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COVID-19 International Student Updates

Dear International Students,

You may have already read the communication from UC Merced leadership regarding Moving to Remote Instruction. On Monday March 30, students will engage in all coursework remotely. This includes all types of instructional formats – seminars, laboratories, etc. – and all forms of assessments – exams, tests, quizzes, performances, etc.

Please read this update carefully as we try to answer areas of concern that you, as an international student, may be facing during these unprecedented times. Please know that we are thinking of you and want to provide as much guidance as we can to support you. We acknowledge that there will be additional questions from our international student community, and the Office of International Affairs will continue to communicate with you so you can make the best informed decision for your situation during the Spring 2020 semester.

Do I have to return to my home country? No. While the campus is taking precautionary measures to reduce the population density on campus and help flatten the COVID-19 curve, F-1 and J-1 students may remain in the U.S.

Will my F-1 status (I-20) or J-1 status (DS-2019) be terminated if I leave the U.S. to continue my full-time enrollment online and from my home country? No. As long as you maintain full-time enrollment during the Spring 2020 semester and fully participate in your classes, the Office of International Affairs will keep your SEVIS record in active F-1 or J-1 status.

What happens to my F-1 or J-1 visa if I leave the U.S. and I am outside the U.S. for more than 5 months? If you maintain full-time enrollment for the Spring 2020 semester, participate and complete all classes, have a valid visa, and an I-20/DS-2019, we do not anticipate F & J visa cancellations. Your valid visa can be used to return to the U.S. for the Summer 2020 session or the Fall 2020 semester. Be sure your I-20 or DS-2019 is signed for travel as required within the 12 month period before your return. We will update you if there are any changes that would affect your return to the U.S.

Will my F-1 or J-1 status be terminated if I drop my classes or am unable to continue in my classes? Yes, in most cases. Please see our Maintaining Your Legal Status web page for further information. If for any reason you are not able to continue in your classes remotely, please email Lacey Long-Vejar at llongvejar@ucmerced.edu or iss@ucmerced.edu.

Do I have to be in the U.S. to sign documents such as the I-20 for my OPT application? Please contact Lacey Long-Vejar at llongvejar@ucmerced.edu or iss@ucmerced.edu for arrangments.

What if I am a continuing student from a country that has heavily been affected bythe COVID-19 outbreak and it is safer for me to stay in the U.S.: Can I stay? Yes, as long as you maintain full-time enrollment and conform to all regulatory compliance requirements. Please contact Lacey Long-Vejar at llongvejar@ucmerced.edu or iss@ucmerced.edu for further information.

When will the COVID-19 related travel restrictions be lifted? We do not have an estimated timeline from the federal government. We will provide updates as they become available.

Is it possible that the travel restrictions due the COVID-19 outbreak will be expanded? This is a fluid situation and other countries could be added to the list of travel restrictions countries as more COVID-19 cases are being detected.

I am planning to graduate in Spring 2020. After I complete my classes remotely, can I apply for OPT while I am overseas? No, this is currently not an option. We are seeking clarification on this topic from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and will include a response in our next communication.

The Office of International Affairs is closely monitoring the situation with the COVID-19 outbreak and will continue with email communications to the international student community as more information become available. Please contact the Office of International Affairs if you have any questions regarding travel, employment, study, or stay in the U.S.

Please visit our UC Merced COVID-19 Update web page.

I encourage you to make informed decisions during these difficult times for the best outcome. Please take care of yourself, reach out with questions and stay in touch.