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Coronavirus Updates: Visit Cornell’s Coronavirus Resources and Updates for campus-wide information. Visit COVID-19 Immigration FAQs for international community information.

COVID-19 Immigration FAQs

Answers for Cornell's international community about university coronavirus actions, travel rules, maintaining your visa status, and more. 

For Students, Faculty, and Staff

Where can I find the most up-to-date information on Cornell policies related to the coronavirus?

Consult Cornell’s Coronavirus Resources and Updates and FAQ pages. A COVID-19 Study Abroad FAQ is also available. For information on the Cornell Tech campus, please visit Cornell Tech's COVID-19 Updates.

How does the ban on travel from Europe, the UK, and Ireland impact the international community?

At this time, there is no ban on flights to Europe, the UK, and Ireland. The policy banning travel from Europe (defined as the Schengen Area) for foreign nationals for 30 days, took effect on Friday, March 13, 2020, at midnight EST. Read the March 11 presidential proclamation. The ban expands to include the UK and Ireland on Monday, March 18, 2020, at midnight EST. This travel ban is similar to the ban that the U.S. imposed on foreign nationals who had been in or through China when the outbreak began in January.

What about travel within the United States?

With the exception of students traveling home for the duration of the semester, we strongly discourage any nonessential domestic travel, personal or Cornell-related, by faculty, staff, and students. International travel restrictions remain unchanged. Please see Cornell's coronavirus FAQ for more information and policies regarding travel. If you are at Cornell Tech, see Cornell Tech's COVID-19 Updates.

Do I need to contact the Office of Global Learning International Services before leaving campus?

Check that you have a valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019. If your signature has expired, request a travel signature online, and we will mail you the document before you leave the country.

How can I avoid coronavirus-related scams?

Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding coronavirus. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlines steps to protect yourself from these scams. 

I heard that your campus office is closed! How can I get advice?

The International Services team is ready to work with you during our regular hours. Effective March 23: Our advising staff is working remotely to support Cornell's international community and campus partners. Reach us by email or phone. Read Get Advice for more information about hours and services. Cornell Tech students should continue to work with Cornell Tech Student Services during office hours or by email.

For Students

I will graduate this semester, but Cornell has moved courses online due to COVID-19. Can I legally stay in the United States?

Yes. On March 9, 2020, the U.S. government issued guidance that recognized the need for flexibility around temporary arrangements for remote or online learning for international students. Provided that you continue to make normal progress in a full course of study (required by regulation), temporary arrangements for online or remote learning will not negatively impact your status.

Can I apply for OPT even though Cornell has transitioned to online instruction?

Yes, as long as you remain in the United States and maintain F-1 status by continuing your full course of study with online instruction. Read more about F-1 OPT. Please note that we do not recommend that you depart the US until you have received an official receipt notice from USCIS (information about OPT and travel).

Can I apply for CPT even though Cornell has transitioned to online instruction?

Please check for your eligibility for CPT and then follow the instructions.

I am outside the U.S. conducting research for my degree. How do the current Cornell travel restrictions affect me?

I’ve fallen below 12 credits because a class was canceled. What course can I add now?

Physical Education has seven-week classes that are open to all students. Contact the Office of the University Registrar to learn how to sign up.

If I go home, will I be able to return in the fall? Are there special reentry procedures?

While we can't anticipate how travel may be impacted, we will remain committed to helping you have as smooth a transition back to campus as possible. Be sure to monitor your Cornell email account while you’re away so that you receive our updates by email. When you return to campus, plan to carry the same travel documents you normally use.

I've heard that if I'm outside the U.S. for more than five months, I need to apply for a new I-20 and F-1 visa stamp. Is this true?

The five-month rule only applies if you are outside of the U.S. and not a registered student for five months or more. We will not close your SEVIS record if you are enrolled as a full-time student online (spring 2020), and you intend to return after the crisis or in the fall. If you meet these conditions and have a valid I-20 and visa stamp, you will not need to apply for a new I-20 and visa.

I am an F-1 or J-1 student. I'm staying in Ithaca. Am I authorized to work remotely for my campus employer?

As an F-1 or J-1 student, off-campus employment is restricted by U.S. law, but may be authorized under certain conditions. If you are maintaining your visa status, and you will be paid by Cornell as usual, you may work remotely so long as you remain in the United States. No special permission is needed, but don't hesitate to email us if you have questions about your situation.

I am an F-1 or J-1 student. I need to leave campus and return to my permanent home residence. Am I authorized to work remotely?

International students who have left the US are ineligible for remote work abroad.

For Faculty and Staff

I am a J-1 professor or researcher. I am currently in a travel-restricted country, and now I can’t return to the United States. What does this mean for me?

As a J-1 professor or research scholar with a valid DS-2019, we are permitted to keep your J-1 program active in SEVIS, if you will be continuing your exchange program activity with your Ithaca-based department or faculty while abroad. If your re-entry is delayed for more than 30 days due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, please contact International Services for your immigration status. Please reach out to your supervisor with any questions related to your work activities and your current appointment.

How does leave of absence work for J-1 scholars?

A leave of absence (LOA) is not permitted for J-1 exchange visitors who remain in the U.S. If you are abroad, a LOA is possible, but not recommended. The Department of State considers a J-1 exchange visitor in “active” status to be indicative of uninterrupted program participation. While a J-1 record is in “active” status, the university (as the J program sponsor) is required to monitor the progress and welfare of the exchange visitor and the exchange visitor is required to maintain health insurance. If a J-1 exchange visitor departs the U.S., International Services will maintain the J-1 record until such time that the individual can return as long as the academic appointment in the host department remains active and the exchange visitor maintains the health insurance requirements.

If the J-1 exchange visitor takes a LOA, International Services will seek verification from the host department, that program participation is expected to remain uninterrupted while the J-1 is abroad. On return to the U.S., if the J-1 exchange visitor was on a LOA, the host unit must immediately reappoint the J-1 exchange visitor in Workday effective the date of their admission to the U.S. There may be tax or benefit implications to a LOA and you are encouraged to discuss this with your supervisor or local HR representative.

I am an H-1B or O-1 temporary worker. I am currently in a travel-restricted country, and now I can’t return to the United States. What does this mean for me?

Under limited circumstances and with prior approvals from the appropriate offices and individuals (International Services, HR, Export Controls, Divisional representatives, etc.), it may be possible to go on a leave of absence (LOA) or continue working from abroad. Please note that the continuation of benefits during a LOA can vary by employment type and eligibility. Please reach out to your supervisor with any questions related to your work activities and your current appointment.

How does leave of absence work for H-1B or O-1 temporary workers?

International Services must review and approve all leave of absence requests for H-1B and O-1 temporary workers in advance to ensure compliance with immigration regulations.

I am a faculty or staff member in J-1, H-1B, or O-1 status. I am currently in the United States. Since classes are online, am I authorized to work remotely from abroad?

Working remotely outside the United States is not permitted. Cornell is a U.S.-based employer and unable to sponsor work authorization in other countries. Please reach out to your supervisor with any questions related to your work activities and your current appointment.