Skip to main content

COVID-19 FAQ for International Scholars

Explore this page to find answers for international faculty and staff about employment and visa status, travel, and more.

Cornell is committed to the health and safety of our campus and surrounding communities. Visit Cornell’s COVID-19 Response for campuswide information. If you're a student, find answers to your questions on this FAQ.

Omicron Variant

Cornell University is working closely with local, state, and federal experts to prevent, identify, and track the spread of Omicron, a new highly contagious COVID-19 variant, and to make health and travel safety decisions to protect our community. The Office of Global Learning will continue to monitor the situation and communicate any updates as we receive them.

Employment and Immigration

As a general rule, working remotely outside the United States is not permitted for J-1, H-1B, and O-1 faculty and staff. Cornell is a U.S.-based employer and has limited ability to sponsor work authorization in other countries. Find out about a few exceptions below. Please email us if you have questions about how to maintain your status while you are employed at Cornell.

Where can I find Cornell updates about the Omicron variant?

Visit Cornell's COVID-19 Response website to monitor updates on the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Where can I learn more about vaccination requirements and procedures?

The Vaccination at Cornell page is the main source of information on Cornell's vaccine policies, including the current list of accepted vaccines. Visit Cornell's COVID-19 information for policies specific to international faculty and staff and visitors.

Do I need to get a COVID-19 booster?

Yes! Cornell is requiring all students and employees who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to get a booster as part of comprehensive vaccination against this virus. The booster requirement must be met by January 31, or 30 days after you become eligible. Proof must be uploaded to the Daily Check. Visit the Cornell Health website for more information about the booster shot requirement.

The CDC has recently updated its recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines and urges individuals to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or booster (Moderna or Pfizer), when possible. Anyone eligible for a booster may receive Moderna or Pfizer, regardless of their previous immunizations.If you were vaccinated outside of the U.S. with other COVID-19 vaccines, you can get a single booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech if you completed one of the following at least six months ago:

I am a J-1 researcher. I am in a travel-restricted country, and 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, you 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 reentry is delayed for more than 30 days due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, email us us about 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, an 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.

If the J-1 exchange visitor takes an 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 an LOA, the host unit must immediately reappoint the J-1 exchange visitor in Workday effective on the date of admission to the U.S. There may be tax or benefit implications to an 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 in a travel-restricted country, and 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 (Office of Global Learning, 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 an 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 and 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.

Travel Rules

 

I've heard that COVID-19 travel restrictions have been lifted and that NIEs are no longer required. Is this true?

Yes! A new Presidential proclamation has been issued that removes the requirement for National Interest Exceptions (NIE) to enter the United States. Instead, proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test within one day of travel (or evidence of recovery from a recent case) are required for nonimmigrants entering the U.S. by air. The policy went into effect on November 8, 2021.

Visit the following CDC pages for more information on the new travel policy and technical information about the policy's implementation.

Is there a travel ban in effect for me?

A new Presidential proclamation has been issued that removes the requirement for National Interest Exceptions (NIE) to enter the United States. Instead, proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test within one day of travel (or evidence of recovery from a recent case) are required for nonimmigrants entering the U.S. by air. The policy went into effect on November 8, 2021.

Visit the following CDC pages for more information on the new travel policy and technical information about the policy's implementation.

What about travel within the United States?

Please see Cornell's COVID-19 Response page for more information and policies regarding travel. If you are at Cornell Tech, see Cornell Tech's COVID-19 Updates.

How does the presidential proclamation suspending Chinese students' and scholars' entry to the United States affect me?

The May 29, 2020, proclamation only applies to certain graduate students and postgraduate researchers. Read our May 2020 message about the proclamation.

Stimulus Funds and Scams

I received a stimulus check, but I don't think I should have. What do I do?

Follow these instructions from the IRS if you need to return a payment that you're not entitled to receive.

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.