COVID-19 Information for International Students

Updated October 22, 2020

On July 14, 2020, the U.S. government agreed to rescind the July 6, 2020 policy directive and FAQs released on July 7 that indicated F-1 international students in the U.S. would not be able to remain in the country if they were attending schools that were operating entirely online. They are returning to the status quo established by the March 9, 2020 policy directive and March 13, 2020 addendum, which allows continuing F-1 international students to continue making progress towards their degree and maintain their status from a distance outside the U.S. 

On July 24, 2020, SEVP issued a broadcast message to clarify how the March guidance would apply to Fall 2020 including new F-1 students. F-1 students in new or initial status will not be allowed to enter the U.S. if their institution is fully online.

On October 19, 2020, Kalamazoo College made the announcement of its intention for the winter term to resume some in-person coursework and open residence halls to those students who were originally placed for fall.

For general questions and concerns, visit the Kalamazoo College COVID-19 Information page. If you have any other questions or concerns as an international student, please email ISA@kzoo.edu

NEW F-1 STUDENT FAQS

The CIP has developed the following FAQs to answer some questions about what the College’s intention for Winter 2021 means for new F-1 students. 

Q: What does this mean for me as a new international student and my SEVIS status? 

A: According to the SEVP guidance issued in July, F-1 students in new or initial status will only be able to enter the U.S. if their institution is offering in-person or hybrid courses. The College does intend to offer in-person courses for Winter 2021 so new students can enter the U.S. or you can continue to attend and complete courses from your home country.

If you plan to enter the U.S. for the Winter 2021 term, please reach out to Alayna Lewis so we can ensure that you have everything you need to enter.

Q: I would like enter the U.S. for the Winter 2021 term, what should I do?

A: If you want to enter the U.S., you will need to enroll in at least one in-person or hybrid course. Course formats will be indicated in the course schedule during Winter 2021 registration. Most courses will likely be offered online. If you aren’t able to find an in-person class, please let us know. We are working with the Provost to ensure that there will be an in-person class for everyone who needs one.

If you haven’t yet received your I-20, you will need to submit your Resource Verification Form and required documents in order to be issued an I-20.

If you have your I-20 but do not yet have a visa, you’ll need to try to schedule an appointment for a visa interview at the nearest US embassy or consulate.

Once you have your visa or if you already have one, please reach out to Alayna Lewis so she can send you a letter to show to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to confirm that the College is offering in-person courses. You should also plan to be prepared to show CBP your class schedule

Q: When should I plan to arrive in Kalamazoo for the Winter 2021 term?

A: Please plan to arrive at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek Regional Airport, or to the Kalamazoo bus/train station on Saturday, January 2, 2020. If flights are unavailable for this date of arrival, please contact us at ISA@kzoo.edu

The CIP will be able to provide you with transportation to campus as long as you complete the Winter 2021 Arrival Information Form.

There are still travel restrictions that the U.S. has imposed on travelers who have spent time in China, Brazil, or Iran in the 14 days prior to entry to the U.S.  It is also likely that flights may be limited or may not be operating from your country. 

Those of you who plan to travel from the Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), should be permitted to enter the US under a National Interest Exception due to your F-1 student status.  You do not need to receive any special permission for this exception.

Airlines may require negative COVID-19 test results prior to boarding as well.  Please review your travel options and airline requirements before booking a flight.  We recommend saving CIP staff cell phone numbers in your phone so you can communicate any delays or challenges that arise during your travel and we will assist to the best of our ability.

Q: Is it possible that the College can change its intention for the Winter 2021 term?

A: We acknowledge that the situation in the U.S. and Michigan is still uncertain because COVID-19 cases have been rising lately and that students currently outside the U.S. may feel uncomfortable making plans to return/arrive in the Kalamazoo area. The CIP cannot guarantee that public health guidelines will not change, and it is possible that the College may have to return to distance-learning over the next few months.

However, once you arrive on campus, the College and the CIP remains committed to safely offering an in-person academic component to meet visa regulations, and continuing to provide housing for you in the dormitories as well as ensuring you have access to meals.

Q: I plan to remain outside the U.S. for the Winter 2021 term, is there anything I need to do?

A: Please inform Alayna Lewis of your plans so we can communicate with the Student Health Center and Student Accounts offices to ensure you are not enrolled and charged for the College health insurance typically required of all international students.

Additionally, if you received a housing assignment for the Fall 2020 term, you will need to fill out the Housing Change of Intent form by 11:59pm EST on Sunday, November 8.

Please watch for additional communications from the CIP, and please do not hesitate to reach out to us at ISA@kzoo.edu with any questions as you prepare for the Winter 2021 term.

Continuing F-1 Student FAQs

The CIP has developed the following FAQs to answer some questions about what the College’s intention for Winter 2021 means for continuing F-1 students (sophomores, juniors, and seniors).  

Q: What does the College’s recent announcement mean for my I-20 or my status in SEVIS as an F-1?

A: Continuing F-1 students should be to able to enter or remain in the U.S. even if the College has switched to online learning.  SEVP’s July 24, 2020 broadcast message states, “Students actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, who subsequently took courses online while outside of the country can re-enter the United States, even if their school is engaged solely in distance learning.” 

As always, once the quarter begins, we will need to update your current U.S. address in the SEVIS database, so you will receive a request first week to confirm the information you provided at the beginning of the Fall 2021 term.  

Q: Is it possible that the College can change its intention for the Winter 2021 term?

A: We acknowledge that the situation in the U.S. and Michigan is still uncertain because COVID-19 cases have been rising lately and that students currently outside the U.S. may feel uncomfortable making plans to return/arrive in the Kalamazoo area. The CIP cannot guarantee that public health guidelines will not change, and it is possible that the College may have to return to distance-learning over the next few months.

However, once you arrive on campus, the College and the CIP remains committed to supporting international students by assisting with access to housing and/or meals, if needed.

Q: What happens to my SEVIS status if I choose to withdraw from the College for the Winter 2021 term?

A: Depending on how long F-1 students are outside of the U.S, they may be able to request to have their original SEVIS record reactivated and obtain an I-20 for re-entry, or they may have to apply for a new I-20 by completing a new Resource Verification form and providing financial documentation that they can afford to return and complete their program.

Outside the country less than 5 months:
Can request to reactivate SEVIS record.

Outside the country more than 5 months:
Requires application for new SEVIS record (Resource Verification Form, financial documents, new SEVIS fee, new visa ONLY if visa is expired).

The CIP will reimburse returning students (rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors) for the SEVIS fee and/or visa application fees if you return to enroll at the College in Winter 2021, Spring 2021 or Fall 2021. We can advocate with Information Services so you may maintain your K email address to keep connected and up-to-date with campus information.  Please email the CIP for more details as soon as you process any fees as reimbursements can only be processed within 30 days of the transaction.

Note: For students who were enrolled full-time for spring quarter and took classes remotely, the 5-month rule would start in September as summer is an annual break.

Academics

Q: What if I register for a course that has in-person components but I am unable to travel back to Kalamazoo in January?

A: We recommend that you keep in communication with your professor(s) if your travel plans change so you can notify them of that and inquire about any flexibility that they may be able to offer.

Q: What if I need help accessing technology to attend class?  

A: Once you have received confirmation from your faculty how your courses will be offered, please reach out to ISA@kzoo.edu to let the CIP know if you have any concerns about accessing technology. We are working with Information Services to make sure programs and equipment are available to students.  

Q: What if I need assistance accessing materials for class?  

A: We know some of you had challenges with purchasing books during the Spring 2020 term. Please contact ISA@kzoo.edu if you challenges with ordering books for your classes if you are outside the U.S.  

Housing

Q:  Will there be any rooms available in the residence halls for the Winter 2021 term?

A: The Office of Residential Life is working with students who had housing assignments for the Fall 2020 term and it will not be clear until mid-November what, if any, availability exists in the residence halls. However, the CIP is starting a waitlist for sophomore international students who may be interested in living on-campus for the Winter 2021 term as international students would be one of the groups given priority for any available rooms. Please email ISA@kzoo.edu to let us know if you would like to be on the waitlist.

Q:  What resources are available to international students searching for off-campus housing?

A: We encourage everyone who is thinking about returning to Kalamazoo to investigate off-campus housing in the Kalamazoo area. We have an Off-Campus Housing Guide on our Moodle Page and you can also reach out to other international students about finding housing together on the International Student Facebook Group or fellow K students on the K Student Body group.  

Q: How will I have access to food if I am living off-campus?  

A: The CIP has offered and will continue to offer weekly rides to the local grocery stores (i.e. Meijer, Pacific Rim) as well as to free meal opportunities provided to Kalamazoo area college students by Broncos Kitchen, a local nonprofit organization. We also encourage students to reach out to us if they encounter any challenges in this area so we can do our best to assist you.

Financial Assistance

Q: What is available to international students in terms of financial support for the upcoming academic year?

A: The Financial Aid Special Circumstance Form is a request that can be submitted to the Financial Aid office to review your financial aid package for the upcoming academic year. The Financial Aid office will continue to review requests submitted after the original May 1st deadline to review financial aid packages for the 2020-2021 academic year. If this is an option that you are interested, please email Financial.Aid@kzoo.edu.   

Another possible option would be the Severe Economic Hardship Work Authorization. This may be a lesser-known option for students, but it is a possibility for any student who has completed one full academic year in good F-1 status and who can document their economic hardship. If interested, please see our Moodle page on the Severe Economic Hardship Work Authorization. The process requires that you work closely with Alayna to apply.

Q: I am struggling with my finances right now. Are there any resources for me?

Unfortunately, the CARES Act was written to exclude many people, including international students, and although the HEROES Act has not yet passed, if it does, it is almost certain that it will not include financial benefits for international students.  The CIP has begun investigating other financial support structures to see what may be available and accessible to international students.  

The CIP has also developed a COVID-19 International Student Emergency Fund Application, which can also be found on our Moodle. Awarding of emergency funds is subject to availability of funds for the program. If you have questions about the application, please email Alayna, Asia, or Lizbeth. 

Q: I plan to take courses from a distance. What resources are available to help me with books or other course supplies?

A: The CIP can investigate and attempt to mitigate some of the cost of shipping any books or materials you need for class. At the moment, there are numerous issues with international shipping and customs officials will still inspect books and materials. We cannot promise we can solve every issue around accessing materials, but we will do what we can to mitigate the additional costs. Please reach out to us if you find you need assistance with this.

Work Authorization

Q: Will I be able to get a campus job?

A: Students should check Handshake postings. CIP staff are working to advocate for campus jobs, particularly as we know this is the only source of income available to F-1 students without additional work authorization. If you are struggling to find a campus job, let a CIP staff member know.  

Q: Will off-campus work authorization be impacted for students whose SEVIS record is terminated? 

A: If you are outside the country less than 5 months and are able to reactivate your record, your eligibility will not be affected (as long as you have completed 1 full year or 3 academic quarters at K, then you would be eligible).   

If you are outside the country for more than 5 months and have to apply for a new I-20, then you will not be eligible until you complete 1 full academic year or 3 academic quarters on that new I-20.  If you have less than 3 quarters left to complete your degree, you will not be eligible for OPT.  

Q: Will it negatively impact my F-1 student status if I have a remote internship/job at a U.S. based company, but I am working from outside the U.S.? 

A: As long as you are in active F-1 student status (enrolled full-time at K with a minimum of 2.4 units), you are allowed to participate in campus employment, Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), and/or STEM OPT at a U.S. based company while living and working outside the U.S. as long as the employer has a way of assessing your attainment of learning objectives. 

There may be tax implications associated with work conducted outside the U.S. for both you and the employer. 

Q:  If I have already graduated and applied for OPT, will I be able to continue with OPT as planned?

A:  Yes. If you left the country while waiting for your approval and EAD, you will need an I-20 with a travel signature, a valid F-1 visa, your passport and the EAD to re-enter the U.S.  If you need a travel signature, please let us know.

Health Insurance

Q: As an international student residing in the U.S., I have the College Student Health Insurance plan. Does it cover COVID-19 costs?

A: Wellfleet, the College health insurance provider, has updated the below coverage:  

Wellfleet will cover all member costs for COVID-19 testing, including emergency room, urgent care, and office visits. 

Wellfleet will cover treatment based on the members specific plan benefits.   

More updates from Wellfleet about COVID-19 can be found here. Information about specific plan benefits can be found here.  

Q: I am planning to stay in my home country for the Winter 2021 term. Am I still required to enroll in the College Student Health Insurance plan?

A: The CIP is continuing to work with the Student Health Center and the Student Accounts office so that any international students that will be remaining outside the U.S. for Winter 2021 term will not be enrolled and charged for the College health insurance. Please make sure to let us know of your plans by emailing us at ISA@kzoo.edu so we can provide accurate lists and make sure you are not charged if you plan to remain in your home country/outside the U.S.

Q: I am residing in the U.S., how can I use my health insurance?

A: International students enrolled in the College health insurance may access the Student Health Center using telehealth options via MyChart or by calling the SHC and leaving a message. For those of you in other parts of the U.S., you may still access the SHC using the telehealth options or you can look up local providers accepting the College health insurance (cofinity network). Information on this network is on the insurance homepage website. Make sure you have your latest information regarding insurance and make sure you present this when seeking treatment.

You can also find more information as well as ask specific questions of the SHC staff by visiting their website.