ISSS Frequently Asked Questions

This page was last updated with current information as of October 21, 2020. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has not released guidance for the spring 2021 semester. We are continuing to monitor this situation and will provide updated information as it becomes available.

Sections:

Office Services

  • Is the ISSS office still available? How can I speak with an ISSS advisor?

    Yes. The ISSS office is still available and is providing all services remotely. If you have questions for an ISSS advisor, call us at 607-777-2510 during our regular advising hours:

    • Monday and Tuesday: 10-11:45 a.m.
    • Wednesday and Thursday: 1:30-3:30 p.m.

    You will need to leave a message including your name, B# and the best phone number to reach you. An ISSS staff member will call you back as soon as possible to answer your questions.

  • I need to get an I-20 for OPT, CPT, travel, etc. How can I request that?

    You can submit all requests to ISSS electronically using our online forms. For pdf forms that require a signature from an academic advisor, we have updated all forms to include an electronic signature option. New I-20s will be mailed to you using U.S. Postal Service first-class mail. You may also choose to pay for UPS shipping using our Express Mail form.

Travel

  • How can I get a new travel signature?
    If you are planning to travel outside the United States, you should carefully review any travel restrictions currently in place and be aware that restrictions could change rapidly. When leaving, be sure that you carry your required immigration documents (passport, visa and I-20 or DS-2019). If your travel signature will expire before you plan to return to the U.S., you can request an I-20 reprint one to two months before you plan to return to the U.S. If you are currently in the U.S., we recommend that you request an I-20 reprint at least one month before you plan to leave; this ensures sufficient time for processing and mailing of your new I-20 or DS-2019.
  • I’m leaving the U.S. What documents should I take with me?
    You should travel with your passport, visa and original I-20 or DS-2019. Be sure to keep these documents in your carry-on luggage.
  • I’m planning to go home. Will I be able to return to the U.S.?
    International Student and Scholar Services does not recommend that you travel outside the U.S. at this time. Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. The U.S. Embassies and Consulates in many countries have not yet resumed routine visa processing. If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.
  • I am outside the U.S. and need to renew my visa before I can return to the U.S. What should I do?

    On July 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of State announced that the phased resumption of routine visa services would begin at U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Resuming these services will occur on a post-by-post basis depending on location circumstances. Students should continue to monitor the website for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for any updates.

    Note: If you are currently in the United States and your visa has expired, you do not need to take any action. You can remain in the U.S. with an expired visa and apply for a new visa on a future trip.

  • I received an electronic I-20. Will I be able to use this I-20 to apply for a visa and enter the U.S.?
    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has temporarily approved the use of electronic I-20s. If you received an electronic I-20 from ISSS, it is valid for the same period of time as an original hard copy I-20. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program has coordinated with the Department of State and Customs and Border Protection, and both agencies have confirmed their support for electronic I-20s. We recommend that you print a copy of this letter of explanation and keep it with your I-20. Note: The electronic I-20 serves as a valid document for the purpose of applying for your visa and entering the U.S. ISSS will retain the original I-20, and you should plan to pick it up from ISSS upon your arrival.
  • I'm planning to travel outside of New York. Will I need to quarantine when I return?
    If you choose to travel outside of New York state, you should continue to monitor New York state updates related to travel and quarantine requirements. Anyone who travels to a state that does not border New York (NJ, CT, PA, MA, VT are excluded) or to a CDC Level 2 or 3 country will be required to complete a traveler health form and quarantine upon their return to New York. You may have the option to "test out" of the quarantine requirement, but you must follow specific instructions for testing before and after arrival in New York. See the New York COVID-19 Travel Advisory page for more details on quarantine and testing requirements. 
  • I want to travel to Canada or Mexico. Is that allowed?
    There are currently restrictions limiting travel to and from Canada and Mexico through land ports of entry. Travel through these land borders is only possible if you are traveling for essential purposes. If you wish to travel to Canada or Mexico through a land port of entry, you must review information from the Canadian or Mexican government to confirm whether or not your travel constitutes essential travel. These restrictions do not apply to air travel between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico. If you are traveling to Canada or Mexico, you must ensure that you meet any visa requirements to enter that country. You must also be sure to carry your valid passport, F-1 or J-1 visa, and I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature. If you have additional questions about travel, speak with an ISSS advisor about your specific situation. 

Updated Guidance from SEVP for Fall 2020

  • What is the current guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)?

    The current guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program includes flexibility for F-1 international students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In brief, this guidance allows for the following:

    • Continuing students (who were in Active SEVIS status as of March 9, 2020) may choose to take all of their courses online if that is most appropriate for their circumstances. Continuing students may take courses in the U.S. or outside the U.S. This guidance also applies to students who were active in SEVIS on March 9, 2020 and are transferring from another school or will begin a new degree program for fall 2020 and who are physically present in the United States.
    • New students who are outside the U.S. may not enter the U.S. if they will be taking all of their courses online. New international students who wish to come to the U.S. must take at least one hybrid or in-person course which counts toward their full-time enrollment requirement. New students who wish to take all of their courses online must remain outside the U.S. for the fall 2020 semester.
  • Can an international student take a full online course load from within the United States?

    Continuing F-1 international students with an active SEVIS record may take all online courses within the United States and maintain their F-1 status as long as they maintain a full-time course load. If you plan to take all of your fall 2020 coursework online, you must discuss this plan with your academic advisor and also email registrar@binghamton.edu to confirm your plans.

    This flexibility does not apply to new students who have not yet entered the United States. F-1 students with an initial status record who are currently outside the United States will not be able to come to the U.S. in the fall 2020 semester if they are taking 100% online courses. New international students in the United States will need to register for a full-time course load, including at least one in-person or hybrid course. 

  • Am I able to enroll in 100% online courses from outside the U.S.?
    Continuing F-1 international students with an active SEVIS record may take all online courses outside the United States and maintain their F-1 status as long as they maintain a full-time course load. If you plan to take all of your fall 2020 coursework online from outside the United States, you must complete the Continuing Student Outside the US form. ISSS will use this information to update your SEVIS record to confirm that you are maintaining your F-1 or J-1 status outside the U.S. You must also discuss this plan with your academic advisor and email registrar@binghamton.edu to confirm your plans. 
  • I am an international student scheduled to start my studies at Binghamton University in fall 2020. What are my options for fall 2020?

    An additional complication (separate from this policy) is related to the fact that U.S. embassies and consulates are just beginning to resume visa services, and there are significant backlogs at most locations. If newly admitted students are unable to obtain their visa and arrive in the U.S. by the start of the semester, they are encouraged to explore online course options for the fall 2020 semester, to be taken from abroad.

    New international students who are able to secure a visa and arrive in time for the start of the fall 2020 semester must register for a full-time course load, including at least one in-person or hybrid course for the fall semester.

  • Will Binghamton University offer courses that allow me to maintain my F-1 or J-1 status?

    Binghamton University plans to offer a variety of courses, including those offered in person and in hybrid modalities. The University will make every effort to work with our international students to ensure that they can enroll in classes that maintain their immigration status and meet their academic needs.

  • What courses are considered to be “in person” or “hybrid”?

    Courses at Binghamton University are being coded as in person or hybrid, based on their modes of delivery. Additional courses that continue to be considered in-person courses (in that they are unchanged by this new guidance) include thesis, pre-dissertation, dissertation, final project, independent study and internship.

  • What if Binghamton University transitions back to 100% online course delivery mid-semester?

    Based on the most recent SEVP guidance, if Binghamton University transitions to 100% online course delivery mid-semester, students who are already in the United States and maintaining their status will be able to continue in their courses in the U.S. or in their home country without disruption to their immigration status. 

  • If courses delivered the week after Thanksgiving are 100% online, does that mean students in F and J status need to depart the U.S.?

    No. Online course delivery after Thanksgiving is part of our comprehensive hybrid plan for the fall 2020 semester. As such, on-campus/in-person course components would be scheduled to take place prior to the week after Thanksgiving.

  • Will my credits taken online count toward my degree requirements?

    Yes. Credits taken online will count toward your degree requirements regardless of whether they are taken in your home country or in the United States.

  • I heard that I need to have a new I-20 issued with specific “remarks” on it. When will the ISSS issue my new I-20?

    The guidance from SEVP requiring a new I-20 with a specific remark was rescinded on July 14, 2020. Your most recent I-20 is the one you should continue to present when applying for a visa or entering the U.S. You can find more information about the documents needed for travel on our Travel page. 

    We have heard reports that some consulates are still requesting an I-20 with remarks about hybrid courses even though the guidance requiring that update was rescinded. We have created a letter of support confirming that Binghamton University will be offering in-person and hybrid courses for the fall 2020 semester. We encourage students who are applying for a new visa to print a copy of this letter and bring it to their visa appointment. 

  • I am transferring my SEVIS record to Binghamton University from another school. Can I take all of my classes online and maintain my F-1 status?

    If you were in valid F-1 status with an active SEVIS record (I-20) on March 9, 2020 AND you are in the United States at the start of the fall 2020 semester, you can maintain your status as long as you enroll full time. You may take all online courses or a combination of online and in-person/hybrid courses.

    If you transferred your SEVIS record and will be outside the U.S. at the start of the fall 2020 semester, you are eligible to enroll in online courses. ISSS will need to work with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to request a deferral of the start date on your new I-20. We will need additional information about your travel plans in order to request that deferral.  If SEVP does not approve this deferral of your start date, we would then need to issue a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID for the semester in which you plan to begin your in-person classes. Because that would be a new SEVIS ID, you would need to pay a new SEVIS fee, and you would need to be in the U.S. as a full-time student for at least two semesters on that new I-20 before you could be eligible for any CPT or OPT authorization.

New Students

  • I am planning to begin my in-person studies at Binghamton University in the spring 2021 semester. When will classes start?

    Binghamton University has announced that classes for the spring 2021 semester will begin on February 11. The Academic Calendar provides more details about spring semester dates. 

  • I received an electronic I-20. Will I be able to use this I-20 to apply for a visa and enter the U.S.?

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has temporarily approved the use of electronic I-20s. If you received an electronic I-20 from ISSS, it is valid for the same period of time as an original hard copy I-20. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program has coordinated with the Department of State and Customs and Border Protection, and both agencies have confirmed their support for electronic I-20s. We recommend that you print a copy of this letter of explanation and keep it with your I-20. Note: The electronic I-20 serves as a valid document for the purpose of applying for your visa and entering the U.S. ISSS will retain the original I-20, and you should plan to pick it up from ISSS upon your arrival.

  • I have an I-20 with a February 15, 2021 start date. Do I need a new one?

    When the University amended the start date for the Spring 2021 semester to February 15, 2021, our ISSS Office processed numerous I-20 documents (reflective of the February 15, 2021 start date). The Spring 2021 start date was then revisited (and amended again), so our office began processing newly received admissions with a start date of February 08, 2021. Acknowledging that international students are eligible to enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to their program start date on their Form I-20, students who received an I-20 with a start date of February 15, 2021 do not need to be issued a new I-20. It is not necessary to obtain a new, updated I-20 document with a February 08, 2021 start date. I-20s with either start date are valid for the purpose of scheduling your visa interview and entering the US in advance of the Spring 2021 semester.

Employment

  • I’m graduating this semester. How do I apply for OPT?

    ISSS staff are continuing to process requests for OPT I-20s. You should review the information on our OPT page, including our detailed instructions on how to apply for OPT. You should submit your application to ISSS as soon as possible. ISSS staff will review your application and issue a new I-20 showing a recommendation for OPT. Your original I-20 will be sent to you via USPS first class mail, or you can pay for it to be sent to you via UPS. Once you have your new I-20, you will need to assemble a complete application and mail it to USCIS. USCIS processing time is 3-5 months, so we recommend that graduating students apply for OPT as soon as possible.

  • How can I have an ISSS advisor review my OPT application?
    When ISSS processes your OPT application, an advisor will send you detailed instructions for assembling your application and requesting an OPT review. You can email the documents for your OPT application to intlwork@binghamton.edu for an ISSS advisor to review.
  • I’m graduating this semester and plan to finish my courses from home. Can I apply for OPT from my home country?  
     You must apply for OPT from within the United States. If you leave the U.S. without applying for OPT, you will not be eligible to apply for OPT. If you have additional questions about OPT eligibility and travel plans, call 607-777-2510 during walk-in advising hours to speak with an ISSS advisor about your situation.
  • Is USCIS still processing OPT applications?
    Yes. USCIS Service Centers and Lockboxes are still open, and they continue to accept and process new applications for OPT and STEM OPT. USCIS has suspended all in-person services, but that suspension does not impact OPT or STEM OPT applications.
  • Can I continue my on-campus job during the fall 2020 semester?
    Yes. F-1 students (and J-1 students with authorization) can retain "on-campus" work authorization, up to 20 hours/week, if they continue to have an active I-20 and maintain their F/J status. That said, all eligible students should discuss their employment with their on-campus supervisor to ensure that other restrictions are not in place due to COVID-19.
  • Are there any changes to employment options for international students during the pandemic?
    At this time, there are no changes to employment regulations for international students. International educators are continuing to advocate for expanded flexibility for international students impacted by the pandemic, but currently there is no additional flexibility related to employment.
  • I’m a J-1 student. How can I apply for Academic Training?
  • How can I apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)?

    The Social Security Administration requires new applicants to schedule an appointment before applying for a Social Security Number. You must first ensure that you have all of the required documents to apply for the SSN. If you are working on campus, you will need to get an offer letter from your employer and then receive an ISSS signature on that letter. Once you have all of the required documents in hand, you must call the local Social Security Administration office at 866-964-3971 to schedule an appointment. You can find more details on the ISSS Steps to Apply for an SSN page.

  • I have been laid off or furloughed. Am I eligible for unemployment?
    F-1 and J-1 students are generally not eligible for unemployment benefits. New York and many other states require that applicants be "available to work" without restriction in order to be eligible for unemployment. F-1 and J-1 students have very specific eligibility criteria and restrictions for employment and therefore are not eligible for unemployment. If you have additional questions about unemployment benefits in another state, you should speak with an experienced attorney to understand eligibility.

Insurance

J-1 Scholars

  • Due to COVID-19, my department is transitioning to telecommuting. Can I telecommute?

    Yes. Due to the extenuating circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, J-1 scholars who are otherwise maintaining status and working toward their program objectives may work remotely if approved by their department. Speak with your sponsoring faculty member for any questions about changes to your work arrangements. If your U.S. residential address changes, complete the J-1 scholar address change form and email it to isss@binghamton.edu

  • I’m planning to travel. How can I get a travel signature?  
    If you are planning to travel outside the United States, you should carefully review any travel restrictions currently in place and be aware that restrictions could change rapidly. When leaving, be sure that you carry your required immigration documents (passport, visa and DS-2019). If your travel signature will expire before you plan to return to the U.S., you can email isss@binghamton.edu to request a DS-2019 reprint. We recommend requesting the document at least one month before you plan to leave the U.S. to allow time for processing and mailing your DS-2019.
  • I have decided to return to my home country and do not intend to continue my research or teaching at Binghamton University.
    Email isss@binghamton.edu to confirm that you do not wish to continue your J-1 status. Include the date that you are leaving the United States. We will update your immigration record with this new end date.
  • Can I travel outside the United States?  
    International Student and Scholar Services does not recommend that you travel outside the U.S. at this time. Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. The U.S. Embassies and Consulates in many countries have not yet resumed routine visa processing. If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.
  • I’m a prospective scholar. Should I still come to Binghamton?
    Discuss your situation with the Binghamton University faculty member who will be hosting you. They will be able to guide you on any concerns related to coming to Binghamton or postponing your start date.

Presidential Proclamation Impacting Some Chinese Citizens

The Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China was signed on May 29, 2020. This proclamation restricts travel to the United States for certain F-1 and J-1 international students and scholars. The proclamation addresses broad categories which have not yet been clearly defined by the Department of State. The responses below are based on the most current information available. In addition to this proclamation, there may be other factors impacting the mobility of international students and scholars from China. If you have questions about your individual situation, please speak with an ISSS advisor during advising hours.

  • I am an undergraduate student from China. How will I be affected?

    This proclamation does not directly impact your status or your eligibility to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa. 

    • If you are currently outside the U.S. and have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa, you should be able to use that visa to return to the U.S. after travel restrictions are lifted.
    • If your visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa before you can return to the U.S.
    • If you are currently in the United States, you may remain in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining valid status, even if the visa stamp in your passport expires.

    There may be other proclamations or restrictions impacting the mobility of international students and scholars from China. If you have questions about your individual situation, please speak with an ISSS advisor during advising hours.

  • I am a graduate student or scholar/researcher from China. Does this proclamation apply to me? 
     

    This proclamation only directly impacts your status if you meet one of the following criteria:

    • Currently "receives funding from or who currently is employed by, studies at, or conducts research at or on behalf of... an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'," or
    • In the past "has been employed by, studied at, or conducted research at or on behalf of... an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'"

    The Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security have not provided additional information on how criteria will be further defined. 

  • I am a graduate student or scholar/researcher from China and am currently in the United States. How will I be affected? 
     

    If you meet the criteria listed in the presidential proclamation, you should avoid traveling outside the United States as you may not be eligible to receive a new F-1 or J-1 visa or re-enter the United States. This proclamation does not revoke your current visa, but it does indicate that the Secretary of State may consider revoking F-1 and J-1 visas of students and scholars who meet the criteria in the future.

    If you are currently in the United States, you may remain in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining valid status, even if the visa stamp in your passport expires. If you have any questions about your status, please speak with an ISSS advisor during advising hours.

    If you do not meet the criteria listed in the presidential proclamation, your F-1 or J-1 status should not be directly impacted by this proclamation. If you are considering traveling outside the United States, please speak with an ISSS advisor regarding your travel plans. If you are currently in the United States, you may remain in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining valid status, even if the visa stamp in your passport expires.

  • I am a graduate student or scholar/researcher from China and am currently outside the United States. How will I be affected? 
     

    If you meet the criteria listed in the presidential proclamation, you may not be able to get a new F-1/J-1 visa or enter the United States. Please speak with an ISSS advisor about your situation. If your visa has expired, the consular officer will make a determination about your eligibility at the point of your visa application and/or interview. If you have an unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa in your passport, the Department of Homeland Security will determine your eligibility to enter the United States.

    If you do not meet the criteria listed in the presidential proclamation, your F-1 or J-1 eligibility should not be directly impacted by this proclamation.

    • If you are currently outside the U.S. and have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa, you should be able to use that visa to return to the U.S. after travel restrictions are lifted.
    • If your visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa before you can return to the U.S.

    There may be other proclamations or restrictions impacting the mobility of international students and scholars from China. If you have questions about your individual situation, please speak with an ISSS advisor during advising hours.

  • I am a prospective student from China and am applying for a graduate program. How will this proclamation impact me? 
     
    We encourage you to still apply for a graduate program at Binghamton University. The Department of State and Department of Homeland Security have not provided specific guidance on how this proclamation will be applied, but we anticipate that it will only apply to a small number of students. We are still continuing to issue I-20s to admitted international students. 

Other University Services

For answers to Frequently Asked Questions regarding other services and offices on campus, see the Binghamton University Restarting Binghamton FAQ page.