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PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: OIS Update | Information for Academic Advisors Supporting International Students During Coronavirus/COVID-19

To:          UIC Academic Advisors

From:    Jim Hammerschmidt, PhD
Associate Vice Provost for Global Engagement & Executive Director, Office of International Services

Date:     March 16, 2020

Re:         OIS Update | Information for Academic Advisors Supporting International Students During Coronavirus/COVID-19


The Office of International Services would like to provide information for our colleagues in Academic Advising roles as it relates to your work with international students and our collective response to coronavirus/COVID-19. As always, thank you for your support of the UIC international community and please reach out to us with any questions or doubts. Our physical office remains open but you can reach us by phone at (312) 996-3121 or email (

OIS Services
The Office of International Services is committed to serving the UIC international community and will maintain services for international students, scholars, employees and the departments that support them.

As of Monday, March 16 the physical office in SSB remains open for normal hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you can, please call or email with your questions and requests. Our Advisors are working diligently to respond as quickly as possible. If someone must visit the office in-person for a travel signature or other emergency reason that cannot be handled via phone, email or mail, we are here.

We are currently working to make some services available online including document submission, advising and workshops. Details will be provided as soon as they are available.

At this point all in-person OIS workshops and events are cancelled for the remainder of the semester. We will be providing essential workshops, such as optional practical training (OPT) and tax workshops, online and will announce details soon via email and on our website.

Answers to FAQs about international student status maintenance

Can F-1 international students study online?

Normally there are limits to the number of online credits international students can take per semester. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released temporary guidance allowing F-1 international students to maintain status while studying full-time online during the emergency period outlined by the University in response to coronavirus/COVID-19.

Do F-1 international students have to remain in the U.S. or can they complete their classes online from abroad?
F-1 international students can complete their full-time online studies from outside the U.S., however, there are a number for things to consider when making this decision. International students who are thinking about returning to their home countries to complete the spring semester online should carefully read our March 14 message regarding status maintenance while studying online and consult OIS with questions about their specific situation.

What else should international students know about maintaining status during the emergency period of online study in response to coronavirus/COVID-19?
International students should continue to maintain full-time enrollment, regardless if they are in the U.S. or abroad. They should continue to make normal progress toward completion of their programs by participating fully in online or alternative learning as presented by their instructors. They should consult with their Academic Advisors and OIS Advisors prior to withdrawing from any courses in the event they need to take a leave of absence or reduce their course load for medical reasons.

What about international students in health sciences colleges taking labs or participating in clinical rotations?
As stated by the Chancellor on March 14, health sciences colleges may have alternate schedules for students in both clinical rotations and non-clinical courses. International students should read all messages from their Deans and understand parameters for meeting course requirements, especially if they are considering international travel. If the dates or locations for CPT-authorized off-campus rotations change, contact OIS immediately for guidance.

What about international students who are participating in CPT-authorized learning experiences such as internships, clinical rotations, fieldwork or practicums?
F-1 students on an approved period of curricular practical training are allowed to maintain employment by working from home if it is offered or required by employers in light of coronavirus/COVID-19. Students should contact OIS if their CPT-authorized work location changes so that we can update the I-20 accordingly. Any student who is laid off or otherwise unable to maintain their CPT-authorized employment should contact OIS and their departmental advisors immediately for guidance.

What about international students who will graduate in spring or summer 2020?
F-1 international students who will complete their programs this spring or summer 2020 still have the same options as before. They can depart the U.S., begin a new educational program or apply for U.S. work authorization under post-completion optional practical training (OPT). Each option requires guidance from OIS and students should discuss their plans with an OIS Advisor. In the case of OPT we will be moving our OPT Workshops online and students will still be required to participate in order to move forward with an OPT application.

What about international students who will not graduate this spring or summer 2020?
F-1 international students who will not graduate this spring or summer should check their I-20 program end date to see if they need an extension. If they do need to study beyond the end date listed on their I-20 they should begin the extension process with OIS as soon as possible. I-20s cannot be extended after the program end date has passed.

Additionally, students should be prepared to return to in-person classes at the end of this period of emergency online instruction in response to coronavirus/COVID-19. Currently, on-line instruction extends through the spring semester only. Within the current volatile international travel and immigration environment, there is no guarantee that students will be able to return to the U.S. according to their plans should they decide to leave to complete the spring semester online or for personal travel reasons.

I am working with an international student who is struggling emotionally due to coronavirus/COVID-19. What can I do to help?
Often, listening with empathy to another person’s concerns is the best this we can do to help. If you feel that the student could benefit from further support, you can always connect them to OIS and we will be happy to serve as a conduit to additional resources. The UIC Counseling Center has tips for coping with stress related to COVID-19 on their website and is continuing to provide therapy services to students.