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International Students and Remote Learning in Fall 2020: What You Need To Know

Updated July 21, 2020

This page specifically addresses the July 6 Immigration announcement & the July 14 rescindment.

For the most current details about immigration, returning to campus, and remote learning visit

July 14, 2020 - Harvard/MIT hearing ended resolution: the United States government has agreed to rescind the July 6 2020 directive, FAQ, agreed to rescind any implementation of the directive, and return to status quo as established by 3/2020 policies- applies nationwide.


July 6, 2020 - SEVP modifies temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online courses during fall 2020 semester.

In partnership with:

Penn State Law - Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic logo


USCIS Announces Additional Changes to I-539 and I-539A Forms, Previously Added Biometrics Fee and New Procedures

Due to regulatory changes based on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) final rule on the public charge ground of inadmissibility (section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), effective October 15, 2019, USCIS has revised and published Forms I-539 and I-539A.

Forms I-539 and I-539A with an edition date of October 15, 2019 are now available and should be filed on or after October 15, 2019. Applications submitted using previous editions will be rejected.

USCIS previously revised and published on March 11, 2019, a new version of Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. USCIS replaced Supplement A with a new form, Form I-539A.

Effective March 11, 2019 through October 14, 2019, USCIS will only accept Form I-539 with an edition date of February 4, 2019. 

In addition, effective March 11, 2019, USCIS requires an $85 biometrics fee for the applicant and for each accompanying dependent. All applicants and their co-applicants must travel to a USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) for fingerprinting.

For more information, read “USCIS to Publish Revised Form I-539 and New Form I-539A” and "I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status."

Penn State Statement on Coronavirus (1/24/2020)

Penn State is closely monitoring the outbreak of Coronavirus in the Wuhan province of China. While standard precautions such as good hygeine practice are recommended, there have been no cases of Coronavirus in Pennsylvania at this time.

For more information, see this release on Penn State News.

U.S. Department of State Diversity Visa Lottery

The U.S. Department of State—Bureau of Consular Affairs announced that online registration for the diversity visa program begins on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, and will end on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

For more information on eligibility requirements and how to apply, please see Diversity Visa Instructions

Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants

Effective Aug. 9, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed how the agency will calculate unlawful presence for students and exchange visitors in F, J, and M nonimmigrant status, including F-2, J-2, or M-2 dependents, who fail to maintain their status in the United States. This change was issued through a policy memorandum, “Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants,” 

As summarized in a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) bulletin dated Aug. 10, 2018, individuals in F, J, and M status who failed to maintain their status before Aug. 9, 2018, will start accruing unlawful presence on that date based on that failure, unless they already started accruing unlawful presence on the earliest of any of the following:

  • The day after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) denied the request for an immigration benefit, if DHS made a formal finding that the individual violated their nonimmigrant status while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit;
  • The day after their Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” expired; or
  • The day after an immigration judge ordered them excluded, deported or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).

Individuals in F, J, or M status who fail to maintain their status on or after Aug. 9, 2018, will start accruing unlawful presence on the earliest of any of the following:

  • The day after they no longer pursue the course of study or the authorized activity, or the day after they engage in an unauthorized activity;
  • The day after completing the course of study or program, including any authorized practical training, plus any authorized grace period;
  • The day after the Form I-94 expires; or
  • The day after an immigration judge orders them excluded, deported or removed (whether or not the decision is appealed).

Note that the change in policy by USCIS means that, beginning Aug. 9, 2018, certain actions by an F, M, or J nonimmigrant may cause them to accrue unlawful presence, where previously such actions did not. Accrual of unlawful presence can, under certain circumstances, render the nonimmigrant ineligible for certain immigration benefits and may make them inadmissible to the United States. (Source: SEVP Broadcast Message No. 1808-02: Accrual of Unlawful Presence by F and M Nonimmigrants, Aug. 10, 2018.)

See also USCIS Policy Memorandum PM-602-1060.1, Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants, issued Aug. 9, 2018.

If you have any questions about your F, J, or M nonimmigrant status, please speak to an international student or scholar adviser to discuss your case.

U.S. Government Shutdown (1/20/2018)

UPDATE: 1/22/2018

On the afternoon of January 22nd, Congress passed a temporary stopgap measure to fund the government through February 8th, 2018. All immigration processing and related government services will resume Tuesday, January 23rd.

Possible Effects on Immigration Due to Government Shutdown

As of 12:00am on Saturday, January 20th, 2018, the United States Congress has not come to an agreement on a bill to fund the government. Therefore, many government agencies will be shut down, employees will be furloughed, and services will be unavailable. Aspects of this shutdown may affect immigration processes and programs. Klasko Immigration Law Partners, a respected immigration firm, has identified areas which will likely be affected – and some areas which will not:

Likely Affected

  • Visa renewals – especially related to international travel. If you have traveled, or are traveling abroad and had planned to renew your visa while abroad, the shutdown will likely render you unable to do so.
  • H-1B petitions, extensions, or amendments – while USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) has historically remained in operation during shutdowns, the Department of Labor – which handles Labor Condition Applications – will not. Since it is impossible to process an H-1B without an LCA, H-1B processing will likely cease unless a prior-approved LCA is held.
  • E-Verify – the E-Verify system will not be operational during a government shutdown. If you are in the hiring process somewhere, it is possible this process will be delayed due to the inability to verify your status.
  • Social Security Office - The following services will not be provided during the shutdown:  issue new or replacement Social Security cards; replace Medicare cards; update or correct earnings record.  The State College Social Security Administration office will provide the following limited services: help applicants apply for benefits, assist individuals in requesting an appeal; accept reports of death; verify or change citizenship status.

Likely Unaffected

  • USCIS operations – historically, USCIS has remained open during government shutdowns. It is possible that the new administration will elect to cease operations. However, this seems unlikely.
  • International travel with a valid, unexpired visa – this travel will likely be unaffected. Customs and Border Patrol will remain in operation during a government shutdown. It is possible that processing times may increase, making travel more difficult.

Global Programs will be closely following the news regarding the shutdown and will make the international community aware of further updates. Please check this site for further details.

  • For the full alert by Klasko Law, visit their Alert Page.

U.S. Presidential Orders and Proclamations Concerning the International Community

President of Penn State, Eric J. Barron - Message

Advising Contact Information

Current international students & scholars with questions, should contact the relevant units below:

Walk-in Advising Hours for international students and J-1 scholars:

  • Monday & Tuesday – 1:30 -  4:30 p.m.
  • Thursday & Friday – 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.

How does the recent Executive Order affect study-abroad programs?

  • I am leading an Education Abroad program this semester, what do I need to know or do?  If your Education Abroad (EA) program is set to take place in its entirety prior to April 26, 2017, then some of your students may be affected by the executive order.  In this case, you should review your participant roster and communicate with your students factual information about the executive order.  If all of your participants are US citizens, you have nothing to be concerned about. Your planning for the international program is not affected by the executive order.  On the other hand, if there are international students among your participants, we suggest having a conversation with your students about its effect on program planning. If their citizenship is not in one of the target countries, then they should not be concerned at this time. However, they should ensure that they are in full compliance with all the requirements of their visa. If any of them is on doubt, they should contact a DISSA adviser.
  • What should I do if my students ask me if they should continue with our Education Abroad program?  The information currently available from the federal government is all that we have to work with at this time.  Therefore, we (faculty, staff, and students) need to make decisions about what is best for our own personal situation based on the information  before us.  Each student must make her or his own decision about whether or not participating in the program is right for them.  Refer students to the factual information and resources found elsewhere on this web page.  Remind your international students that all international students, regardless of their country of origin, must follow the regulations pertinent to their visa type for leaving and re-entering the United States.  This is a normal procedure, and if they have any questions, they are encouraged to contact their international student adviser in DISSA.
  • What steps should I take if some students are considering a withdrawal from the EA program due to the executive order?  When speaking with your students, set a date by which you need to hear from anyone concerning a withdrawal from the program.  Consider planning commitments you have in running the program; the notification date should be as soon as they make a decision, the sooner the better.  Students who decide to withdraw should be aware that their decision must be final and they should notify you in writing.  You should retain their written withdrawal for your records.
  • What do I need to do if a student withdraws?  If any student withdraws, then you must recalculate your program budget and determine whether or not you can still financially offer the program.  This may involve contacting the provider, accommodations and other planned components to make adjustments in the numbers as soon as possible.  Education Abroad can assist leaders in thinking through reduced enrollment ramifications.  Contact Kate Manni ( or 814-863-3961).

Please notify the Embedded Programs Team ( within Education Abroad immediately if there are adjustments to a roster you have already submitted.

On-campus Resources

The following Penn State resources may be helpful to those affected by U.S. Immigration Policy changes.

Contrast of Executive Orders on Immigration





(Signed March 6, 2017)

Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the US

Targeted Countries  

Suspension of Entry of Nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days.

Iraq removed from the list of targeted countries.

Review of Visa and Benefits  

Secretary of Homeland Security (in consultation with Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence) will submit a report on a review of visa, admission and other benefit adjudications. (same)

Effective Date  

Suspension delayed by ten days from signing. Effective dates  March 16, 2017 – June 15, 2017

Authority to Recommend Additional Countries  

Countries can be added to the list by the Secretary of Homeland Security. (same)

Scope of Ban  

Applies to anyone who fits all three of the following criteria:

(1) outside of the U.S. on 3/16/2017; (2) did not have a valid visa at 5 p.m. on January 27, 2017; (3) does not have a valid visa on March 16, 2017.


Exemptions:  Lawful Permanent Residents; Valid Visa-holders; those paroled (someone who does meet admissibility, but is granted admission for a temporary period for humanitarian reasons); advanced parole – documentation for someone who has been approved for permanent residency but waiting to adjust; dual national as long as travel is on the non-designated passport; asylee and refugee

Granting Waivers  

Waivers:  The Consular Officer, Commissioner, and/or CBP may decide on a case-by-case basis to authorize the issuance of a visa or permit entry into the U.S. if the suspension would cause undue hardship.  Reasons may include the foreign  national: (1) had previously been admitted to the US for work, study or other long-term activity, and was outside the U.S. on March 16 and seeks to re-enter to resume that activity and denial would impair that activity; (2) has previously established significant contacts with the U.S. but is outside the U.S. for work, study or other lawful activity; (3) seeks to enter the U.S. for significant business or professional obligations and suspension would impair those obligations; (4) seeks to enter the US to visit or reside with a close family member who is a US citizen, permanent resident or alien lawfully admitted in non-immigrant status and the denial of entry would cause undue hardship; (5) is an infant or child needing urgent medical care; (6) has been employed by the US and has documented faithful and valuable service to the US government; (7) is traveling related on business related to international organization ( to conduct business with the US government; (8) is  landed Canadian immigrant who applies for a visa within Canada; or (9) is traveling as a US government-sponsored exchange visitor (it is possible, though unclear, that this could include those on the Fulbright program)

Implementing Uniform Screening Standards  

Essentially the same as the old, but the Attorney General replaces the FBI Director.

Refugee Program  

All refugees barred for 120 days (Syrians included). Number of refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2017 drops from 100,000 to 50,000.

Visa Interview Waiver Program  

Suspension of Visa Interview Waiver Program (same)

Biometric Tracking System  

Calls for Expedited Completion of Biometric Entry -Exit Tracking System (same)

Terror/Crime Reporting  

DHS will collect and make public information regarding nationals of the six countries who have been implicated in: terrorism, radicalization, gender-based violence against women ("honor killings"), "any other information relevant to public safety and security"




Last Updated: June 27, 2018

U.S.-Turkey Suspension of Nonimmigrant Visa Processing

Update: 11/08/2017

Visa processing has resumed on a 'limited' basis between the U.S. and Turkey. Student visas (F, J, and M) are among the types in which processing has resumed. No further interruptions in processing are foreseen at this time.

For more information, see: "USA and Turkey resume 'limited' visa operations"


On Sunday, October 8th, 2017, the United States Embassy in Ankara announced it would cease the processing of nonimmigrant visas for Turkish citizens. In turn, Turkey announced that it would cease processing nonimmigrant visas for American citizens at its consulates and embassies.

All of this revolves around the case of a U.S. consulate employee who was arrested by Turkey under suspicion of supporting a failed July 2016 coup attempt.

The suspension of processing means that new and in-progress applications will not be processed. Therefore, applicants will not be able to obtain a visa. Those who already hold a valid visa are, for now, unaffected by the policy.

It is unknown how long this suspension will last.

Update: 10/13/2017

Further clarification has come from Fragomen Worldwide, a major immigration law firm. The following is from their client news alert service (see "links" below):

  • How U.S. citizens can enter.   U.S. citizens still cannot obtain an e-visa or obtain a sticker/border visa if they are arriving on a direct flight the United States. However, officers at Sabiha Gokcen Airport confirmed that U.S. citizens entering Turkey from a port of exit outside the United States may be allowed to purchase a sticker visa at entry.
    • As before, U.S. citizens holding valid sticker visas, e-visas or border visas issued prior to October 9, 2017 can enter Turkey.
  • Consular posts abroad are issuing visas. Turkish consular posts outside the United States are issuing visas to U.S. citizens. Note that some consular posts require applicants to be a lawful resident or dual citizen of the country in which the consular post is located.
  • Effect on work and residence permit holders. The Migration Directorate Residence Permit appointment system has been shut down for several days. Although it is unclear if work permits have been approved since the temporary suspension, some cases are indicated to be in process. It remains unclear whether U.S. citizens' work permit renewal applications are suspended or whether consular posts outside the United States can dispense issued visas.


U.S. Embassy Statement (8 October 2017)

Turkish Embassy Statement (8 October 2017)


StudyTravel Magazine - "USA and Turkey resume 'limited' visa operations" (8 November 2017)

Fragomen Worldwide - "United States/Turkey: Update on Restrictions for U.S. Citizens" (13 October 2017)

New York Times – “U.S. Suspends Visa Services in Turkey, and Turkey Responds in Kind” (8 October 2017)

Inside Higher Ed – “U.S., Turkey Suspend Visa Processing” (10 October 2017)

U.S. Decision to End the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Program

Global Programs does not generally handle issues related to DACA. However, we often receive questions regarding these students. Below is a list for those seeking resources and information about the most recent DACA decision by President Trump and the Department of Justice.

Update (2/23/2018)

To see what Penn State is doing to support DACA recipients on campus, read this article in PSU News: "Penn State reaffirms support as DACA future remains unknown."


The DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, which provides an avenue for certain undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, will end as of early March 2018. At that time, enforcement of immigration laws will return to its pre-DACA status and members of the program will be at risk for deportation.

President Trump is urging Congress to find a legislative solution in the six-month window given between the announcement and the determined end date of the program. Bills such as the DREAM Act provide avenues for making DACA legal, but some lawmakers support different approaches. It is unknown at this time exactly what the outcome will be.

Official Announcements


  • President Eric J. BarronStatement (September 6, 2017)

Organizational Statements

DACA Renewal Fee Scholarship

  • Mission Asset Fund, a lending circle company in San Francisco, CA, is offering scholarships to pay the $495 renewal fee for 2,000 DACA recipients. You can find out how to apply at

Other Resources

On-campus Resources

The following Penn State resources may be helpful to those affected by U.S. Immigration Policy changes.

International Student & Scholars Scam Alert

It is important that you protect your identity and your wallet!

Do not become a victim of a scams, schemes, or theft. You should never share your passwords, Social Security number, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers when people call you. Know what to look for and how to avoid scams.

If something sounds "too good to be true," then it probably is. If you become a victim, there is little that can be done to have your money returned.

If you suspect that you are a victim of a scam, please report it! There is a chance that nothing can be done to help recover property you have lost, but your report is important to help stop theft from happening to another person. Make reports to: Federal Trade Commisson at 1-877-382-4357 or call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: 1-866-375-2423.

Learn more about how to protect yourself at Study in the States and the Federal Trade Commission.

Tips to know if you are contacted by someone asking for money or personal information:

  • Did someone promise you a job if you pay them?

Never pay anyone who promises you a job, a certificate that will get you a job, or secret access to jobs. These are Scams.

  • Did the IRS, Homeland Security, District Attorney's Office, FBI, Immigration, State Police or other "official" agency telephone saying you owe money?

These agencies NEVER call to ask for money. Government agencies do not call to threaten you or ask for money.

  • Are you or have you entered the Diversity Visa Lottery to get a green card?

It is free to apply and the choice is random. No one can increase your chance of winning.

  • Are you looking for legal help with immigration?

Use a lawyer or an accredited representative, never a notary public (notario).

  • Did you get a call or email saying you won something, (except there is a fee)?

Never pay for a prize. That is a scam. You will lose your money.

  • Did a caller offer to help you get back some money you lost?

No government agency or legitimate business will call and demand money to help you get money back.

  • Did you get a check from someone who asked you to give them part of t he money back?

Never give someone money in return for a check. Fake checks can look real and fool the bank. When it is discovered to be fake, you will have to pay back ALL the money.

  • Did you get an email, text, or telephone call asking for your credit card, bank account, or Social Security number?

Never give that information to anyone who asks over email, text or telephone.

  • Did someone call you to tell you they need to fix your computer remotely, but need you to log in?

Don't believe it. Do not give them any personal information or help them log on to your computer.