F1 Visa Students In The US Rendered Homeless Under the Coronavirus Pandemic

Posted on March 12, 2020
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COVID Affecting students

Coronavirus was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and the international student community within the US is reeling under its effects. Several educational institutions have temporarily suspended in-person classes until the end of Spring break in April. They have also asked all students occupying dorms and campus housing to vacate immediately sending international students on F1 visas are grappling to make alternate arrangements.

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Originated in Wuhan, China, Coronavirus began spreading across the globe in December 2019. By February 2020 only 30% of international students in the US were impacted. Come mid-March, these numbers have increased exponentially. Prominent US universities comprising of schools like Princeton, Harvard, Columbia and Cornell have deferred in-house classes until further notice. 40 other colleges and universities across the US including University of California, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Arizona have suspended classes and asked students to vacate the dorms. This has disrupted plans for many students on F1 visas in the US.

How Has the Coronavirus Affected International Students in the US?

  • Comprising of over 26% of the total student population in the US, international students are scrambling to find alternatives because of the rapid spread of Coronavirus and the precautions being put in place.
  • Classes are being cancelled and student housing is being emptied until further notice. This has inconvenienced foreign students who have come to the US from different parts of the world.
  • Spring Semester is right around the corner and new students coming from abroad have been told to wait until classes resume.
  • Besides disrupting their academic curriculum, this has caused great financial strain on F1 visa holders. International students pay double or more in tuition fees for most academic programs offered in the US compare to local students.
  • Universities dependent upon tuition money from foreign student enrollments are scrambling to figure out a solution for this negative inflow.
  • Study-abroad programs for US students in countries that have a travel ban due to Coronavirus (China, Italy and Korea) has been discontinued, thus altering academic plans for students who required this as part of their curriculum.
  • Several employers who recruit STEM students on OPT are eligible to work onsite. With companies enforcing work from home, many OPT students are not allowed to join and are missing out on opportunities and experience.

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Alternatives for International Students Affected by Coronavirus

  • If students are experiencing any of the Coronavirus symptoms, or have traveled from the affected countries, they are to self-quarantine according CDC guidelines.
  • Although in-person classes have been suspended for now, virtual and hybrid classes are being offered to maintain continuity in certain academic programs. Students on F1 visas should consult with their guidance counselors to figure out current plans. 
  • Some universities are lowering the attendance requirements and adjusting polices around leave of absences.
  • Educational departments have arranged such that students who are having to defer or miss classes do not lose credits. They are working with the students to plan their academic curriculum and arrange for summer programs to compensate the degree requirements.
  • International students unable to join during the Spring semester will have some leniency when planning the next joining date including application processes and deadlines. 
  • Some of the prominent universities that have presence in other parts of the world are offering classes in alternate centers for students who are unable to travel to the US.
  • Almost all airlines have waived trip cancellation and travel change fees. Detailed information on all airline policies regarding flights during the Coronavirus pandemic can be found here.
  • Students joining US universities for the Spring semester can plan their travel according to new class schedules, possibly in the summer.
  • Having already paid for housing costs on campus, international students should talk with their financial aid departments within colleges to discuss pro-rated housing expense options.
  • Financial aid offices also assist with withdrawal of applications and reapplications without added fees.
  • Most colleges and universities are offering medical screenings, including a temperature scan on the campus.
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