Colorado College International Students and 2020 Immigration Guidelines
Updated July 28, 2020
Over the course of the summer, the U.S. government announced several shifts in its policy towards F-1 international students and their ability to engage in online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictive guidelines for online study were proposed, challenged in court, and rescinded. However, with the choice of many schools to go to a hybrid model of instruction which includes both in-person and online courses, new guidelines and government FAQs have been developed specific to schools using this mixed-format delivery of education. Colorado College is one of the schools which has opted for a hybrid model for education delivery. Additionally, Colorado College has chosen to follow both CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control), state, and local public health guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes guidelines for quarantine of travelers from overseas as a preventative measure.
As these two developments can produce a lot of confusion, misinformation, and concern for our students, we have tried to update students regularly and to provide a single source for information regarding the latest guidance, expectations, and requirements. Below, you will find what we believe to be the most salient and appropriate questions regarding the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidelines, CC procedures, and options you have during this unusual academic year.
How does Colorado College’s return to campus plan align with the newly released guidelines for F-1 students and schools using a hybrid educational model?
Colorado College, by choosing to offer a combination of in-person courses and online courses, is considered a “hybrid model” campus. As a hybrid model, our international students will be allowed to study on our campus and remain in the U.S., however, there are limitations based on the new SEVP guidance for schools with a hybrid educational model. The new SEVP (F-1 Student program) guidelines will impact students who enroll in courses online from overseas as well as students on Colorado College’s campus.
What is a “hybrid” educational model, and what does it mean at Colorado College?
A hybrid model is one where a college or university is offering both in-person courses and online courses during the same semester. At most schools this means that students will enroll in a mix of both, and will take both online, in-person, and mixed-format courses at the same time (four-five courses over a semester).
At Colorado College, we are offering courses in four formats:
- In-Person: All class activities are conducted in an on-campus, face-to-face format.
- Hybrid: A course where all students participate in both face-to-face and online activities.
- Flex: A course where some students may be entirely online, and others may have a combination of online and in-person activities.
- Remote: A course where all class activities are conducted through distance learning, with no face-to-face components.
Colorado College’s selection of a multiple-format, hybrid model means that our international students must follow the guidelines set forth by SEVP for hybrid schools. Since Colorado College offers courses on the Block Plan, there may be further restrictions because our students do not take four-five courses simultaneously. By taking one course at a time, requirements for in-person coursework may be more rigid than at other schools where students can take online and in-person courses at the same time.
Does the new immigration guidance affect the ability of foreign nationals (F-1 students) to enter the United States?
No. While the new guidelines for schools with hybrid teaching models mean that both new and returning students can enter the country with their F-1 status regardless of the types of courses on their schedule, these guidelines do not affect the entry restrictions for travelers who are originating from China, Brazil, Ireland, Great Britain, or the Schengen Zone. These entry restrictions may still make it difficult for some of our international students to travel to Colorado. Students should consult the U.S. embassy or consulate in their area to confirm current entry requirements and to assure that their travel plans will allow them entry to the U.S.
Do I need to get a new I-20 to show that I attend a “hybrid model” college?
No. While the earlier SEVP guidance asked for notations on the I-20, this has been rescinded and is no longer a requirement. Some embassies have requested notation as part of the visa process, and Colorado College will provide a revised I-20 for students who are required to have this notation as part of their visa process, but new I-20s with notations are not required for entry to the United States.
Can I receive my I-20 form electronically?
Yes; as of April 30, 2020, the SEVP indicates that electronic distribution is permitted for the F-1 Form I-20, and that such forms will remain valid after the resumption of normal operations until a new document is needed. Students who require a new I-20 will receive the electronic document via their official college email. This practice is expected to continue until staff are able to return to our offices on a regular basis, but will be subject to any changes in government guidance or policy. As you prepare to either obtain your visa or to enter the United States, you should print copies of the electronic I-20. These will be requested by both embassy and Border Patrol agents.
Will the college’s plan to complete the semester remotely after Thanksgiving still allow me to maintain my status for the 2020 Fall Semester?
Yes, however, the college’s policy on Fall Break travel can affect international students. If you opt to travel (either overseas or within the U.S.) during Fall Break, you cannot return to on-campus housing after the Fall Break, and must remain away until the J-Block begins in January. You would, in this case, complete your Block 4 course through remote or online study. If you remain on campus during the Fall Break, you may remain in on-campus housing. And, of course, those of you with off-campus housing are free to return to that housing at any time, however you may not be able to access campus buildings if you have traveled outside of the area during the Fall Break.
Can I travel during Fall Break and then return to campus to finish Block 4?
Unfortunately, no, you cannot. The expectation that students who travel during Fall Break remain away until the end of Winter Break does not work for you as an international student, because you are required to have in-person classes the entire semester. Since CC does not want students to travel over break and then return to campus (potentially with exposure to COVID-19), it is not possible to travel over break and then return to complete your in-person courses. If you believe that you will need to travel home mid-year, we recommend that you speak with ISSS staff about a potential block leave so that you can take all of Block 4 off to return home, and then return to campus for the J-Block in January.
What will happen if CC unexpectedly needs to change its operation mode to online-only mid semester?
In the event that CC moves to online courses, it would be due to a significant increased risk from COVID-19. In this case, we would expect many international students to return home and complete the semester online. Those who petition and are approved to stay on campus would be permitted to remain enrolled in online format courses. The ability to remain on campus will not be an immigration-based decision, but one based on CC’s guidelines for housing and exemptions to the closed-campus guidelines for other students. If CC has to go completely online due to COVID-19, it is possible that the college would recommend that all students return home and take classes online. However, even in these cases, SEVP will allow you to remain in the U.S. and take classes 100% online if CC permits you to stay on campus.
What financial resources will be available if we are required to return to our home countries earlier than we expected?
Colorado College is creating a donor-funded International Student Assistance Fund which will be available to students should they encounter unforeseen expenses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and/or the new immigration guidelines. Students can petition these funds the same way as support due to COVID-19 policies were made available. Write a request, with as much information about the specific costs you face, to the Emergency Request Fund. The team that coordinates that fund will determine if your request is appropriate for the Emergency Request Fund or the International Student Assistance Fund, and will make approved payments directly to students from the appropriate fund. The Emergency Request Fund email address is email@example.com
NEW STUDENTS (Class of 2024)
I am an international student scheduled to start my studies at Colorado College this fall. How does this immigration guidance affect me?
If you are able to come to Colorado for our August 9 start date for international student orientation and Block 1 courses, you should have no trouble with the new immigration guidance. Your CC100 and CC120 courses for Blocks 1 and 2 are in-person. When you register for Blocks 3 and 4, you should also seek in-person, hybrid, or flex model courses (as defined above). This will ensure your F-1 status will not be impacted by new immigration guidelines.
If I arrive at CC in August, how many courses do I need to take this Fall Semester?
If you arrive for International Student Orientation in August, you should plan to enroll in a course for each block of the Fall Semester. This includes Blocks 1 through 4 and the new January Block as well. If you believe that taking one block away from courses is essential, you will need to work with the Advising Hub and the ISSS office to petition for a block leave. Standard policy is that only juniors and seniors can apply for a block leave, so you should anticipate that approval will not be guaranteed.
I am an international student who is expecting to start this year, but I may not be able to arrive in Colorado until January. How does the current immigration guidance affect me?
As a student who is arriving in January, the guidance does not necessarily affect you. However, it is possible that the rules put in place for the fall will be repeated for the spring. If this is the case, the same expectation exists that you will enroll in courses each block this spring which contain in-person components in order to maintain your immigration status and remain in the United States.
What is the latest date I can arrive to start my program if I am delayed by visa issues and/or continuing travel restrictions?
The only times that an international student can arrive at CC to begin their program of study are August and January. If you have not already secured your visa and do not have plans to arrive by August 9, you should contact the Office of Admission at CC to schedule a January arrival. You may still elect to enroll in online courses for the fall or petition for a gap semester, which allows you to begin your studies in January.
If I am a new student at Colorado College who will arrive in Colorado in January, can I enroll in online courses this fall?
Yes. You have the choice to request to defer your studies until January (with a gap semester) or to begin your studies by taking three-five courses from CC this Fall Semester and then coming to campus in January. Both options are available and neither option will affect your F-1 status. Your I-20 in both cases will list January as your start date for entry to the United States so the choice to take online courses this fall or to wait for in-person courses in the spring does not affect your entry date or F-1 eligibility. Your F-1 status will begin in January.
What if I cannot arrive in time to start my program?
ISSS will defer your form I-20 start date to the following Spring or Fall Semester as determined by your gap request (once approved) and will re-issue you a new form I-20. Your SEVIS ID will remain the same. If you already have a visa appointment scheduled, you may need to reschedule your appointment as you are only eligible to apply for a visa up to 120 days before the program start date listed on your I-20 form.
CONTINUING INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS CURRENTLY OVERSEAS
If I am a continuing student who is currently abroad, can I return to campus this fall?
The new immigration guidelines do not affect your ability to return to Colorado for study this fall. If you are in a country that does not have any travel restrictions for entry to the United States, you should be able to plan your return to CC and your new I-20 will allow you entry into the country. If you are in a country with entry restrictions (China or Brazil), you are currently not permitted to enter the United States without spending 14 days in another country that does not have entry restrictions.
In recent days, the 14-day restriction has been adjusted for the UK, Ireland, and countries in the Schengen Zone, however, compliance with the new guidelines has been uneven. We recommend that any students traveling from Europe check with their U.S. embassy or consulate to inquire about travel or entry restrictions to determine if their travel plans will be appropriate.
If I am able to travel to the United States this fall, when should I return to CC?
You should plan to return to campus in time to begin classes in Block 2, along with the other sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Due to the requirement of a 14-day quarantine for all international travelers to CC, we recommend September 6 as the most appropriate arrival date. Arriving on Sept. 6 will allow you to complete 14 days of quarantine and have one day to relocate to your fall housing before the first day of Block 2 classes on Sept. 21. If you wish to take an online CC course during Block 1, before your return to campus, you can do so without it impacting your F-1 status. If you do, you should notify the ISSS team of this decision.
If I am returning for Block 2, who do I notify about my plans for Block 1?
In addition to ensuring that you have the proper course registration for the Fall Semester, you should notify the ISSS staff to inform them whether you are planning on taking a Block 1 course online or requesting a Block 1 block leave. These are the two options available. If you choose not to take an online course Block 1, you will need a formal block leave, and this will be your only block leave available for the Fall Semester. The ISSS staff can assist you with this process.
If I return for Block 2, how many blocks must I study at CC this fall?
You should be enrolled in every block of the Fall Semester, including the new J-Block in January.
If I am unable to return to Colorado due to the entry restrictions, can I take online courses from CC?
Yes. If you are unable to enter the United States, you can still enroll in online courses through CC for the Fall Semester. In order to maintain your visa status by taking online courses you must be considered a full-time student, which means that you must enroll in a minimum of three online courses over the Fall Semester.
If I take online courses while overseas, what happens to my SEVIS record?
Based on the latest SEVP guidelines, any student who was enrolled at CC in Spring 2020, and who takes a minimum of three online courses for the 2020 Fall Semester will maintain their F-1 status.
Will my visa be canceled if I am studying from my home country?
If you have an F-1 visa, your visa (stamp in passport) would not be canceled if you are studying from your home country even if your SEVIS record (I-20) is terminated. The SEVIS termination would not affect your F-1 visa as long as your visa has not expired.
I am thinking about taking the semester off (leave); would that affect my I-20 and F-1 status?
If you decide that you don’t want to re-enter the U.S. for the Fall Semester to resume in-person classes, and you don’t wish to take online courses, you may apply for a leave of absence from CC through your advisor in the Advising Hub. How this impacts your F-1 status and your I-20 can vary depending on your time away. The best advice is to speak with representatives of CC’s ISSS team before applying for a leave.
CONTINUING STUDENTS ALREADY IN THE UNITED STATES
If I am a CC student already in the United States, when should I return to campus?
Because your F-1 status requires that you take courses with an in-person component in every block of the semester, you should return to campus in time to take coursework Block 1. All international students in the U.S. have been pre-approved to move into housing (if you have reserved housing) Block 1, but you should contact Zak Kroger to confirm that you are in the U.S. and will be returning to campus for Block 1.
What do the SEVP guidelines for hybrid schools allow me to do as a continuing international student on campus?
Students within the United States, and at hybrid-model schools, are permitted to combine online study with in-person courses. However, because of Colorado College’s unique Block Plan, which allows students to complete one course at a time, we are recommending the following for all students who are on our campus this fall.
- Students should enroll in courses which are designated as “In-Person,” “Hybrid,” or “Flex.” All of these courses have an in-person component which will protect your F-1 status.
- If you discover that a course which you absolutely must complete for your major/minor program is listed as “Remote” or online-only, and no alternative courses are possible, you can register for this course, however we require that you notify the ISSS staff (Donna Beziou or Marlene Arnold) so that your enrollment in the online course can be documented. Documentation is the key for Colorado College to remain in compliance with government guidelines and protect your F-1 status.
If I am on campus, can I enroll in fully remote, online-format classes this Fall Semester?
We are recommending that students seek out courses designated as “In-Person,” “Hybrid,” or “Flex.” While you have the option to enroll in an online course, this should be reserved for those situations where you absolutely must enroll in an online-format course in order to complete a major/minor. Only in a situation where CC moves to an online-only format should you expect to enroll exclusively in online courses.
I have friends at other colleges who are allowed to take online courses without restrictions; why is CC different?
Schools with semester or quarter calendars can allow students to complete online courses without restrictions because students at these schools are in both online and in-person courses at the same time, overlapping the online course with the in-person course. CC’s Block Plan has students taking only one course at a time, which means that our students normally must be enrolled in courses with an in-person component each block in order to maintain their F-1 student status. The new SEVP guidelines for hybrid model schools allows some expanded flexibility, however enrolling in multiple online-format courses in a semester may be considered inappropriate. For this reason we are requiring that students register any online course with the ISSS team.
How do I know if a course has in-person components and is appropriate for international students?
In the next few weeks, the college will have all courses coded in Banner to indicate the manner of instruction. There are four codes: In-Person, Hybrid, Flex, and Remote. All courses except “Remote” are appropriate for students who need an in-person course.
If my visa expires, can I remain in the U.S.? Will I be able to renew it?
Yes, you can remain in the U.S. with an expired visa in your passport, as long as you are maintaining your F-1 student immigration status. However, once you depart the U.S. and your visa has expired, you MUST renew the visa before you will be allowed to re-enter the U.S. in the F-1 category. There is a lot of uncertainty around travel and visa processing at the moment. Currently, the U.S. Department of State has closed most consular locations and/or suspended certain visa services; additional restrictions are possible based on local conditions. As visa processing begins to resume, please consult your intended embassy or consular section for updated guidance on their nonimmigrant visa application procedures. There is uncertainty about processing backlogs and possible delays. If you are unable to obtain the visa before your scheduled return, you will have to adjust your travel plans.