COVID Frequently Asked Questions for International Students

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Minot State is planning to hold classes in various modes of instructional delivery with emphasis on the face-to-face experience as completely as possible. Please see the below Frequently Asked Questions for F-1 international and Canadian students about coming to Minot State.

Because international travel is changing so quickly and without warning, every student's case is unique. This page provides general advice for many diverse groups of students in F-1 visa status, including new and returning students, as well as Canadian and overseas students. Please keep in mind that these are broad guidelines written to fit the needs of large groups of students.

It is important to remember that this information may change without notice, so you will need to carefully and frequently check Minot State’s website and all university communication when making your travel plans. Pay close attention to the communications you receive from Minot State and the COVID section of Minot State’s website

SPRING 2021

The government has not released any guidance for Spring 2021, so we need to assume that the regular F-1 rules will apply. To maintain F-1 status, undergraduate students needs to take 12 credits including 9 face-to-face within Minot. Graduate students need 9 credits total, including 6 face-to-face.

If you want to study in your home country, you can choose to forfeit your current F-1 status. You can return home to take classes without F-1 status in Spring 2021. Then if you decide to return to Minot in Fall 2021, you would need to apply for a new I-20. The only downsides are you would need to repay the SEVIS fee (currently $350), overseas students may also need a new visa for travell, and your CPT/OPT clock would restart. That means if you are interested in working in the U.S. after graduation, you would need to spend a full fall and spring semester in Minot studying on the new I-20 before you would be eligible to apply for OPT. If you are not interested in OPT, then there are even fewer downsides to forfeiting your F-1 status.

We truly hope new guidance is released for spring to allow students to maintain status while taking 12 credits from their home country. We do not expect to hear about any guidance until late December, and the government may choose not to issue any guidance at all. For that reason, we would keep your current F-1 status open as long as possible (until classes start in January) just in case that guidance comes through.

FALL 2020

All F-1 students must take a full load of classes in fall 2020, which is 12 credits for undergraduates and 9 for graduate students. However, the U.S. government has made some short-term temporary exceptions to the face-to-face requirement for fall 2020. Remember, normal face-to-face rules will take effect again in Spring 2021.   

The number of face-to-face classes you may take in fall 2020 depends on whether you are a returning F-1 student or a new F-1 student on an “initial” I-20.

How do I know if I am an initial student or a continuing student?  

  • If you did not attend a U.S. institution in F-1 status in Spring 2020, then you are an initial student. You will see “initial attendance” in the Form Issue Reason on your I-20 in the first box on page 1. This includes new Minot State students and students coming back after a gap in studies on a new SEVIS record.  
  • If you attended a U.S. institution in active F-1 status in Spring 2020 on the same SEVIS record, then you are a continuing student. This includes returning MSU students, most transfer students, and change of level students.    

Do I need to take face-to-face classes as part of my full-time enrollment this fall?  

  • Initial F-1 students :  
    Yes, you must take some face-to-face classes .

    According to the temporary guidance, new initial students may only enter the United States if their class schedule is not 100% online. During fall 2020, we recommend that initial students enroll  for a normal F-1 full-time course load if at all possible:  
     
    Undergraduate:  12 credits total (including at least 9 face-to-face credits)
    Graduate: 9 credits total (including at least 6 face-to-face credits)

    The in-person class es could be fully face-to-face course s or hybrid course s that requires significant in-person instruction. You may take additional online credits once you hit the full-time threshold (for example, 9 face-to-face credits and 6 online credits would be fine).
       
  • Continuing students studying INSIDE the United States:
    You are not required to take face-to-face classes fall 2020, but must enroll full-time. You should not take more than the minimum number of online courses necessary for your degree program

    According to the temporary guidance, continuing international students may take classes in various modes: in-person, hybrid, or fully remote.  For some continuing students, that will mean a fully online semester, while other students will need to take several face-to-face courses depending on their degree programs. Work with your adviser to determine what mix of online and face-to-face classes meets your academic needs.  
     
  • Continuing students studying OUTSIDE of the United States:  
    You do not have a face-to-face requirement, but you must still enroll online full-time to maintain status.

    You may take a fully online course load in fall 2020 from outside the United States. Your current SEVIS record will remain active as long as you maintain full-time enrollment. You may need to request a that a new I-20 be sent to your home to use when you enter in January 2021. Please make this request by email in October 2020 to leave enough time for the I-20 to arrive. 

    ** Transfer students who are unable to enter the United States for fall 2020 must email the International Student Coordinator right away in order to keep their SEVIS record active.  

What if the university switches to an online-only format later in the semester?   

You will have the option of completing your semester in the United States or returning to your home country if the university goes fully online. Your F-1 status will remain active .    

What if my classes keep switching to online even though I signed up for face-to-face classes?  

  • Initial students cannot take a fully online course load , and we recommend taking a full load of face-to-face classes if possible.  
  • Ccontinuing students do not have a face-to-face requirement . We recommend speaking with your advisor to see if more face-to-face classes are available for your degree program.   

Who can I email for help understanding this temporary rule?  

We understand that the temporary guidance is hard to navigate, and we are happy to help. Please email the International Student Coordinator if you have any questions about whether you have a face-to-face requirement for fall 2020. She will review your campus connection and let you know if your current schedule meets the fall 2020 requirements.   


References/disclaimer:   

  • On July 15, 2020, ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued an FAQ document  for universities to follow with respect to international students in Fall 2020. This FAQ replaces the now rescinded July 6 directive blocking online only students in the United States. On July 24, 2020, ICE issued clarifying questions to supplement this guidance.   
  • On July 24, 2020, ICE issued Clarifying Questions for Fall 2020.
  • The information provided on this webpage represents Minot State's best reading of the ICE guidance and regulations.  
  • It is important to note that Minot State is not going fully online for fall.  
  • Please be aware that ICE may change this guidance at any time without warning.    

Continuing Students: See the above tab: "Have the full-time enrollment rules changed for Spring 2021?"

New Students: If you are unable to attend Minot State in person, you can request that your I-20 be defered to Fall 2021. Please inform the International Student Coordinator that you want to defer your I-20 start date to August 2021.

Depending on your situation, you might be eligible to take online classes during Spring 2021 from your home country. You will need to work with your Academic Advisor to identify online classes that you can take from your home country.

  • New undergraduate students:
  • New graduate students:
    • Contact your academic program director to identify online classes. Refer to your acceptance notification to locate your program director’s contact information.

All new international and Canadian students, including transfers and graduate students, must complete the Online F-1 Regulations Workshop. The workshop will teach you about the U.S. federal F-1 student regulations and rules you must comply with in order to remain in the country in lawful student status.

We normally hold this session in person, but we are providing the information in an online format to protect against COVID-19 spread.

* You will notice that I use the terms “ Canadian” and “ Overseas International.” These are simplified terms for the two big groups of students we have at Minot State. “Overseas International” encompasses all international students from countries other than Canada. Both Overseas International and Canadian students must follow the same set of F-1 visa regulations.

1. Learn about F-1 Regulations

2. Complete the Online F-1 Workshop

  • Sign into Blackboard and  click on “International Student Orientation Testing” course.
    After you watch the video, be sure to click “make as viewed” so that the test link will pop up.
  • The test is 20 questions long and you must get every question right.
  • You are allowed to take test as many times as is necessary to get %100. Once you fully understand all of the F-1 regulations that apply to you and you get every question right, a certificate will appear.
  • The certificate will signal that you have completed the F-1 Workshop video and test.

3. Submit Required Documents

  • Email the following documents to me using this secure file-drop link.
    You can send pictures from your phone as long as they are crisp, clear images.
    • Passport - personal information page
    • F-1 visa stamp page (Overseas International only)
    • SEVIS Fee Receipt
    • I-94
      • Entered by land (Canadians): please send a picture of the front and back of your I-94, which is the white card that was stapled in your passport
      • Entered by air: If you entered the U.S. through an airport (usually Overseas International), you can access your electronic I-94 here.
    • Email your current address and phone number. (Example: 701-555-1111, 505 Cook Hall) to me: Elizabeth.Sund@MinotStateU.edu

4. I-20 Travel Signature 

  • Drop off your original I-20 off in the lock box outside the Office of International Programs for a travel signature. I will mail it back to you at the address you provided in step 3, with a fresh signature on page 2 of your I-20.

5. Start Your Health Insurance Coverage

  • Overseas International students will be automatically enrolled into the North Dakota University System insurance policy. The automatic enrollment can take up to 6 weeks, during which you will not have access to your policy or ID card. To speed up your enrollment, click the link above and follow the directions to "opt-in" .  
  •  *Canadians: during the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially important that you contact your Canadian health insurance provider to learn if testing for COVID-19 and treatment for COVID-19 related illnesses will be covered while you are in the United States.  If testing and treatments for COVID-19 are not covered in the U.S., Minot State strongly recommends that you purchase the North Dakota University System insurance policy. If you want to enroll in the policy, email the Director of International Programs to initiate your enrollment into the plan. Include your full name, MSU student ID and date of birth.

 Please complete all of the above steps right away. A hold will be placed on your Minot State student account that will stop you from registering for classes for next semester until the entire process is completed.

You will need all of the normal travel documents, including your I-20 with a DSO signature no older than one year on page two. You also need an active visa and passport. Read the full information on travel documents here.

New Students: In order to enter the U.S. to study at Minot State University, you will need to travel with the following documents. Without proper documentation you will be denied entry until you have all documents present. Please see the full visa and entry information for new students here.

  • Form I-20: you will need to print your name, sign and date the bottom of page one of the I-20 that was sent to you.
  • Passport.
  • Visa (Except for Canadian Citizens) 
  • Admission letter: Sent by Enrollment Services with your I-20.
  • I-901 SEVIS fee receipt: Pay the SEVIS fee and print your receipt here. Watch the SEVIS fee tutorial, look at the Frequently Asked Questions, and contact I-901 Customer Support if you need help.
  • Financial documentation: Carry the same documents you sent to Enrollment Services to prove eligibility to receive an I-20.

Continuing Students: Continuing F-1 students who leave the United States must show the following documents to re-enter the U.S.:

  • Valid U.S. visa stamp (except for Canadian citizens)
  • Passport
  • Valid I-20 with a DSO travel signature within the last calendar year.
  • I-94. If you arrived by land, you will have a physical I-94 stapled in your passport. 
  • Verification of enrollment or a printout of your classes from campus connection just to show you are enrolled in on-campus classes.

Students with pending or approved Optional Practical Training have further travel restrictions.

Canadian Parents: The U.S./Canadian border is closed to non-essential travel. F-1 visa students are considered "essential," so they will be allowed entry. However, the B-2 visitor visas utilized by family members are not considered "essential visas" by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. 

Please contact your Port of Entry to speak with a CBP agent for any questions about the border closure. 

Before you make travel plans to Minot, you should carefully monitor entry restrictions into the U.S. Some students from (or traveling through) Brazil, China, Iran, and certain European countries may be subject to an entry ban unless they have spent 14 days outside any of those countries. Please keep these restrictions in mind when planning your travel to the U.S. 

Remember that this information may change without warning, so you should check the following resources frequently before your travel takes place. Carefully research the situation before purchasing a ticket to the U.S. and remember that changes may occur.

Canadian Parents: The U.S./Canadian border is closed to non-essential travel. F-1 visa students are considered "essential," so they will be allowed entry. However, the B-2 visitor visas utilized by family members are not considered "essential visas" by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. 

Please contact your Port of Entry to speak with a CBP agent for any questions about the border closure. 

No.
On September 21, 2020 the State of North Dakota revoked the 14-day quarantine order for travelers  arriving in North Dakota countries outside of the U.S. To be clear: students and employees will no longer be required to quarantine for 14 days when re-entering North Dakota from Canada or abroad. Please review the following information: MARIANI LIFTS STATE HEALTH OFFICER ORDER REGARDING INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL and REVOCATION OF STATE HEALTH CONFINEMENT ORDER #2020-02.3

Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  Traveler's Map to view the current guidelines regarding entry to the U.S. after traveling through your country and any other countries through which you transit. You will be required to follow CDC guidelines and guidance from the North Dakota Department of Health when you arrive to campus.

Yes. International students* at Minot State University in F-1 status are required to carry the official health insurance provider for North Dakota public institutions through United Healthcare. The policy is comprehensive and provide excellent benefits. General information about the insurance policy and enrollment process can be found here: Health Insurance for International Students.

Specific information regarding COVID-19 coverage can be found here: www.uhcsr.com/faqs.
_______________________________
*Canadian citizens are not required to carry the North Dakota University System insurance policy through United Healthcare. You should refer to your Canadian private and provincial health insurance providers for more information about what sort of coverage you have while attending university in the United States. 

*During the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially important that you contact your Canadian health insurance provider to learn if testing for COVID-19 and treatment for COVID-19 related illnesses will be covered while you are in the United States.  If testing and treatments for COVID-19 are not covered in the U.S., Minot State strongly recommends that you purchase the North Dakota University System insurance policy.   

If you are interested in purchasing the North Dakota University System insurance policy, read through the policy details on this webpage. Information regarding COVID-19 coverage can be found here: www.uhcsr.com/faqs. Email the Director of International Programs to initiate your enrollment into the plan. Include your full name, MSU student ID and date of birth.

 

Last Updated 9 October 2020, ES

 

Disclaimer: The Office of International Programs is able to provide you with general guidance.  However, any advice provided to you by our office, as well as the information on this website, should not be construed as legal advice. Additionally, due to the fluid nature of governmental interpretation, USCIS may change its interpretation of these immigration laws/regulations and eligibility requirements for benefits, at any time.  We will do our best to provide you with the most current guidance.  Each case is fact-specific and it is advised that you contact an experienced immigration attorney if you have questions regarding your situation.