakota. New transfer students coming to the U.S. from international institutions who are unable to join us for fall 2020 semester can take SDSU classes online. Students should consult with their academic advisors to confirm the location of their classes and monitor for any changes.

  • Students need to be enrolled in at least one class where their physical presence in person is required—you will hear the term “on campus” or “face-to-face” instruction used.
  • When possible, students are encouraged to take face-to-face or hybrid courses if there is a choice between online and on-campus courses.
  • Hybrid courses requiring students’ physical presence for a percentage of class time qualify as “on campus.”
  • Students may enroll in online courses for the rest of their class schedule, as long as the classes count toward their degree requirements (including “total credits,” “major and minor credits” and “general education requirements”).

Students whose class schedules are entirely “online” should work with their academic advisors to add a course that qualifies as “on campus” or they must return home. For graduate students, thesis/dissertation credits are designated as “on campus” classes, and graduate students should work with the Graduate School and their academic advisors to ensure they are registered appropriately. Should there be a change in the pandemic that forces SDSU to go completely into “online-only” delivery mode, the federal government will direct F-1 and J-1 students to leave the United States and return to their home countries to complete their classes online for the semester. Students would then be able to return to the United States after the pandemic eased and the SDSU campus was open again for normal operations.

New SDSU International Students Beginning New Degree Programs:

Students should continue to monitor the status of their nearest U.S. consulate or embassy to determine if visa applications will be processed. Students able to obtain visas should make every effort to join us for the fall 2020 semester and take classes on campus. Students unable to secure a visa may take SDSU classes online.

  • These students should work toward obtaining a visa during the fall 2020 semester so that they can join us in spring 2021.

Students may defer their start dates to spring 2021 or fall 2021, should they choose.

  • Should there be a change in the pandemic that forces SDSU to go completely into “online-only” delivery mode, the federal government will direct F-1 and J-1 students to leave the United States and return to their home countries to complete their classes online for the semester. Students would then be able to return to the United States after the pandemic eased and the SDSU campus was open again for normal operations.
SEVP Guidance on COVID-19: Fall 2020 - July 9, 2020

Hello from the Office of International Affairs!

We know that most of you are aware of the SEVP Guidance that was publicized on Monday July 6. We want to make sure that you know that we are working on figuring out what this means. It is a bit of a moving target, and we are not certain that this will be the final guidance that is given by SEVP. We are hoping that this guidance is amended in the near future due to the pushback that SEVP and the Department of State are getting from universities across the U.S.

What this guidance currently means for our SDSU international students: 

SDSU will be operating in a hybrid model this fall (a mixture of online and in person classes). In this model, the U.S. government guidance indicates that international students present in the U.S. are allowed to take more than one online class or 3 online credit hours, but they cannot have all of their courses be online. There must be a face-to-face course within the mix, and we have to certify that the student is taking the minimum number of online credits necessary to make normal progress in their degree program. (Essentially, if there is a choice between face-to-face or online, students must take the face-to-face option.)  

At the present moment, if SDSU were to convert to completely online at any point in the semester, then all of our current international students would need to go home. (Again, we are currently hoping that, with enough pushback from the schools, this guidance will change.)

We will be in the process of updating I-20s and sending electronic copies to our students via email shortly. The updated I-20 will indicate the following: 

"SDSU will not operate entirely online. The student will not take an entirely online course load for fall 2020 and will take the min. number of online courses to make normal progress in program."

As new information is available we will continue to do our best to keep you informed. While we understand that this guidance is not supportive of you as an international student, please know that we care about each and every one of you and we are doing our best to advocate on your behalf.  

At SDSU, you ARE welcome here. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Office of International Affairs Staff

Attention International Students and Families - June 17, 2020

South Dakota State University plans to re-open its campus for students registered for courses in the fall 2020 semester. Classes are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, and the last week of classes will take place in the fourth week of November 2020. Examinations for the semester will be administered online/remotely during the first week of December 2020, and we expect the spring 2021 semester to begin as scheduled on Monday, January 11, 2021.

We understand that some SDSU students may not feel comfortable with a return to face-to-face instruction on campus, and we will allow students to take online classes if available in the fall 2020 semester and maintain their status as degree-seeking students at the university. This opportunity exists for domestic and international students, wherever they happen to be in the world. Please note: all classes available on campus may not be available in the online delivery format, and students seeking to remain off campus will need to choose from those online courses listed in the fall 2020 course schedule.

The university has established guiding principles to assist colleges and schools in developing COVID-19 accommodations for fall 2020 academic activities, including required classes and laboratories offered on campus. (These principles may be found at https://www.sdstate.edu/jacksrback.) As these accommodations are introduced, there may be cases in which classes originally planned for face-to-face instruction in campus-based facilities will be converted to a hybrid or completely online delivery model to allow us to follow best practices in physical distancing of students within existing campus spaces. Such transitions may take place after the beginning of the semester, as was the practice in spring 2020, and all transitions will impact domestic and international students equally. In some cases, international students on campus may take more than three credits of hybrid or online coursework to maintain satisfactory progress toward their degrees within their program completion timelines.

South Dakota State University has committed itself to the safety and security of our students during the COVID-19 pandemic and appreciates everyone’s flexibility as we respond to all challenges during this extraordinary time. Our Office of International Affairs will continue to serve international students and scholars on campus and in a virtual environment to support their academic success.