International Student FAQs: Immigration & COVID-19

Last updated on April 19, 2021 

COVID Vaccination for Fall 2021

On April 19, 2021, Emory University announced the COVID vaccination requirement for all students returning to campus in Fall 2021. ISSS has prepared an FAQ for international students about the vaccine and is offering an information session. 

Register for the Information Session and view the FAQs about vaccines for international students. >>>

Fall 2021

Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves has announced that Emory will be welcoming all students back to our Atlanta and Oxford campuses for the fall 2021 semester.

We are waiting on Fall 2021 immigration guidance from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Until then, the below FAQs are based on the DHS spring 2021 guidance. As new announcements and immigration resources develop, this page will be updated with relevant information. Check back frequently for any updates. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your ISSS advisor with any questions or concerns.  

If you are an international scholar, visit: FAQs for international scholars >>>. 


I am wondering about my immigration status.

If you are a new student:

  • If you will be in the US in F-1 status, you need to have at least one in-person class on campus. The 7/24/2020 US government guidance does not permit new F-1 students to enroll exclusively in online or distance learning courses. 
  • If you plan to stay outside the US, ISSS will email students at the beginning of the semester with additional instructions regarding how to report their location from which they are taking Emory's online classes. 
  • If you want to defer your admission, contact your Admissions Office

If you are a continuing student:

  • You may enroll in Emory’s online courses on a full-time basis during the fall 2020 semester.
    • If you will be in the US, update your US address and contact information within 10 calendar days from the fall semester start date or within 10 days of moving your address, whichever is earlier.
  • If you plan to stay outside the US, your F-1 SEVIS record will remain active while enrolled in Emory's online classes (full-time course load as usual).
    • ISSS will email students at the beginning of the semester with additional instructions regarding how to report their location from which they are taking Emory's online classes. 
  • If you want to take a leave of absence in the fall semester, visit the Leave of Absence page for more information.  

How is Emory advocating for international students and scholars?

  • As stated in the 7/7/2020 statement by President Sterk and President-elect Fenves, Emory University is partnering with national higher education organizations to advocate for the DHS preliminary guidance to be drastically changed for the Temporary Final Rule. We are working in concert with other universities to make the strongest possible case that greater, not less, flexibility is needed in the face of the uncertainties related to the pandemic. Emory joined an amicus brief in support of international students. ISSS has also been closely collaborating with Emory's Office of Government Affairs. On July 10, Congressman John Lewis wrote a letter to DHS opposing the recent guidance. (Note: This FAQ previously linked to which is no longer active).
  • On an individual level, ISSS advisors are part of the world's largest international education association, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and the Assistant Vice Provost of ISSS is on the NAFSA Board of Directors, allowing direct and unique input for NAFSA's advocacy for policies affecting international students and scholars. NAFSA has already begun its communications with DHS urging them to reconsider their 7/6/2020 policy guidance. Watch NAFSA Executive Director and CEO's 7/13/2020 interview on CNN.
  • Additionally, as part of the personal advocacy and passion of our staff, many have individually reached out to their senators and house of representatives advocating for our international students and scholars, and we encourage others in the Emory community to join in the effort to influence political leaders.
  • On July 14, 2020, DHS rescinded its 7/6/2020 Guidance which was unfavorable to F-1 students.
  • Emory continues to look for any opportunities to advocate for international students and scholars. 

Will remote learning from outside the US jeopardize my immigration status? 

  • If you are a continuing student:
    • If you were pursuing a full course of study in the US on March 9, 2020 (i.e. the date of the first DHS COVID-19 Guidance) and have remained in valid F-1 status, you may retain your F-1 status as long as you enroll full-time in Emory’s online courses from abroad during the fall 2020 semester.
  • If you are a new student:
    • If you are unable to enter the US as F-1, you can take Emory’s online classes from your home country abroad if your academic program permits it.
    • You do not need F-1 status to take online classes from abroad. ISSS will email students at the beginning of the semester with additional instructions regarding how to report their delayed arrival in the US so that Emory can update their I-20 start date to keep it valid for their future arrival.  

What would happen if Emory decided to transition from a mix of online and in-person classes to fully online instruction in the middle of the fall 2020 semester?

According to the 7/24/2020 DHS guidance, F-1 students who have arrived in the US already would be able to retain their F-1 status if they continue to be enrolled full-time in Emory’s online classes. 

How is the university advising international travelers who have been outside of the US in the previous 14 days?

The university has implemented safety guidelines and procedures including testing upon arrival to campus, advice to monitor for signs and symptoms, and access to Student Health Services resources. Additionally, precautions have been implemented for individual housing assignments and physical distancing for people on campus. As a result, the university does not require international travelers to quarantine upon arrival to campus.

For more information about health and safety, click here.  You can find Emory University Student Health Insurance Plan (EUSHIP) FAQs here

Can F-1 students engage in remote work for on-campus employment during remote learning?

  • On April 7, DHS announced that if the current on-campus employment opportunity has transitioned to remote work or the employment can be done by remote means, F-1 students may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. 
  • Remember, to maintain valid F-1 status, you need to maintain full-time enrollment.
  • It is still limited to no more than 20 hours per week, even if you have more than one on-campus job. 

Will my return in Fall 2020 be affected by the F-1 five-month rule? 

On March 23, DHS clarified that "Five Month Rule" is not applicable while COVID-19 measures are in place -- "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."   

Can I live on campus? 

The Residence Life and Housing Operations website was updated on July 17 with updates and deadlines. There is no penalty to cancel your application. Assignments will be made when spaces become available. Please contact with any questions.   

Click here for Residence Life and Housing FAQs. Dining FAQs are located here.  

I am graduating in December 2020. How can I apply for post-graduation work permission?

If you are completing your studies in December 2020 and wish to apply for post-completion F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) to work in the US, please make plans to remain in the US as you cannot apply for OPT from abroad. ISSS has been advocating for flexibility in this regard. DHS has stated that they are evaluating if students would be able to apply for post-completion OPT from outside the US and may issue additional guidance.  

How does this affect me as an international student studying abroad?

Please contact your Emory study abroad program advisor as they have country-specific information for you. 

Can I travel internationally? 

If you choose to leave the US, please closely monitor the entry requirements related to COVID-19 for your destination country abroad.

When you are ready to return to the US, please visit our website for temporary US entry restrictions due to COVID-19. If you are in one of the travel restricted countries, you may travel to a third country that is not travel restricted, spend at least two weeks in that country, and then apply to enter the US. 

Starting July 13, some US embassies and consulates in the Schengen Area are advising their visa applicants about the "national interest" exception for F-1/J-1 international students and J-1 scholars (click here for sample guidance). 

If you need a travel signature, please complete our Travel e-form in ISSS Link

Also, carefully review  the CDC guidelines and  Emory guidelines before you decide to travel - whether domestically or internationally.    

I have heard that during the COVID-19 crisis, DHS is permitting F-1/F-2 I-20s to be electronically signed and shared. Are US consulates and customs officials aware of this temporary change? 

On May 12, DHS announced that they coordinated with both the Department of State (which oversees US embassies and consulates) and Customs & Border Protection regarding the policy to allow electronic issuance and signing of Forms I-20 for the duration of the COVID19 emergency. Both agencies are in support of this action.  

Can I work for Emory while I am outside of the US?  

Working for Emory from your home country involves multiple compliance considerations and may not be possible. From a US immigration compliance perspective, doing so during the COVID-19 crisis does not present challenges. However, performing work for Emory from outside the US can have significant tax and legal implications for you and for Emory that are outside the ISSS purview. Due to the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, telecommuting from outside the US may be permitted within certain parameters. Requests to do so must be considered on a case-by-case basis and must be requested and supported by your hiring department. Please ask your Emory hiring department to contact Global Services (Sarah Harlan Zegeye, Associate Director, or 404.727.9127).  

I am transferring to a different university in the US. Can I transfer my SEVIS record to my new school if I am outside the US?

If you are a current student, you may transfer your SEVIS record to your new school provided you remained an active, full-time student through spring semester and otherwise maintained F-1 status. Your new academic program must begin within 5 months of the end of the spring semester. If you are a student on post-completion OPT, you will be able to transfer your SEVIS record to your new school provided you did not exceed the 90-day limit on unemployment days and you otherwise maintained F-1 status during OPT. Your new academic program must begin within 5 months of your SEVIS transfer release date or your OPT end date, whichever is earlier.

To request a SEVIS transfer, follow the normal transfer request procedures described on Transferring from Emory. You will use your new I-20 from your new academic program to re-enter the US. 

Can I file my US tax form(s) from outside the US?  

Emory provides tax software (Sprintax) for non-residents to use to prepare their federal and state income tax returns. Sprintax can be accessed from inside or outside the US. However, if Sprintax determines you are a non-resident for tax purposes, you cannot e-file. You will be required to mail your tax return to the IRS. If you are owed a refund, be sure to keep your US bank account open until the refund is deposited into your account. Visit our tax page for more information, including US IRS mailing address.  

Are US Consulates and Embassies open?  

On July 13, the US Department of State announced that US embassies and consulates are beginning the phased resumption of routine visa services. The dates for each embassy or consulate will depend on local conditions including COVID-19, so check your nearest US consulate's website. You may also look up current visa wait times for all embassies and consulates.  
Visa appointment considerations:
  • The posted visa appointment wait time may be an estimate for all types of visas (F-1, B-2, H-1B, etc.), so, do not be discouraged. 
  • Refresh your preferred consulate’s website often to view the current availability as more and more appointments are becoming available. 
  • You may be eligible for an expedited interview appointment based on your school start date.
    • The process to request an expedited nonimmigrant visa interview varies by location. You should refer to the instructions on the website of the Embassy or Consulate Visa Section where you will interview, or on their online appointment scheduling site. You will need to provide proof of the need for an earlier appointment (e.g. I-20 showing your start date).
    • In all cases, you must first submit the online visa application form (DS-160), pay the application fee, and schedule the first available interview appointment. Only at this point will the embassy or consulate consider your request for an expedited appointment.
    • For example, if you are applying for a student visa in China, you can find the expedited visa appointment information here
  • If possible, check appointment availability of other US consulates in addition to you preferred consulate. 

Is US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) closed due to COVID-19?

USCIS Service Centers that adjudicate immigration applications like OPT, H-1B, etc. have remained open. 
However, USCIS has been offering reduced in-person services in their local field offices and application support centers to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Visit their website for details. 

Can I apply for a Social Security Number or Georgia driver's license? 

Social Security Numbers: US Social Security Administration (SSA) has a dedicated FAQ website with services available during COVID-19. International students who have never applied for a Social Security Number (SSN) before are advised to call their local office to see if an in-office appointment is necessary and possible. To contact your local office, please look for the general inquiry telephone number at Social Security Office Locator under “Show Additional Office Information” for the office you select. Based on feedback, Emory students and scholars have been successful scheduling an appointment at the SSA office in Norcross, Georgia. For the Norcross office address and phone number, enter "30093" into the Social Security Office Locator

Note: Some students who have contacted SSA have been given the option to mail their documents to SSA to apply for a SSN. ISSS does not recommend students apply for a SSN by mail to prevent original immigration documents from getting lost.

Additionally, ISSS is working with a local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to coordinate emergency appointments for Emory's international community. If you will need to apply for a SSN because you have secured on-campus employment or have been authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Academic Training (AT), please email Meg Popick, Associate Director for Client Services at

In your email please provide: 1) Your full legal name, 2) Emory ID number, 3) Date of birth, 4) US mailing address (including street address, city, state and zip code), 5) US phone number, 6) Employment start date, 7) State if you have ever applied for a SSN before, and if so, reason for applying again 8) State that you permit ISSS to share your information with SSA for the purposes of securing a SSN appointment, and 8) State if the employment is on-campus or off-campus

  • If on-campus: Before requesting a SSN appointment, follow the procedures outlined here to obtain an on-campus offer letter and submit the Social Security Letter Request (F-1s only) or On-campus Employment Authorization (J-1s only) e-form in ISSS Link
  • If off-campus: state if your CPT, OPT or AT has already been requested and approved (i.e. have already been issued a new I-20 (CPT), EAD (OPT) or DS-2019 (AT). 

Important Notes:

  • If you are a new student, you must complete the New Student Reporting e-form in ISSS Link prior to requesting a SSN appointment. Once submitted, ISSS will be able to activate your SEVIS record which is required by SSA at the time of application.
  • You must be in the Atlanta area in order for ISSS to arrange an emergency appointment for you. If you are in the US, but unable to travel to Atlanta, please contact SSA to see if you can schedule an appointment in your area. If you are outside the US, you are not eligible to apply for a SSN as you need to apply in person with a valid I-94 and active SEVIS record. 

Driver's Licenses: Georgia Department of Driver Services has announced a 120-day extensions for most licenses. Visit their FAQ website for more information. All customers must schedule an appointment for in-person services.

Students and scholars who intend to apply for a driver's license but are not eligible for a SSN, will need to request a denial letter (SSA-L676) from Social Security Administration (SSA). During the COVID-19 crisis, ISSS can assist Emory students and scholars obtain a denial letter. To request a SSN denial letter, please complete the SS-5 application.  For question 5, select “legal alien not allowed to work.” Once completed, print, sign, scan, and email the completed SS-5 form to Meg Popick, Associate Director for Client Services at Once processed by SSA, the denial letter will be mailed to you. No appointment is necessary for a denial letter, and being issued a denial letter will not prevent you from being issued a SSN in the future. 

Can Emory help students with financial hardships due to COVID-19 and related changes? 

To help students remain focused on their educational goals, Emory University has launched the EmoryTogether Fund — designed to support our undergraduate, graduate, and professional students facing financial hardships as a result of COVID-19. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students with direct COVID-19-related financial hardships are encouraged to apply for support through this fund. To apply for support for the fall semester and/or over winter break, applications are due by December 15. To apply for support for the spring semester, applications may be submitted between Feburary 1 and March 15. Submit an application >>>

Donate funds to or apply for the Emory Student Hardship Fund >>>  

How does the 4/22/20 executive proclamation on immigration impact me?

Read our summary and analysis of the executive proclamation and its impact on international students and scholars. 

Is ISSS open? 

ISSS remains operational although we must do a few things differently in light of the coronavirus outbreak. You can contact your ISSS advisor by phone, email, or Zoom, and submit your e-form requests online as usual. You can also call our main office number, 404-727-3300, or email For more details such as advising appointments, virtual walk-in advising hours, virtual programs and events, etc., visit here

If you are wondering about mail delivery, ISSS can receive mail from Emory Mail Services and/or mail couriers (DHL, FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc.) Monday through Friday. After receiving and processing your mail, ISSS will notify you by email. This email will include instructions on how to request to have the document mailed to you.

How do I prepare to travel for winter break and plan for COVID-19 testing requirements?

ISSS sent an email to F and J students with important end of the semester travel planning information. Click here read a copy of this email>>>

I have been studying from abroad for all or most of the 2020-2021 academic year but plan to return to Atlanta to complete my academic program in Summer or Fall 2021. How do I get a new travel signature? 

  • Review your most recent I-20/DS-2019 to determine if you need a new travel signature. 
  • Review our Travel Checklists.
  • Review our COVID-19 Travel webpage for the latest information related to travel restrictions and COVID-19 testing requirements.
  • Finalize your travel plans.
  • Complete the Travel Information Update e-form found under the General Services tab in ISSS Link. ISSS will use the information provided in this form to advise you, and if a travel signature is required, a new I-20 or DS-2019 will be printed and signed for travel. 
    • F-1 Students: Due to COVID-19, the US government has given schools the ability to temporarily send I-20s to students electronically. A copy of the I-20 with a travel signature will be shared with you via OneDrive. Please download, print, sign, and date the I-20 and present the printed copy to the Customs and Border Protection officer upon your return to the US. 
    • J-1 Students: You will need the original DS-2019 to enter the US. ISSS will coordinate to have it shipped to you.

 We understand that these unprecedented circumstances will cause inconveniences and concerns. The Emory community is strengthened through the contributions of international students. We are committed to helping you find solutions and connecting you to resources that will support you through this unusual semester. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or need our assistance.