F-1 International Students COVID-19 FAQs
Will online instruction cause me to lose my immigration status?
The Department of Homeland Security issued a guidance statement allowing students to continue the semester with online courses without jeopardizing their immigration status. This means that you must continue to be enrolled full-time and be making normal progress toward the degree. Regardless of where you are participating in online classes, your immigration status will remain active. This is a temporary accommodation until classes resume.
What should I do if my visa is about to expire and I cannot return home to renew?
You may stay in the United States on an expired F-1 visa as long as you maintain your immigration status by maintaining of a valid I-20 and continue normal enrollment requirements.
Will I be able to maintain my immigration status if I immediately return home and return for the Fall semester?
Only if classes are offered the remainder of the semester online, in the event classes resume face-to-face you would need to continue your normal program of study. If classes are continued online through the Spring semester, yes you will be able to return for the Fall semester as long as you maintained status with online instruction.
Will I still be able to apply for OPT this semester? Do I have to be present in the United States to apply?
You must be physically in the United States at the time you submit your Optional Practical Training (OPT) application. Your OPT application will be processes as you request within the ISD Portal. If you have not applied for OPT yet, but plan to do so, we strongly encourage you to begin now.
If I vacate my current on or off campus residence and relocate to a new address, do I need to report it within 10 days?
Yes, as all F-1 international students are required to report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government, within 10 days of address change. Please report to OIAP within 10 days to the ISD Portal.
Will my health insurance continue throughout the Spring 2020 semester with the transition to online instruction?
Please refer to aHP for your health care benefits and the UHCL Health Services Center for immediate health assistance - www.uhcl.edu/health, Your insurance for the Spring 2020 semester will continue as normal.
How will my CPT be affected in the event I cannot complete my internship hours?
Please contact internship faculty and the OIAP office to assist in alternative options for the completion of your internship
If I graduate in May 2020 what are my options?
- Remain in the United States and Apply for Optional Practical Training
- Request a Change of Education Level and pursue another degree at the University of Houston-Clear Lake
- Return home to your country
- Pursue another degree in the United States and transfer your SEVIS record to another institution.
If I am not able to return home for the summer term what are my options?
Please contact the OIAP office to assist you in university-related housing for the summer.
I received a $1,200 stimulus check in my bank account. What should I do with it? How do I correct my taxes?
It is likely that if you received this stimulus check, you filed your taxes incorrectly in the past. We recommend that you contact Sprintax via their website at www.sprintax.com for assistance. Here are three scenarios that may apply to you and what action you need to take during this time.
Scenario 1: Filed taxes incorrectly as a resident for tax purposes
If you filed as a resident by mistake, you should file an amended tax return for all incorrect years. Do not to panic, the IRS(Internal Revenue Service) receives thousands of amended returns each year and the process is relatively straightforward. You can also prepare amended returns online via Sprintax, and you can amend your 2017, 2018 and 2019 returns if necessary.
If you believe you have received the stimulus check in error, Sprintax recommends that when filing the amended return, you also return the payment. In many cases you will be paying electronically, so the $1,200 can be added to any amount that needs to be sent as part of the amended return. If you receive the payment by physical check in 2-3 weeks, Sprintax recommends that you return it with your amended return.
In both cases you should include a cover note to confirm why you are returning the payment.
Scenario 2: filed taxes correctly as a resident for tax purposes
If you have been in the US long enough to be considered a resident for tax purposes (via the substantial presence test), the IRS has not published anything which would exclude this 'international' population from eligibility. The payment t's and c's, including SSN and income thresholds, say it is designed for those that are residents for tax purposes. The F's and J's that have been in the US long enough, and have correctly filed as residents for tax purposes, per these rules are entitled to receive it.
Although, maybe they were not the intended recipients? There was an IRS publication to say it was not intended for temporary workers. While in many cases 'temporary workers' will be non-residents as per IRS rules, this may not always be the case for our F's and J's.
Scenario 3: filed taxes and no longer in the United States
The other interesting situation is those that filed (correctly or incorrectly) as residents for tax year 2018, and left the US in 2018 or 2019, and woke up with $1,200 in their accounts. As per the rules you may well have been eligible for it, but our concern would be that there will be some mechanism by the IRS in the future to confirm who did and did not receive the payment. Will it be mentioned on 2020 tax returns? Will people be asked to declare it somewhere else? Will it come up in a visa interview or application in five years’ time? No one knows yet, but the safest option might be to return it to the IRS.
How can I meet with my International Student Advisor? What if he/she isn’t available and I need immediate advice?
We recommended that you make an appointment with your International Student Advisor well in advance of any important deadlines. You can make this appointment by calling 281-283-2740. In an emergency situation, it may not be possible to schedule an appointment ahead of time. There is an International Student Advisor available at the Clear Lake campus on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2-5PM for walk-in issues. If an emergency situation occurs outside of these office hours, please call 281-283-2740 to request assistance from an advisor.
How do I apply for an assistantship?
Specific professors hire teaching assistants. Typically, these professors hire students whom they have had in class for several semesters. You may obtain more information on assistantships through your academic department once you arrive on campus.
Can I change my major?
Currently enrolled students must contact their new academic department to begin the process. Applicants or students not yet enrolled can submit an Application Update Request for to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I have to inform UHCL and immigration if I change my address?
Any change of address must be reported to an International Student Advisor within ten days of the move. You can update your International Student Advisor through an online request. Your advisor will update immigration. However, it is your responsibility to update your information in E-Services.
Can I work off-campus?
Students must complete one academic year to be eligible for off-campus employment. Any unauthorized employment is a direct violation of your F-1 status. Once you have received authorization from an International Student Advisor, you may pursue off-campus employment, co-ops, or internships in fields that directly relate to your degree program. For information, refer to F-1 Employment.
How do I get a Texas ID Card or Texas Driver's License?
You will need to go to any Texas Department of Public Safety office. See https://www.dps.texas.gov for the location closest to your home. More information is available on the OIAP website through the International Student Handbook. Please note according to Texas law a car owner/driver is required to have the minimum liability auto insurance policy.