COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Western Michigan University began delivering instruction through distance education on Monday, March 16, through the end of the Summer I semester, effective for all locations. Additionally, all summer session I courses will be offered through distance education. We know that there are many immigration-related questions surrounding this transition. Stay up-to-date on the University's response to COVID-19 at wmich.edu/covid-19.

 

Q. Will returning to my home country to complete online courses affect my visa status?

Western Michigan University began delivering instruction through distance education on Monday, March 16, through the end of the Summer I semester, effective for all locations. The University will continue monitoring this fluid situation and will determine if that time frame needs to be extended.

As students decide whether they should remain in the U.S. or go home to continue their program online, in either instance, schools should keep those records in ACTIVE status. At this time there is no need to terminate for any student that continues a full course of study during this period.

Please be reminded that if you change your address, there is still the requirement to report your address within 10 days to WMU International Admissions and Services, which you may do through your GoWMU portal.

Q. If I choose to return to my home country, will I be rejected entry to the US when I come back?

A. Due to the rapidly changing situation surrounding COVID-19, Western Michigan University cautions you to carefully re-consider making any international or domestic travel plans. Traveling to any of the Level 3 countries affected by the Corona Virus (COVID-19) is a personal risk to you. Additionally, if you travel, you may be denied re-entry to the US and could be subjected to a mandatory quarantine by the US Federal government and/or self-quarantined by WMU.

Western Michigan University advises all international students to consult with International Admissions and Services before making travel arrangements.

Q. Will students be subject to the "5-month" rule? 

A. Under current conditions, if an active F student leaves the United States to complete the spring term online, their SEVIS record should remain in ACTIVE status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in ACTIVE status.  SEVP will allow F and M students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study.

Students departing the US to continue their program online should notify International Admissions and Services.

Q. Am I required to fly back 14 days before classes resume in-person for quarantine purposes?

Please also contact International Admissions and Services 2-3 months prior to your intended return to the US to receive updated advice including whether there are any quarantines at that time.

Q. When I return to the US after traveling internationally, and border customs denies my entry, what should I do about it? Will my visa status, SEVIS, or I-20 be affected, and how?

If this occurs, contact International Admissions and Services to provide the circumstances surrounding the denied entry and discuss how to proceed based on individual circumstances. 

For students denied or detained at a border or port of entry, the student or border officer may call WMU International Admissions and Services during normal business hours –8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If after normal business hours, please contact Kalamazoo County Consolidated Dispatch at (269) 488-8911 (ask to be directed to a WMU Public Safety officer).

Q. Are some students more susceptible to being denied entry?

A. At this time, due to the current travel restrictions surrounding Covid-19, international students from impacted countries may be denied entry. For resources on travel updates, please visit wmich.edu/immigration and scroll to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates & Resources.

Q.  Can international students take courses for Credit/No Credit option? What if I don’t pass?

A.  Yes, international students may take courses for Credit/No Credit.  International Admissions and Services will count the courses towards full course of study requirements provided you attempted and attended the courses.

Q.  I applied for OPT, but the job market is difficult right now. Can I “freeze” OPT?

A. We empathize that this is a difficult time. While the job market is difficult now, the OPT rules do allow for some unemployment time, although it is limited.

Also, if international students can find "volunteer" work more than 20 hours per week, they can count that toward their status, if they report it to International Admissions and Services.  Volunteerism is restricted at WMU due to FLSA requirements that need to comport with WMU Human Resources in advance.

Presently, these are the limits on unemployment time:

  • F-1 students employed pursuant to their first year of post-completion optional practical training (OPT) who are terminated by employer may remain unemployed for up to a total of 90 days.
  • F-1 students employed pursuant to their STEM period of post-completion optional practical training (OPT) who are terminated by employer may remain unemployed for up to 150 days.
  • Periods of unemployment accrued during the first year of post-completion OPT count towards the 150 day unemployment period permitted to their STEM OPT holders.

Also if a student is on OPT and their employer assigns them to remote work or "telecommuting" it will still count as employment for purposes of OPT.

However, if an employer terminates the employer-employee relationship, then students would accrue days of unemployment.

Q. If I am sick or am in medically mandated quarantine due to COVID-19, is there any immigration relief? 

A.  If students are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and it is not possible for students to enroll, they may apply to WMU IAS for authorization of a medically Reduced Course Load (RCL) in SEVIS.

The school DSO may authorize a medically reduced course load. The student will need to provide medical documentation from a doctor. The DSO would then register the student in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) for a medically reduced course load with no course load.

Students should follow the directions from the CDC: What to do if you are sick with 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

Q. If I am now working fewer than 20 hours per week due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, can I still engage in OPT?   

A. For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT.