UF International Center (UFIC) Provides Updates for International Students Regarding COVID-19
U.S. Visa Services
U.S. visa services at embassies/consulates are closed until further notice. Some students have reported that when they checked the visa appointment calendar a starting schedule date pops up (e.g., May 7). This does not mean the embassy is accepting appointments. Instead, the embassy has blocked out all available appointments on the calendar to a particular day. When visa services resume, student visas will receive priority over other visas. Both I-20 (for F-1 visa) and DS-2019 (for J-1 visa) are eligible to be sent as an electronic copy during the pandemic crisis.
Current F-1 students are allowed to finish online courses in the spring and continue in the summer and fall if UF is still fully online in fall. Transfer students or students who are changing their degree level and who are already in the U.S. can continue in the fall if UF is still online. For new summer admissions, the department needs to have them defer to the fall or, if online, they need to be pushed back to spring. UFIC will need to be notified for any information or academic changes made in order to update their I-20. Brand new international students for the fall will need to be deferred to spring if UF is fully online in fall or if visas are not issued in a timely manner due to U.S. embassies/consulates closures. New students can receive a partial deferment by allowing them to enroll in online courses for the fall and then to be physically present in the spring. The new international students can only enroll in online courses while remaining abroad without a visa.
J-1 student visas can be switched to F-1 without leaving the country; however, the wait time is currently eight or more months. For J-1 students or for students who are currently in the U.S. and are changing their visa status to F-1, the usual process is to return to their home country and then re-enter under the new F-1 category. Please note that when they do this, they will lose their eligibility to be able to continue in the fall fully online and still be in the U.S. They will need to re-establish their physical presence and will be classified as a new student, which includes the spring deferment if UF is fully online in the fall. All J-1 visas holders who were scheduled to leave by May 31 will receive an automatic two-month extension plus their 30-day grace period.
Exchange Students Returning Home
Of the 200-250 exchange students at UF, 85% have returned home. Saudi Arabia has recalled its students to return home and is preparing an extradition process for its citizens. UFIC will be able to provide their required verification letter. According to the Chinese Embassy, there are approximately 400,000 students from China in the U.S. with 170,000 undergraduates and 30,000 middle school and high school students. The Chinese government has made chartered travel arrangements to have the secondary education students return to China first, followed by undergraduates and graduate students. The Chinese government has also sent out COVID-19 relief packages to its citizens in the U.S. that include masks and other items to keep them safe.
For more information, please visit https://internationalcenter.ufl.edu/.