COVID-19 Updates

F-1 Students FAQs

Newly Admitted Initial F-1 Students

1. Can I request an electronic I-20 from the Dashew Center?

Yes. U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that they will allow the electronic issuance and signing of I-20 Forms for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. Both the U.S. Department of State, which oversees U.S. Embassies/Consulates, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees admission of non-immigrants to the U.S. at ports of entry, have also confirmed that they will accept electronic I-20s and signatures for visa processing and entry to the U.S. for the same duration. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), who oversees processing of benefits petitions, such as OPT, STEM OPT Extension, Change of Status, etc., has also announced flexibility in their ‘wet signature’ requirement. It is not clear if state and federal agencies such as Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Social Security Administration will accept electronically issued I-20s.

The Dashew Center will provide the option of electronically issued I-20 Forms for the following requests:

  • Lost/damaged/stolen

  • Change of major/name/citizenship

  • Change of funding

  • Change of education level

  • Extension

  • Return from leave of absence

  • CPT

  • OPT

  • STEM OPT Extension

  • Newly admitted I-20 (initial attendance and transfer)

Students who are issued electronic I-20s may only download, print, and sign the student attestation section. Tampering with the Form I-20 is a federal crime (18 U.S. Code § 1546. Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents).

Students can continue to request paper-format I-20s from the Dashew Center for the reasons listed above, but must submit a completed F-1 Document Shipping Request Form with their request and are responsible to cover I-20 shipping fees.

2. Can I apply for a U.S. visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate?

As global conditions evolve, U.S. Embassies and Consulates are beginning a phased resumption of routine visa services. The resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by-post basis. See the U.S. Department of State's website for more information. 

3. What is UCLA's mode of instruction for winter 2021?

UCLA will continue offering remote-only instruction with the exception of a limited number of in-person or hybrid courses necessary to train students for essential workforce positions.

4. What is the definition of an in-person class?

An in-person class is when instruction delivered in-person, with students and instructors physically present in a learning environment. The meeting location is displayed as a building and room.

5. Where can I find an official approved list of in-person classes for winter 2021?

The Registrar's Office has prepared this list of approved winter on-site classes.

6. UCLA will continue to offer remote-only instruction (with the exception of a limited number of in-person classes), but my classes will be entirely online. Will I be able to enter the U.S. and maintain valid F-1 status?

No. Incoming F-1 students with initial attendance SEVIS records will not be able to enter the U.S. and maintain their F-1 status with an entirely online class load. Based on current regulations, students must have successfully completed at least one quarter in valid F-1 status before they can transition to maintaining full-time enrollment with only online classes.

7. How many in-person classes must I be enrolled in for winter 2021 to be able to enter the U.S. and maintain valid F-1 visa status?

To maintain valid F-1 status, F-1 students with initial attendance SEVIS records are required to enroll in a minimum of one in-person class. To see a list of official approved in-person classes, please see this list of approved winter on-site classes from the Registrar's Office.

8. How do I obtain a document or letter verifying my in-person course enrollment at UCLA?

You must contact your UCLA academic department to find out if they can provide you with a letter verifying your in-person course enrollment, as the Dashew Center is unable to verify such information.

9. Can I take an entirely online course load for winter from abroad without having F-1 status?

Yes, students can take online classes from abroad without having F-1 status. Students will establish F-1 status once they enter the U.S. in valid F-1 status.

10. Can I defer my admission term?

Undergraduate students, please contact UCLA Undergraduate Admissions for more information.  Graduate students, please contact your academic department for more information.  

11. What if I am unable to enter the U.S. by the start date indicated on my I-20 due to enrollment in only online classes for winter 2021, COVID-19 travel restrictions, delays in F-1 visa issuance, and/or flight cancellations?

We will defer your I-20 start date to spring quarter 2021 (3/24/2021) if you are unable to enter U.S. due to enrollment in only online courses, COVID-19 travel restrictions, delays in F-1 visa issuance, and/or flight cancellations. The Dashew Center will start processing I-20 start date deferment at the beginning of winter quarter. If you have signed a housing contract for winter quarter, please contact Housing directly. 

12. If my F-1 visa is approved after the winter quarter start date (as indicated as on my I-20), what should I do and how late can I come to UCLA during the winter quarter if I am enrolled in an in-person course?

Students should first check with their academic departments to find out if a late arrival will affect their course enrollment. 
We will defer your I-20 start date to the second week of winter quarter (01/15/2021, the add/drop deadline) to accommodate your late arrival.  To request an updated I-20 with late arrival date, please email UCLAi20@saonet.ucla.edu with the following information:

  • Last Name, First Name

  • Bruin UID

  • Email Subject line: Updated I-20 with 1/15/2021 start date for late arrival

Please allow us 15 business days from date of submission to issue the updated I-20.

13. Can I engage in on-campus employment from abroad?

Please contact the hiring department or the UCLA Central Resource Unit for more details.

14. If I am unable to enter the U.S. by my program start date, how will this affect my CPT/OPT eligibility?

Currently, F-1 students become eligible for CPT and OPT after completing one full academic year in valid, active F-1 status. The one year requirement for CPT is waived for academic programs that have practical training as a required part of their established degree curriculum. For a complete list of programs that have practical training requirements, please see our CPT Guidelines. In order to establish F-1 status for winter 2021 you must enter the U.S. in F-1 status by your I-20 start date. Please note: It is not possible for students to establish their F-1 status from abroad.

15. What is the processing timeline for newly admitted student I-20 requests? Is there a deadline to submit the request?

Our current processing time is 15 business days from the submission date. While there is no strict deadline for submitting your I-20 request, keep in mind that you will need your I-20 to schedule an F-1 visa interview (Canadian citizens exempt) and enter the U.S. before your I-20 start date.

16. My I-20 request status has been updated from “Under Review” to “Visa Eligibility” in the portal, what does this mean?

This means that your submitted documents are sufficient and your I-20 request is being processed.

17. How can I check the status of my I-20 request after the submission?

If there is no update on your request after 15 business days from your date of submission, email UCLAi20@saonet.ucla.edu the following information:

  • Last Name, First Name

  • Bruin UID

  • Email subject line: I-20 request status update

18. What are acceptable proof of funding documents?

Students can provide one or multiple sources of funding. Acceptable documents for proof of funding are:

  • Family/personal bank statement (must be no older than 6 months from the issuance date, and in the form of liquid funds, such as a checking or savings account)

  • UCLA funding

  • Loans for education purposes and/or

  • Government funding/scholarship

If you are submitting a bank statement in a foreign currency, you must provide the converted funding amount in U.S. dollars on the Confidential Financial Statement. Students are only required to provide proof of funding for one academic year when requesting an I-20.

19. What should I expect once my I-20 request has been processed?

We will email you an electronic I-20 once your request has been processed. Graduate students who are in self-supporting programs (MBA, MSBA, MAE, MFE, LLM, MS AUD, MAS, and MSS) will obtain their I-20 from their department.

20. When will COVID-19 related travel restrictions be lifted?

21. Is it possible that the travel restrictions due the COVID-19 outbreak will be expanded?

This is a fluid situation and other countries could be added to the list of travel restrictions as more COVID-19 cases are detected.

22. How can I request an updated I-20 with a deferred start date to enter the U.S. for the winter quarter?

Students should first confirm that they are able to enroll in an in-person class for winter quarter to ensure eligibility to enter the U.S. in F-1 status for winter quarter. To request an updated I-20 with a winter quarter start date (1/4/2021), please email UCLAi20@saonet.ucla.edu with the following information:

  • Last Name, First Name

  • Bruin UID

  • Email Subject line: Updated I-20 with winter quarter start date

Please allow us 15 business days from date of submission to issue the updated I-20.

Newly Admitted SEVIS Transfer F-1 Students

1. I was a full-time student and held valid F-1 status at my previous (SEVIS transfer-out) school. I have a SEVIS-transfer-in I-20 from UCLA. Am I subject to the one in-person class enrollment requirement if I wish to enter the U.S. or remain in the U.S. in F-1 status?

As a newly admitted SEVIS transfer-in F-1 student, you will be subject to the one in-person class enrollment requirement if any of the following conditions are true:

  • you were outside the U.S. at the end of the academic term at your previous (SEVIS transfer-out) school

  • you left the U.S. after completing your classes and you are currently inside the U.S.

  • you left and re-entered the U.S. with the UCLA I-20 after you completed your classes at your previous (SEVIS transfer-out) school

Due to the unavailability of in-person classes at UCLA in the fall and winter quarters, SEVIS transfer-in students who are subject to this requirement should not enter the U.S. unless they have enrollment in at least 1 in-person class. If you are not enrolled in at least 1 in-person class, the university will be unable to validate your F-1 status with U.S. Department of Homeland Security and consequently, you will be out of status. If you already have entered the U.S., please contact the Dashew Center for further guidance.

2. I am a newly admitted SEVIS transfer F-1 student and have remained in the U.S. since the completion of my program at my previous school. Will I be able to maintain valid F-1 status if I am enrolled in only online classes for winter quarter at UCLA?

You will be exempt from the one in-person class enrollment requirement if any of the following conditions are true:

  • you remained the in the U.S. during the spring term and the summer break. You have not departed and re-entered the U.S. after completing your classes at your previous (SEVIS transfer-out) school

  • you entered the U.S. before the last day of classes at your previous (SEVIS transfer-out) school and have remained in the U.S. since then

3. What is UCLA's mode of instruction for winter 2021?

UCLA will continue offering remote-only instructions with the exception of a limited number of in-person or hybrid courses necessary to train students for essential workforce positions.

4. What is the definition of an in-person class?

An in-person class is when instruction delivered in-person, with students and instructors physically present in a learning environment. The meeting location is displayed as a building and room.

5. Where can I find an official approved list of in-person classes for winter 2021?

The UCLA Registrar’s Office has prepared this list of approved winter on-site classes.

6. How do I obtain a document or letter verifying my in-person course enrollment at UCLA?

You must contact your UCLA academic department to find out if they can provide you with a letter verifying your in-person course enrollment, as the Dashew Center is unable to verify such information.

7. What is the processing time for newly admitted SEVIS transfer student I-20 requests? Is there a deadline to submit the request?

Our current processing time is 15 business days from the submission date. While there is no strict deadline for submitting your I-20 request, keep in mind that you will need your I-20 to schedule an F-1 visa interview (Canadian citizens exempt) and enter the U.S. before your program start date.

8. My I-20 status has been updated from "Under Review" to "Visa Eligibility" in the portal, what does this mean?

This means that your submitted documents are sufficient and your I-20 request is being processed.

9. How can I check the status of my I-20 request after submission?

If there is no update on your request after 15 business days from your date of submission, email UCLAi20@saonet.ucla.edu the following information:

  • Last Name, First Name

  • Bruin UID

  • Email subject line: I-20 request status update

10. What are acceptable proof of funding documents?

Students can provide one or multiple sources of funding. Acceptable documents for proof of funding are:

  • Family/personal bank statement (must be no older than 6 months from the issuance date, and in the form of liquid funds, such as a checking or savings account)

  • UCLA funding

  • Loans for education purposes and/or

  • Government funding/scholarship

If you are submitting a bank statement in foreign currency, you must provide the converted funding amount in U.S. dollars on the Confidential Financial Statement. Students are only required to provide proof of funding for one academic year when requesting an I-20.

11. What should I expect once my I-20 request has been processed?

We will email you an electronic I-20 once your request has been processed. Graduate students who are in self-supporting programs (MBA, MSBA, MAE, MFE, LLM, MS AUD, MAS, and MSS) will obtain their I-20 from their academic department.

12. Can I take an entirely online course load for fall from abroad without having F-1 status?

Yes, students can take online classes from abroad without having F-1 status. Students will establish F-1 status once they enter the U.S. in valid F-1 status.

13. When will COVID-19 related travel restrictions be lifted?

14. Is it possible that travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak will be expanded?

This is a fluid situation and other countries could be added to the list of travel restrictions as more COVID-19 cases are detected.

15. Can I request an electronic I-20 from the Dashew Center?

Yes. U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that they will allow the electronic issuance and signing of I-20 Forms for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. Both the U.S. Department of State, which oversees U.S. Embassies/Consulates, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees admission of non-immigrants to the U.S. at ports of entry, have also confirmed that they will accept electronic I-20s and signatures for visa processing and entry to the U.S. for the same duration. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), who oversees processing of benefits petitions, such as OPT, STEM OPT Extension, Change of Status, etc., has also announced flexibility in their ‘wet signature’ requirement. It is not clear if state and federal agencies such as Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Social Security Administration will accept electronically issued I-20s.

The Dashew Center will provide the option of electronically issued I-20 Forms for the following requests:

  • Lost/damaged/stolen

  • Change of major/name/citizenship

  • Change of funding

  • Change of education level

  • Extension

  • Return from leave of absence

  • CPT

  • OPT

  • STEM OPT Extension

  • Newly admitted I-20 (initial attendance and transfer)

Students who are issued electronic I-20s may only download, print, and sign the student attestation section. Tampering with the Form I-20 is a federal crime (18 U.S. Code § 1546. Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents).

Students can continue to request paper-format I-20s from the Dashew Center for the reasons listed above, but must submit a completed F-1 Document Shipping Request Form with their request and are responsible to cover I-20 shipping fees.

16. Can I apply for a U.S. visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate?

As global conditions evolve, U.S. Embassies and Consulates are beginning a phased resumption of routine visa services. The resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by-post basis. See the U.S. Department of State's website for more information. 

17. Can I defer my admission term?

Undergraduate students, please contact UCLA Undergraduate Admissions for more information.  Graduate students, please contact your academic department for more information.  

18. How can I request an updated I-20 with a deferred start date to enter the U.S. for the winter quarter?

Students should first confirm that they are able to enroll in an in-person class for winter quarter to ensure eligibility to enter the U.S. in F-1 status for winter quarter. To request an updated I-20 with a winter quarter start date (1/4/2021), please email UCLAi20@saonet.ucla.edu with the following information:

  • Last Name, First Name

  • Bruin UID

  • Email Subject line: Updated I-20 with winter quarter start date

Please allow us 15 business days from date of submission to issue the updated I-20.

Continuing F-1 Students

1. What is UCLA's mode of instruction for winter 2021?

UCLA will continue offering remote-only instruction with the exception of a limited number of in-person or hybrid courses necessary to train students for essential workforce positions.

2. I am a continuing F-1 student at UCLA and will return to campus from abroad for winter quarter. Is an enrollment verification letter required for re-entry into the U.S.?

While enrollment verification is not a required document for re-entry to the U.S. in F-1 status, you may be questioned about your enrollment when re-entering the U.S. or applying for an F-1 visa from an overseas U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Continuing F-1 students may request the F-1 Certification of Status (CoS) letter from Dashew Center. The combination of the CoS letter and a printout of your full-time winter course registration should be sufficient as supporting documents in case a visa post or port of entry officials ask for such verification. Please allow us 15 business days from the submission date of your request to process your CoS letter.

3. How do I obtain a document or letter verifying my in-person course enrollment at UCLA?

You must contact your UCLA academic department to find out if they can provide you with a letter verifying your in-person course enrollment, as the Dashew Center is unable to verify such information.

4. Can I continue to take online classes from abroad and maintain valid F-1 status during winter 2021?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a part of U.S. Department of Homeland Security has not yet announced F-1 status requirements for continuing F-1 students for the winter and spring terms. We expect that they will make an announcement in the coming weeks. The Dashew Center will notify students of any announcements from SEVP through listserv emails and updates to our COVID-19 Updates page.

5. I am a continuing F-1 student and have requested/will be requesting a Change of Education Level I-20. Will I be able to maintain valid F-1 status with full-time online enrollment for winter 2021?

Yes, F-1 students with a Change of Education Level I-20 starting in fall quarter and full-time online enrollment will be able to maintain valid F-1 status within the U.S. or overseas.

6. I am a returning F-1 student with a new SEVIS ID number from a leave of absence (LOA) for winter 2021. Will I be able to maintain valid F-1 status if my classes are entirely online?

No. To maintain valid F-1 status, F-1 students with SEVIS records in 'initial' status are required to enroll in a minimum of one in-person class. Undergraduate students may consult with their academic counselors, and graduate students may consult with their academic department SAOs for class availability and registration information.

7. Can graduate students be on filing fee status and maintain valid F-1 status during winter 2021?

If you are a student who will be on filing fee for winter quarter and are currently in the U.S. or plan to re-enter the U.S. from abroad, it is important that the details of your academic activities during your filing fee quarter are documented as you will not be enrolled in any coursework.

The purpose of this documentation is to explain your academic activities in compliance with recent SEVP guidance. You will not be required to submit this documentation to the Dashew Center; however, you should have it on file to submit to immigration authorities (e.g. CBP, USCIS, ICE, etc.) in case of any of questions or inquiries pertaining to your filing fee quarter.

8. Will my F-1 status be terminated if I drop my classes, declare non-attendance, or file for a leave of absence?

Yes, F-1 students who are not enrolled full-time for winter quarter will not be able to maintain their F-1 visa status and their SEVIS records will be terminated by the end of the add/drop deadline for winter quarter.

9. Does the 5-month rule apply to me if I continue to take online classes for winter 2021 from abroad?

If you maintained valid F-1 status through continuous full-time enrollment while overseas, the 5-month rule does not apply to you.

10. Do I need to apply for a new F-1 visa if I have been outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months?

If you maintained F-1 status through continuous full-time enrollment while overseas, you will not be subject to the 5-month rule and will not need to apply for a new F-1 visa, if your F-1 visa will be valid for your planned re-entry to the U.S. The 5-month rule only applies if you did not maintain F-1 status while overseas and does not apply to visas. For more information about the 5-month rule please see the Study in the States website.

11. I am currently abroad with an expired F-1 visa. Can I apply for a new F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate?

As global conditions evolve, U.S. Embassies and Consulates are beginning a phased resumption of routine visa services. The resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by-post basis. See the U.S. Department of State's website for more information.

12. Do I need a new travel authorization signature before departing the U.S.?

No, you do not need a valid travel authorization signature to depart the U.S.

Please remember that each travel authorization signature is valid for 1 year from the date it was last signed and must be valid at your time of re-entry to the U.S. You do not need to request a new travel authorization signature if the most recent travel signature on your current I-20 will be valid for your return to the U.S.

13. How can I request a new travel authorization signature?

Please submit an Online Travel Authorization Request form to request a new I-20 with a new travel authorization signature. Your new I-20 will be issued electronically and emailed to you or issued in paper-format and shipped to your address. If you would like a paper-format I-20 shipped to you, please include your FedEx account number or eShipGlobal order number in your Online Travel Authorization Request; you will be responsible to cover shipping fees. For more information about I-20 shipping, please see our Shipping and Mailing Options.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You may submit an online travel authorization request only if the travel authorization signature on page 2 of your I-20 will be older than one calendar year (6 months if on OPT/STEM OPT Extension) at the time you plan to re-enter the U.S. A valid travel signature is NOT required to depart the U.S.

14. Can F-1 students engage in remote work for on-campus employment?

If the current on-campus employment opportunity has transitioned to remote work or the employment can be done through remote means, students may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely. Schools should be able to explain how the students are providing services associated with the employment while not at the location of the employer.

15. Can I apply for CPT and work remotely?

F-1 students may engage in CPT during their time abroad, provided they are:

  • Enrolled in a program of study in which CPT is integral to the program of study;

  • Their DSO authorized CPT in advance of the CPT start date; and

  • Either the employer has an office outside the United States or the employer can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically.

16. How can I apply for OPT?

We have changed our OPT request procedures due our transition to remote work. To apply for OPT, please request an OPT I-20 from the Dashew Center and follow the OPT Application: Preparation and Mailing Instructions to mail your OPT application to USCIS. For more information, please see the OPT Online Workshop and the OPT Guidelines.

17. Can I travel abroad after applying for OPT?

Per recent communication from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you may depart the U.S. after USCIS receives your OPT application. It is strongly recommended that you wait to receive your Receipt Notice in the mail from USCIS before departing the U.S. Please note that USCIS will only mail EAD cards to U.S. addresses (including residential and P.O. Box addresses). If your OPT application is approved, your OPT start date has been reached, and you do not have qualifying employment while you are overseas, you will start to accrue unemployment time from your EAD card start date.

18. Can I apply for OPT while outside the US?

USCIS has not issued any provisions due to the COVID-19 pandemic that will allow OPT application filing while students are physically overseas.

19. Can students on OPT and the STEM OPT extension work remotely?

Students currently participating in OPT or the STEM OPT Extension may work remotely if their employer has an office outside of the United States or the employer can assess student engagement using electronic means. Students participating in STEM OPT do not need to submit an updated Form I-983 to report remote work.

20. Will there be an extension or suspension of the 90-day/150-day allowed period of unemployment for OPT and STEM OPT during the COVID-19 emergency?

U.S. Department of Homeland Security is evaluating this issue but has not yet determined whether to implement a specific exemption for exceeding the regulatory limits for unemployment of 90 days for OPT and 150 days for STEM OPT.

21. What if students on OPT are now working fewer than 20 hours a week due to the economic impacts of COVID-19?

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. Students must be working at least 1 hour per week in a position that is directly related to their field of study, appropriate for their degree level, and does not violate U.S. labor laws. 

22. How long will it take the Dashew Center to issue my OPT I-20 after I submit my request?

Our current processing time for OPT I-20 requests is 15 business days. Your I-20 will be sent to you via email or shipped to you via FedEx or eShipGlobal. For more information about OPT I-20 shipping, please see our Shipping and Mailing Options.

23. When will COVID-19 related travel restrictions be lifted?