Immigration has strict limitations on distance learning courses international students can take each semester.  However, SEVP has allowed educational institutions to adapt their procedures and policies to address the significant public health concerns associated with the COVID-19 crisis.  As you have already been informed UB will temporarily conduct all in-person classes online.  During this exceptional period, international students are considered to be maintaining status even though all their courses will be taken online.  Please be aware that you DO need to attend the scheduled online classes because it counts as required attendance. 

During this period, you are allowed to take the online classes either in the U.S. or outside the country as per current SEVP instructions.  Since the situation is fluid and rapidly changing, SEVP might adjust their guidance with additional information.  We will keep you updated as new guidance is received.

SEVP Policy Guidance March 9, 2020

SEVP Follow-up Memo to Policy Guidance issued on March 9, 2020

All current SEVP guidance and updates can be found here 


CDC: How to Protect Yourself

World Health Organization (WHO)

CDC Travel Guidance

U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories

Connecticut Travel Advisory

UB Campus Guidelines


Q: Since UB temporarily conducts all in-person classes online, can I keep my SEVIS record active if I leave the U.S. and take the online courses outside the country?  

Yes, as per current SEVP policy guidance. SEVP allows schools to issue temporary provision to address the significant public health concern associated with the COVID-19. Under current conditions, if an active student leaves the United States to complete the spring term and summer term (if required by your program) 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. Please be advised the temporary provision is only in effect for the duration of the emergency. If the in-person classes are restored by the University, the benefit of this temporary provision will end.  Due to the fluid nature of this difficult situation, this guidance may be subject to change. 

Q: I want to leave the U.S., how can I get a travel signature?

Before you make plans to leave the U.S., we urge you to carefully review CDC travel guidance at and discuss your travel plan with your family. If you decide to travel, please do the following:

  • Visit our website at
  • Check to make sure you have a valid visa and your I-20/DS2019 is valid into the future, at least after Fall 2020 semester; If you need to renew the visa, refer to travel page to see documents needed; If your I-20 will expire soon, refer to FAQ about I-20 extension on this page
  • Scan/email the following documents to
    • F-1: your most recent I-20 and your Travel Request Form
    • J-1: your Travel Request Form and note the most recent travel signature date on your DS2019; If no travel signature, simply state no travel signature
  • If you don’t know your return date, just enter unknown due to COVID-19
  • If you are leaving the U.S. after the pre-registration starts, you must pre-register for the Fall 2020 semester before you apply for a travel signature
  • Email from your UB email account with your full name and UB ID included

Q: This is my last semester and I will not apply for OPT. What is the procedure if I’m leaving the U.S.?

Please email with your full name, UB ID, simply state you are graduating, no OPT and the date you are leaving the U.S.

Q: This is my last semester. I want to leave the U.S. but also want OPT. What shall I do?

We’ll advise you the next step once receiving your documents.

Q: I have not finished my studies but my I-20/DS2019 will expire soon. What shall I do?

We’ll advise you the next step once we receive your documents/inquiry.

Q:  Can I apply for CPT while I am taking courses online outside the U.S.?

Yes, 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.

If you wish to apply for CPT, please do the following:

  • Visit our website at for eligibility and application procedure
  • Scan/email to the following documents:
    • Job offer letter (refer to our sample on the website). If the job duties will be performed remotely, the letter also needs to confirm how the employer assesses your engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically
    • Cooperative Education/Internship Agreement

We’ll advise you the next step once we receive your documents.

Q: Shall I leave the U.S. or shall I stay?

This is an important and yet personal decision you need to make.  We strongly recommend you discuss this with your family. Your safety and security are top priorities. We suggest you take into consideration of CDC travel guidance, double check your documents to see if your I-20/DS2019 and visa are valid. If you need a new visa, there might be delays caused by COVID 19.