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.
What is E-services?
E-services is the online system by which UHCL students and applicants can check their admission status, register for classes, check their grades, pay their fees etc. You can login to E-services online using your seven digit student id. Once there you can request for your password.
What is the difference between International Student Advisors and academic/faculty advisors?
International student advisors are UHCL staff dedicated to international students. They assist students in maintaining F-1 status, applying for immigration benefits, and assisting non-F-1 students in applying for F-1 status. Faculty and/or academic advisors help you with any questions you have about your academics, with filing your candidate plan of study (CPS), course waivers, etc. You contact them for any academic questions or advice you need. Your academic department will notify you with the name of your advisor.
How do I apply for scholarships?
There are limited competitive scholarships and grants for international students. They are awarded based on merit. You can apply for scholarships through your E-services account. For more information regarding scholarships, visit Costs and Aid.
Can I defer my scholarship award, if I plan to defer my attendance at UHCL to another semester?
You should reapply for the scholarship for the new term in which you plan to enroll. You must pay attention to application deadlines.
Can international students apply for financial assistance?
With few exceptions, federal financial assistance is only available to citizens or eligible non-citizens of the United States. If you only have an F1, F2, J1, or J2 student or work visa, you are not eligible for federal student aid. For more information please contact the Office of Financial Aid.
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.
What is the difference between New International Student Orientation(NISO), Student Orientation And Registration(SOAR), and Transfer Student Orientation(TSO) are International Student and New Students Orientations?
Each of these programs is designed for specific groups of students. NISO is specifically geared towards the needs of international students in their transition. SOAR is for freshman students (undergraduates starting with less than 30 credits). TSO is designed for domestic undergraduate students transferring to UHCL with more than 30 credits. NISO is required for international students. TSO is an optional program for international students.
What is department orientation?
Some academic departments of UHCL have specific orientation. If your department has an orientation, they will notify you directly.
Do I have to pay for the university health insurance?
Yes, all international students (F & J visas) are required to have health insurance. This requirement can only be waived through a formal waiver process.