Leaving Flint Before the End of Winter Term 2020

UM-Flint classes will be delivered remotely from March 16 through April 21, due to University measures enacted to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. Some international students are considering leaving Flint and completing the Winter Term from outside the U.S.

There are a variety of issues to review in making this decision, including academic, immigration, and health insurance considerations among other factors.

This advice is based on the information that is currently available to us.  The University is continuing to monitor this rapidly changing situation, and this announcement will be updated as we receive new information or new guidance provided by government agencies.

Academic Considerations: Consult with the faculty and instructors who are teaching your classes to confirm what your academic requirements are between now and the end of the term. For example, while President Schlissel's announcement on March 11 confirms that classes will not be held in person through April 21, it is not yet clear how final exams will be handled.

Immigration Status: if you maintain full-time enrollment and participate in your classes in their new format so that you continue to make normal progress towards degree completion, then your current I-20 form and F-1 SEVIS record will remain active even if you are no longer in Flint for the final weeks of the winter term.

Employment Considerations: If you are in your final term of study and plan to apply for Optional Practical Training, review the OPT application deadlines. These deadlines are not flexible. Remember that you cannot apply for OPT from outside the United States.

Immigration Documents: Review your immigration documents and make sure you have the documents needed to request admission to the US from outside the US, including a valid travel signature. Check the expiration date (program end date) on your I-20. If your I-20 is expiring soon but you will need additional time to complete your academic program, apply for an extension of your I-20. You will not be able to re-enter the US with an expired I-20.

Re-entry to the United States: If you depart the US now, your ability to return to the US prior or close to the start of fall semester will be determined by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the US Port of Entry. There are currently a variety of restrictions prohibiting various groups of foreign nationals from entering the US due to COVID-19. We have no ability to predict how suspensions of travel will evolve during the upcoming months, nor what kind of scrutiny will be in place at the Port of Entry. Please view our announcements page for more information on travel restrictions and other coronavirus-related topics. Also, the length of time you are outside of the country could impact your ability to return to the U.S. Currently, Department of Homeland Security guidance on F-1 travel and re-entry defines five months as the period of temporary absence from the US for returning F-1 status holders. If you depart the US in mid-March, and do not return until late August (fall term classes are scheduled to begin August 31), then you would fall outside of the five month window. If you are considering staying outside of the US for more than five months, please consult an International Student/Scholar Advisor to discuss your particular circumstances and any changes to your SEVIS record or any new documents that may be required.

Health Insurance: For questions or concerns related to health insurance, please refer to the health insurance information on our website, and direct questions to the health insurance advisor Kimberly Butka through her email kitaylor@umich.edu. If you would like to apply for a waiver of your required health insurance while you are outside the U.S., please fill out the Health Insurance Wavier form on iService.

Immigration Status and the Coronavirus

F-1 students and F-2 dependents

Currently, the guidance from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding F-1 students pertains to preventing the spread of the virus (e.g., reduced course loads for ill F-1 students) or advising students who were in China and are now unable to (re)enter the U.S. We have received no specific information on options for graduating students who plan to return home to China at the end of the semester, but cannot find flights due to flight cancellations. We also have not received any guidance regarding those whose OPT will end within the next few months and similarly cannot find flights to depart the U.S. during their remaining grace period.

J-1 students, scholars and J-2 dependents

Please contact the International Center if you are a J-1 student or scholar from China and your program is ending prior to the end of the Winter Term. We may be able to extend your program. Your situation will be handled on a case-by-case basis, based on current guidance from the Department of State and in consultation with the Exchange Visitor Program, and with your UM-Flint department (scholars). Those J-1 students or scholars sponsored by agencies outside of UM-Flint (e.g., Fulbright), should consult the program sponsor who issued their Form DS-2019 for advice.

Scenarios and Considerations

  • Grace Periods: As a reminder, F-1 students have a 60-day grace period and J-1s have a 30-day grace period, following the end of their programs, which enables them to remain in the U.S. legally during that time.
  • Flight Options:
    • Chinese students and scholars who wish to travel back home may search for indirect routes (i.e. through another country). However, you may be required to have a visa to travel to or transit through many countries. Many countries are also currently imposing immigration restrictions, such as entry or transit bans and mandatory quarantines for travelers, in an effort to contain the Coronavirus. Purchasing refundable or changeable fares would be advisable because these alternative routes may not be available at the time of the planned travel.
    • Those with flights including stops in China may wish to consider and rebook on different routes. This may add on to the cost of already purchased, non-refundable fares. Contact your airline for options.
  • Practical Training: In order to extend their time in the U.S., some students may wish to pursue any Optional Practical Training (F-1) or Academic Training (J-1) that is available to them and search for employment or volunteer positions within the U.S. Application deadlines need to be adhered to, making this an option that may require immediate action, depending on the student’s situation. The current fee associated with the OPT application is $410.
  • Change of Status: Apply for a change of status to B-1/B-2 tourist visa (or another viable) status to remain in the U.S. The current fee associated with this application is $370, which the individuals will bear.

As this is an issue that affects many F-1/F-2 and J-1/J-2 students, scholars, and dependents across the U.S., the IC anticipates there will be some discussion and advocacy in the weeks to come about students and scholars from China whose immigration status is ending soon. It is difficult to predict what will happen and what immigration-related accommodations might be made, but we are actively monitoring official sources and will post and/or send messages when we have definitive information.

The U-M University Health Service (UHS) released a new webpage with resources regarding the Coronavirus, symptoms and preventative measures, and considerations for travel to impacted regions. Please visit https://uhs.umich.edu/2019-nCoV to review and to stay informed. Also, if you are considering travel to China, be sure to review the university’s travel warning for China and travel restriction for Hubei Province including Wuhan. Please note this U-M Public Affairs webpage devoted to announcements about the Coronavirus. The university’s FAQ is also translated into Mandarin and will be updated as new information becomes available. In developing these messages, UM-Fllint relies on governmental, medical and public health officials as sources for information (not simply media reports) to share with our community. We will continually update resources as more information becomes available regarding immigration status, visas, and the coronavirus.

ICE FAQ

 

Updates

3/14/2020: New Travel Restrictions for Travelers from the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland

3/11/2020: New Travel Restrictions for Travelers from the Schengen Area

2/26/2020: University of Michigan-related travel to South Korea is now restricted and personal travel to South Korea is currently discouraged. 

2/5/2020: U-M recently posted answers to frequently asked questions about the rapidly changing 2019 Novel Coronavirus situation. The FAQ is also available in Mandarin.

5/24/2020: New Travel Restrictions for Travelers from Brazil

 

On Friday, January 31st, the U.S. government announced new travel restrictions for foreign nationals who have been in China the past 14 days. These restrictions will be implemented at 5:00 PM EST on February 2, 2020. All foreign nationals who have been in China in the 14 days preceding their planned arrival will be denied entry after these restrictions take effect on February 2, 2020. It is not yet clear how long these restrictions will remain in place.

These restrictions include foreign nationals on non-immigrant visas, including F-1, F-2 and J-1, J-2 students, scholars, and dependents. If you plan to arrive in the United States after these restrictions take effect, please consult your airline about what options may be available to you.  If your scheduled arrival will be delayed, please contact the International Center at International.Flint@umich.edu. We will work with you and your host department on any necessary updates to your immigration documents. 

The details are still emerging and changes may occur. The University of Michigan-Flint is actively monitoring the situation. The International Center will post additional information as it becomes available and the University will continue to communicate information and resources on the sites referenced on this webpage.

Q&A from 3/19 Online Session for International Students

  • Will college continue to be open during spring and summer?

The University continues to monitor all of the developments related to the COVID-19 virus. Spring and summer term courses at UM-Flint will also be offered remotely.

    • Since I moved off campus, do I need to change my address in iService?

    Yes. Students are required to update their current address in SIS (http://sis.umflint.edu/).

    • Will housing continue in spring and summer?

    Unsure.

    •  What if I wish to travel outside the country?

    Fill out the Departure Form and the Health Insurance Cancellation Form in iService (sunapsis.umflint.edu). If you stay at Housing, Don’t forget to communicate with housing should you leave.

    • What should I do if I’ve left the country already before filling out the departure form and letting housing know?

    You can still contact housing at (810) 237-6571 or flint.housing@umich.edu, and fill out the Departure Form at iService (sunapsis.umflint.edu)

    • Is the International Center open, if we want to sign our I-20?

    The International Center office will be closed until further notice, but all staff are still working remotely. We will be checking emails, texts, and voicemails frequently throughout the day. You can leave a voicemail on our phone at 810-762-0867 or email international.flint@umich.edu to schedule a meeting with you to sign your I-20. 

    If you have an urgent need, call us on our What’s App 810-410-5375. If you have an emergency, call the campus police at 810-762-3333

    • Will USCIS take longer to process the OPT application now? 

    Offices are still open and processing applications. This is a high-volume time however, which may delay processing. 

    • What should I do if I want to choose to stay in housing?

    Students who wish to remain in University Housing will need to first have their request approved. If you missed the deadline to submit a request, please contact Housing at (810) 237-6571 or flint.housing@umich.edu

    *Students who were unable to return to campus and check-out can contact Flint.Housing@umich.edu to schedule a time to get access to their space.

    • Will I still be receiving my graduation degree even if the ceremony is postponed?

    If you have successfully completed a graduation audit by the Office of the Registrar, you will receive your degree, regardless of the ceremony status. Currently the commencement ceremony is tentatively scheduled for August 16, 2020, and it is not necessary for you to participate in order to receive your degree. 

    • What if I’m traveling and my professors have different timings and did not take into account the time difference?

    Communicate with your individual professors on what your situation is should you leave the country so that they can accommodate you. Please email Shelby Newport at snewport@umich.edu if you have more academic affairs questions.

    • Would we have to move out of our current room if we live with other international students?

    You may have to move out of your current room.

    • Are we closing down First Street Residence Hall?

    Yes. First Street will be closed and students who are staying on campus will be moved to Riverfront.

    • Can I get the I-20 via mail; since I don't stay on campus?

     Yes, the I20s can be mailed. Please make sure to fill out the eShipGlobal form if you want a tracking number, or contact us if you want us to send it   through the postal mail without tracking number.

    • How do we get a safe ride to go to Walmart? When does it run?

    Walmart trips are every weekend. Please call Safe Ride at 810-762-3333 to organize the free shuttle service to Walmart.

    •  Is the food den still open?

    The Wolverine Food Den is open 8 a.m. - noon and 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and can be accessed by visiting either 375 or 359 UCEN.

    •  Has the university reached out about pass/fail options?

     Not yet, but please continue to monitor your emails and stay in touch with your academic advisor

    •  What if I have class during spring and summer? This is in regards to COVID-19. Are we moving it online? What if it has labs too? 

    Spring and summer term courses at UM-Flint will also be offered remotely.

    • Will the university shut down completely?

    The university will not shut down, but services will be delivered in a different way. Please reach out through the email to your professors or advisors.

    • Will faculty offices be closed?

    Offices will be closed until forther notice, but all faculty are working remotely. Advisors should be responsive through email.