This message was sent by email to all international students on March 14, 2020. It is also included in the FAQ at https://keeplearning.duke.edu/
We know that this is a stressful time for you and we want to provide as much support and guidance as we can. Please know that we are closely monitoring developments related to visa issues and will communicate with you as we learn about policies. In the meantime, we hope that the following information will be helpful to you:
1. Q- As an F-1 or J-1 student, I am only allowed to take one online course per semester, how does Duke’s decision to allow me to take all courses online affect my visa status?
A- The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which governs the international student population, has recognized that most colleges and universities are transitioning to online instruction and has temporarily relaxed restrictions on online coursework. Students will be able to temporarily pursue online courses full-time inside or outside the U.S. until Duke University determines it is safe to resume classes on campus.
2. Q- If I return to my home country and complete my courses online, will my F-1 SEVIS file remain open?
A- Yes, you can complete your courses online. As long as you remain enrolled as a full-time student, we will not close or terminate your SEVIS file. Your situation would be similar to a Study Abroad student who started coursework in the U.S. and completed it outside the U.S. Keeping your SEVIS file open will allow you to reenter the U.S. as a F-1 student.
3. Q- I heard I cannot be outside the country for more than 5 months or I will lose my F-1 status. Is this true?
A- The 5-month absence rule only applies if you are no longer a Duke student due to the termination of your SEVIS record. If you are outside the U.S. 5 months or more after your SEVIS record was terminated, you lose your ability to reenter as a F-1 student. We must issue a new I-20 with a new SEVIS number. If that happens, your F-1 status will restart, which may affect your ability to request employment authorization in the U.S. WE WILL NOT CLOSE YOUR SEVIS FILE IF YOU ARE ENROLLED AS A FULL-TIME STUDENT ONLINE AND YOU INTEND TO RETURN AFTER THE CRISIS OR IN FALL 2020.
4. Q- What about the visa in my passport? Will it expire after 5 months?
A- The visa in your passport will NOT expire as long as you are enrolled full-time online during the Spring term because you still have a connection to your Duke academic program. Remember to check your visa to verify it is a multiple entry visa and has an expiration date AFTERyou reenter the U.S. If it was a single entry visa, you must request a new visa before returning to the U.S. If you have a two-entry visa, the visa is only valid for two entries before the expiration date.
5. Q- I prefer to return home to complete my semester online but my visa has expired. What do I do?
A- If your visa has expired, you must request a new visa before you reenter the U.S. Detailed information about the visa process can be found on our website.
6. Q- I will graduate in May 2020 and would like to apply for Post-Graduation Optional Practical Training (OPT). Can I still do so?
A- Yes, you can still apply for OPT. We recommend that you apply before you leave the U.S. We cannot assist you after you physically leave the U.S. because you will not have an I-94 showing you are in the U.S. Further details on Post-Graduation Optional Practical Training can be found on our website.
7. Q- I will not graduate in May 2020 and have received an internship for the summer. What options do I have to reenter the U.S. receive employment authorization?
A- Your choices are Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training. The processing time for Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training is anywhere from 3 to 4 months. If you have not already applied, there is a very low likelihood you will receive approval for the summer. If you qualify for Curricular Practical Training and receive an internship, we cannot process the approval while you are outside the U.S., but if you send our office the required information when you reenter the U.S. and send us a copy of your I-94, we will be able to process Curricular Practical Training approval.
8. Q- I filed for Pre- or Post-Graduation Optional Practical Training, and I plan to leave the U.S. How will I receive the Practical Training approval card?
A- The Duke Visa Services Office will contact you with instructions. We will mail the the card to you when it arrives.
9. Q- What if I want to stay on campus because I cannot leave the U.S.?
A- If you are presently on campus and cannot return home, whether due to travel restrictions, costs of travel, or another consideration that may supersede this direction, you must complete the housing registration form. Student Affairs staff will follow up with you directly to learn more. Detailed information can be found at Update for All Students in Residence Halls.
10. Q- Can I stay in the U.S. through the end of the Spring 2020 semester – but not on the Duke campus – and not return to Duke for the duration of the crisis after the semester ends?
A- You must be enrolled in a full-time schedule of Duke online classes to remain in the U.S. If you relocate within the U.S., then you must update your address in DukeHub so we can notify the Student and Exchange Visitor Program of your new location. IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO PURSUE FULL-TIME DUKE ONLINE COURSES AFTER THE END OF THE SPRING 2020 SEMESTER, YOU WILL NOT BE IN A VALID F-1 STATUS AND MUST LEAVE THE U.S.
11. Q- Duke has restrictions on travel to certain countries. What is the update on this issue?
A- Duke has restrictions on university-funded or sponsored travel. However, personal travel is permitted. There is additional guidance on this issue at: https://coronavirus.duke.edu/events-travel/.
12. Q- I have additional questions about visas. Whom do I contact?
A- Email email@example.com and an advisor will assist you or call Duke Visa Services at 919-681-8472.