Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

COVID-19 FAQ for International Students

March 23, 2020

OISS will not longer be open to the public starting on Monday, March 23 until further notice. Please understand this precautious measure is for your health and safety, as well as the health and safety of the OISS staff. However, the office will continue to respond to questions and process applications in the same timely fashion.

Advisors will no longer schedule in-person advising appointments or keep regular walk-in advising hours. Instead, we will transition all advising appointments to phone calls or online video calls with Skype. Please call or email the office to schedule an appointment with an advisor. OISS remains committed to fully supporting BC international students and scholars during this challenging time.

PLEASE refer to the information on the OISS home page for more informaiton about OISS operations during COVID-19


What if I plan to leave the U.S. and complete my semester from home?

Check your immigration documents (I-20 and passport) BEFORE you leave the U.S.

  • I-20 signature:  If you are traveling outside the US and need a signature on your I-20 (Signatures on page 2 are valid for one year, except for Canadians which require every six months.) please email us at bcis@bc.edu. We have waived the necessity to show updated financial certification at this time. We will no longer be signing I-20s in person for your safety and ours. We will be mailing you a new I-20 for travel. If you are not returning until the fall, these I-20s will not be mailed until May or June. If you are planning to return earlier, and are not part of a current travel ban, please just let us know and we will mail you the I-20 earlier. Please be sure to include your mailing address in your email. Please note that most if not all visa operations at US consulates have been suspended temporarily so you currently can not apply for a new visa if you need one to reenter the US.
  • F-1 Visa: Check the expiration date on your F-1 VISA in your passport (Canadian citizens do not have a visa). If your F-1 visa in your passport will be expired when you make your next entry into the U.S., you will need to renew your visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad before you return to the U.S.
  • I-20 expiration date:
    • If your I-20 will expire this semester and you will NOT complete your degree, you will need to apply for an I-20 extension BEFORE you leave (if this is not possible, we can process the extension while you are abroad prior to the expiration date).
    • If this is your last semester, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status AFTER the semester has ended unless you have applied for OPT (see next page for information). If you will not apply for Post OPT and need to re-enter the U.S. AFTER the semester is over, you will need to apply for a tourist visa (or ESTA tourist waiver for those 

Stay enrolled full-time and complete your classes online while abroad to maintain your F-1 status.

  • The OISS can keep your F-1 immigration status active while you are abroad as long as you continue to be registered for classes and are making progress towards your degree. Current immigration guidance says that your F-1 visa in your passport will remain valid while you are registered student abroad even if you are gone for more than 5 months.
  • Faculty have been made aware of the issues with time differences and have been asked to be flexible with modes of instruction to accommodate those in different time zones. Make sure your faculty members are aware that you are an international student and this could be an issue.
  • Make sure you know how to use BC VPN to access Canvas and other BC platforms. Students in China will also need BC VPN to access G Suite including email.
  • If you decide you do NOT want to complete your semester please contact the OISS. You will need to request a leave of absence from your Dean’s office and we will need to end your F-1 status. You will need to contact us for a new I-20 (and possibility have to apply for a new F-1 visa at the US consulate) a few months before you plan to return.

Be aware of current travel restrictions for returning to the U.S.

  • The U.S. has suspended entry to the U.S. for all foreign nationals arriving in the U.S. who were physically present in China and Iran during the 14-day period prior to arrival. In addition, U.S. visa services have been suspended except for emergencies in China and Italy. As a result, there could be significant delays getting a visa if your visa has expired.
  • Effective midnight on Friday March 13th, travel from European Schengen area countries to the U.S. has been banned for 30 days.

If you live on campus, check-out of your dorm online. An email was sent from Residential Life (forwarded by the OISS) to all students living on campus with instructions on check out and storage options


What if I decide to stay in the U.S.? Can I stay and remain in legal F-1 status?

Remain registered for classes full-time and complete all online courses.

  • In response to COVID-19, the Immigration Services has issued temporary guidance to allow F-1 students to be enrolled in on-line courses. (Usually only one online course per semester is allowed.) As long as you remain registered and participate in online classes, and complete your courses, you can remain in the U.S. in valid F-1 status.

Apply for a housing extension if you are living on campus.

  • International students living on campus who are not able to return home for travel restrictions, serious personal reasons, or university obligations can apply for an exemption to stay on campus.
  • Students need to request an extension through the My Reslife link in the Agora Portal. Please note that it will take some time to process the requests. You should have received an email from Residential Life and the OISS with instructions.

Contact Boston College offices as needed.

  • Boston College Offices will remain open at this time. Most programs and events will likely be cancelled, however BC Offices will remain open.

You may continue working on-campus up to 20 hours per week as authorized


What if I need to apply or have already applied for OPT or CPT?

If you have NOT yet applied for OPT, you must apply for OPT BEFORE you leave!

  • If you are choosing to depart the U.S. the OISS will rush your application so that you can mail it to the Immigration Service BEFORE you depart the U.S.
  • For more information and OPT forms visit the OISS website . You may email your application to bcis@bc.edu. We will accept electronic signatures or email confirmations from faculty advisors/Deans on the OPT form.

If you have applied for OPT AND will depart the U.S., check the mailing address used on the I-765.

  • EAD cards are delivered by USPS Confirmation Restricted Delivery Service which means someone needs to be at your home to sign for the EAD card delivery.
  • If you did NOT use the OISS address on your I-765 and no one will be at your home to sign for the delivery of your EAD card, you will need to change your address on the USCIS website to have your EAD card sent to the OISS. You may be asked for your EAD card if you are entering the U.S. after your I-20 expiration date, although technically it is not required. We can arrange to ship your EAD card to you at home before you travel back to the US.

CPT applications

  • If you are currently using CPT, you may continue to participate in the internship.
  • The OISS continues to remain open and will process CPT applications as they come in. CPT information and the application can be on the OISS CPT page. You may email your application to bcis@bc.edu. We will accept electronic signatures or email confirmations from faculty advisors/Deans on the CPT form

Boston College Corona Virus Updates: www.bc.edu/coronavirus    covid19@bc.edu

University Health Services: www.bc.edu/uhs  617-552-3225

BC Counseling Services: www.bc.edu/counsleing  617-552-3310

BC Office of Residential Life: www.bc.edu/reslife reslife@bc.edu  617-552-3060

Division of Student Affairs: www.bc.edu/vpsa bcsa@bc.edu  617-552-8600

Summary of current travel restrictions: Our professional organization, NAFSA, has a summary here.