International Students in the U.S. – the news you need to know – May 2020

Being an international student in the United States these days can be quite a challenge with uncertainty in employment, travel restrictions, changing expectations for work and everyday life. But now, interestingly enough, it is an exceptional time to be an international student who is already in-country. Why, you may ask, is that the case?

This past Friday, May 1st, is an important date for U.S. colleges and universities each year, particularly for undergraduate, first-year admissions. Normally by that date, selective institutions expect that they will have secured their incoming class for the fall by new students paying tuition and housing deposits at the college where they wish to enroll. With all the chaos created by the Covid-19 pandemic, many U.S. colleges and universities have either extended their deposit deadline to June or beyond and/or have fallen well short of their targets.

Additionally, all U.S. consulates and embassies overseas are currently closed, with no definitive date set for re-opening at many of the most important locations. There are real concerns that new international students outside the country may not be able to get their visas in time to begin studies this fall. With many U.S. colleges relying heavily on international students as part of their incoming classes each year, these developments put them in a fairly unenviable position.

There is still some hope the uncertainty caused by this global pandemic will subside by this fall. However, this summer presents an excellent opportunity for international students already in the United States, perhaps for those on OPT currently, to re-enter university or consider a transfer to another institution to complete your studies.

Because of the tremendous impact of Covid-19 on university operations and their students, the Department of Homeland Security that oversees non-immigrant visa holders and the privileges they receive because of their status has put out several FAQ documents and guidance for U.S. colleges. These briefs cover various issues regarding the status of currently enrolled international students. Particularly important are two issues that current students worry about most: taking more than one online class per term, and, if students did leave the country during the semester because of the closure of on-campus services and housing, they could leave the U.S. and return in valid F-1 status as long as they continued their coursework online.

If you are currently in valid F-1 visa status, and are seeking a change, many U.S. colleges would be happy to hear from you. There are many quality programs that may be worth your consideration. A national higher education research group has even identified three “pandemic proof” degrees that are attracting significant interest. Moreover, MBA programs, which have historically been very popular among international students, are also adapting to cater to you. For entry purposes, check out this article that shares GMAT score averages for top U.S. business programs. For some among you who want the benefit of an extra two years of OPT time after degree completion and want to do a business degree, there are increasingly more business programs that have received STEM-OPT designation allowing up to three-years of work permission after degree completion.

Check in with an August Network counselor for more details.